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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, February 26 2010. 15:50

Wine Club Dinner: Hungarian Brown Sahib

In another first, the Delhi Wine Club entered the uncharted territory by matching Bengali cuisine with Villány based Malatinszky wines from Hungary, with the  winemaker-owner Csaba Malatinszky presenting five wines at the newly opened Brown Sahib Restaurant on the Valentine’s Day, writes Subhash Arora.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

When an Indian presenter at a Vinitaly edition a couple of years ago talked of matching Indian food with wine a couple of years ago, he was cut to size by one of our late food journalists who asked him if he understood the concept of Indian food and the spectrum it had all across India and how he could generalize pairing wine with Indian food. To a majority of us however, the Indian food is synonymous with the Mughlai food, perhaps due to the nobility indulging in wine with food more regularly.

Non-Bengalis may not even be much exposed to the gourmet Bengali food. So when Rajyasree Sen, the charming, young owner of the newly opened Brown Sahib Restaurant in Saket showed keen interest in working with the Delhi Wine Club, it was an interesting beginning- made even more exciting and adventurous as Csaba Malatinszky, the winemaker from the Hungarian region of Villány would be in Delhi for a couple of days and would present his wines personally.

We had to go through a couple of food tastings earlier, to understand the language and the food on the Menu. Ever-willing to take chances with the food and wine pairings, we invited a few of the Bengali members; Sourish Bhattacharyya and Chinta and Rina Rao to help us in tweaking the menu. We had to improvise on the pairings, using only the tasting notes and our imagination since wine samples were to be hand carried by him, especially for the tasting.

The service issue would also arise as the wine pouring might not be of the standards our members are used to,. But we were willing to take chances in this department. It may thus be safely recorded that this was the first wine club dinner in India and perhaps the world, with Bengali cuisine matched with Hungarian wines. That it was a Valentine’s Day was coincidental to the visit of Csaba (pronounced as Chaba) and my departure for Tuscany the same night.

The evening started with the Malatinszky Noblesse Chardonnay 2007 which was medium bodied wine with a touch of spices in its flavours and the oak that was very well balanced with the berry fruit flavours. It reminded one of a nice Bourgogne white, with a refreshing vivaciousness. Bhapa Murghi ( steamed chicken dish) and Maccher Chop (fish croquettes) were a perfect combination though a few not-so-Brown members found the latter a bit too hot. The vegetarian dishes would have been even better matched if served at a colder 10-12 °C instead of the 14 °C.

Le Sommelier Rose 2007 had shades of sweetness and was a fair match for the Calcutta bekti which was steamed to perfection- the earlier Chardonnay would have matched better. Stuffed Crumbed Crab meat was my favourite with the Pinot Bleu- a Pinot Noir based blend which was delicious with the Crab- the finger licking good sauces did not come in my way of enjoying the food, though they might have impaired the paring somewhat- but we were here to relish the food as well!

The Noblesse Cabernoir 2006 was an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir- a sort of mermaid, I felt. But the fuller bodied Cabernet Franc was really the piece de resistance of the evening. Csaba has done wonders with the grape, a typical Chinon appellation grape in France and a minor blend in the Bordeaux wines-not always easy to manage. Quite elegant, full-bodied wine was well balanced with good structure with excellent mouthfeel. No wonder Villány is known for Hungarian red wines.

The food was pretty well matched as it turned out, except minor collisions here and there.
And how was the food? Generally, people loved the experience. The Bengali members were more analytical and less charitable. But as Chinta, the non-Bengali member married to the Bengali Rina, said, ‘you know Bengalis are serial critics. I can only tell you that this was a good introduction to the Bengali food and overall a thoroughly enjoyable experience.’

And the service- well, it certainly can do with more polishing up and a seamless wine-food service will hopefully happen in due course. But one complaint most members had was that the food portions were too large. Reacting rather coyly, Rajyasree said that a journalist had recently written in his paper that the portions were too small in the restaurant and since then she just could not hold Chef’s hand while doling out in the plate.

Perhaps, she should not have them serve loads of delicious snacks before we sat down on the table for the Royal Bengali Feast. Hungary Kya?
Subhash Arora                                                     Menu                 


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