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Delhi Wine Club
Going Oriental at OTW with Wine Park

Posted: Saturday, 13 April 2013 11:20

DWC Dinner: Going Oriental at OTW with Wine Park

April 13: Members of the Delhi Wine Club enjoyed a scintillating evening at the OTW (On The Waterfront) Restaurant with oriental food and wines from New Zealand, Germany, France, Italy and Australia procured from the Mumbai-based Wine Park and presented by its owner Vishal Kadakia who came to Delhi specially to attend the event. Arun Batra reports

Photos By:: Adil Arora

There are a lot of factors that go into selection of a fine dining restaurant as the venue for a Delhi Wine Club dinner. Great food apart, it is the ability to serve a 5 course pre-plated meal to about 40-50 diners with accompanying wines that calls for fine-tuned coordination between the kitchen and the service staff – a level of finesse mastered by only a handful of restaurants in the National Capital Region.

In addition, ambience, space for a pre-dinner aperitif get-together and the availability of the location on an exclusive basis are all taken into consideration. Last but not the least, is the cost factor. Even when we manage wines gratis, the club still has to fork out for the high duties and taxes on the wines in addition to food costs; excise duties alone have gone up 6-8 times from the earlier Rs.150 a bottle, causing a multiplier effect on the net costs.

On the subject of costs, I do remember the days when I first joined the Wine Club, our dinners were in the region of 1200-1500 rupees. Rates have almost doubled in the last 10 years or so but so have food costs as well as government duties and taxes on wines. I am amazed how our Club President, Subhash Arora still manages to offer us sub 3k prices and continues to provide us high quality both in food and wine (we do have our share of misses too but then they are more the exception).

I’d like to just digress a moment and take a look at the economics and realize how lucky we’ve been. We usually get to taste 5-6 wines at a dinner and if for simplicity of multiplication one looks at an average consumption of 0.75l per person and with the kind of high quality wines that are on our line-ups, just the cost of a bottle of a similar quality wine at a stand-alone restaurant prices would be in the region of 3-4k, that’s if you are lucky to find an eatery which goes beyond the Jacobs Creek level of wines. Mostly, the wines we drink at our dinners are likely to be stocked by the 5 star hotels where just the wine cost would be 4 to 7k a bottle! Or look at it another way – the same 5-6 wines, if had by the glass (and only if available by the glass too) at a 5 star would set you back in the region of a Rs. 1000 a glass. To that add the food cost –we usually dine at 5 stars or upmarket standalones - and you would appreciate we are getting really good VFM even at projected 2013 maximum charges of around Rs 3000.

The reason I digressed was Subhash’s mail regarding the early bird offer of Rs. 2700 for the 5th dinner of the year (#210 in total) at On the Waterfront at the Aman on the 5th April. I believe the whole place was booked within a day by the Early Birds like me. His mail also drew attention to the fact that this sub-3k dinner was a special gesture, despite escalating costs, by the club to keep the prices the same as we had at the OTW exactly a year ago, last April.

There was a bit of yo-yoing with dates for this dinner. Though originally fixed for the month of March, the dinner had to be postponed to April as the local Excise licence procedure played spoilsport and we were not sure if the wines would be available on time. Then Subhash was leaving for Vinitaly on the 6th morning and Vishal Kadakia of Wine Park Mumbai, whose wines we would be serving for the first time, was very keen for Subhash to be present – so finally we managed to all-on-board for the 5th of April.

On the Waterfront was opened a little over a year ago at the Aman (now the Lodhi) to replicate in Lutyens Delhi, the thumping success of its original avatar Set’z located in the Vasant Kunj cluster of malls. The model was simple – offer guests a variety of cuisines of above average quality but at more wallet friendly prices than compared to a 5 star hotel.

The complex also houses, in the basement, their nightclub and bar Anidra which we used for our one-hour aperitif section of the evening. It’s very rare that the best wine of the evening is served first. I don’t know if you noticed, our wine sequencing usually sees a gentle build up from an easy drinking aperitif wine to a crescendo with the best wine mostly being served with the main course. But the moment I got a glass of the superbly chilled Saint Clair Premium Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012 from New Zealandin my hand, I knew we were starting with a winner.

And what a winner it was – a powerful yet smooth example of how Saint Clair has been able to process the Sauvignon Blanc grape into an award winning wine which has won 16 gold medals in the last 5 years in addition to a Trophy Champion (White Wine) at the Indian Wine Challenge 2010. For someone brought up on the astringent Indian Sauvignon Blancs, this well-balanced wine with a long and concentrated finish was like nectar. Easily the best aperitif wine we have had in a long, long time.

To match with this superlative white, OTW came up with some innovative pass-arounds in the form of crispy rice cups with chicken /veg fillings to complement the olive and parmesan crostini and the Beijing duck rolls. Though I did not get to see any sushi, the fish satay presented on mini bar-b-q’s complemented the Saint Clair perfectly. In fact the wine was so good I could have had just that and the snacks and been more than happy for the evening!

However after Subhash’s talk on the wines for the evening, we trooped up 2 floors to our dinner venue. OTW is on two levels and the management was indeed extremely helpful in giving us the entire 2nd floor on an exclusive basis. No sooner had we taken our seats, that the Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Riesling, Qualitatswein, Mosel, Germany, 2009 was presented. Classified into the two upper tiers of Germany's four-tier wine classification system, this was a decent Riesling – a tad on the sweeter side and had the misfortune of being compared to the Sauvignon Blanc aperitif. I preferred it with the onion and peanut salad where the lemon and kaffir lime neutralized the high sugar content of the Riesling.

Also served with our starters of salad and half a dozen different dim sums was the Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press Rouge, France - a 100% Grenache wine made under the Solera system where the 2012 bottling is a blend of 50% of the 2011 vintage along with 50% of all the other Grenache vintages dating back to some 10 years. This is a very unique style of wine-making intended to have a common signature of a wine running across different vintages. I found the wine lacking body and fullness so I wouldn’t say I am very taken up by the Solera system!

After a tart Raspberry sorbet, we were onto the main course section. Subhash had managed to negotiate a virtual banquet for the main course with some 5 non-vegetarian dishes and an equal number of vegetarian ones! OTW realized this would be a servers’ nightmare and suggested we partake of the main course from interactive buffet stations. This actually turned out to be a good thing for it not only speeded up the serving time but also gave one an opportunity to catch up with other members whilst serving.

I have to confess that with all the pass-arounds, dim sums and salad, I was pretty full up so I wasn’t able to try all the 10-odd choices. I thought the Sichuan wok tossed shrimps and the ginger steamed sea bass were outstanding – clean sharp flavours coming through very nicely.

We had 2 red wines paired with the main course –the Casamatta IGT Toscana Rosso, Italy, 2010 and the Rolf Binder Halliwell Christa, Australia, 2009. I found the Casamatta to be a fresh and lively Sangiovese wine with light tannins whilst the Australian red was a medium bodied Shiraz Grenache mix from the Barossa valley which had a long finish. Serving two different reds at the same time with the main course gave us a great opportunity to taste the difference between a Sangiovese and a Shiraz though I personally thought the Shiraz was a more palatable wine.

Pairing red wines with Oriental cuisine is never easy and the mating would have been easier had these wines been given time to breathe as I realized whilst finishing the dregs of the reds after dessert (remember the golden rule – no wastage!). Both wines had opened up and tasted very different to when they were served.

With a menu as long as my arm , no wonder this review is also kind of lengthy but it would still be incomplete without kudos to the GM, Suveer Sodhi and his extremely efficient team of Chefs and service staff. Nurtured under the watchful eyes of Prasanjit Singh and Abhijit Mukherjee, Suveer has matured as a restaurateur and it was evident by the very professional performance of his team. Many thanks also to Vishal for giving us the opportunity to taste a whole slew of new wines!

I noticed only later that Subhash had done something unique again - he had chosen each wine from a different country-New Zealand, Germany, France, Italy and Australia. What a balance, sirjee!! No wonder Delhi Wine Club prides itself on promoting wines from all parts of the world.

Arun Batra is a Delhi based food and wine enthusiast and a longtime member of the Delhi Wine Club.

Tags: Wine Park, Casamatta, Delhi Wine Club



Subhash Arora Says:

Whenever there has been an occasion, you have been an excellent host too, Rifaquat. Subhash Arora

Posted @ April 18, 2013 15:39


Rifaquat Mirza Says:

No one plays host better than Vishal Kadakia and Subhash Arora...must have been quite an evening..

Posted @ April 18, 2013 15:35


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