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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, 27 April 2010 18:06

Wine Club Dinner: Keya Kainoosh ka Kamaal

At the recently organised wine dinner by the Delhi Wine Club at the Keya Bar and Kainoosh Restaurant, both owned by the TV celebrity chef Marut Sikka, he amply proved that the success of his Magique Restaurant was not a fluke, with the members delightfully impressed by the ambience, service and the gourmet food, writes Subhash Arora.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Keya Kya hai? ‘What is Keya’- asked most members when they received the email about the wine dinner at Kainoosh Restaurant a few of them had already heard about. As we were to be informed later at the dinner by Chef- owner Marut Sikka, Keya is the name of a flower from which alcohol is produced. So he had christened the new bar, yet to be opened, as Keya.

Adjoining the restaurant which serves Indian contemporary cuisine, the bar is designed to handle over a hundred people only half of which were present at the pre-opening wine bash. What he did not inform us in advance was that the bar 'has been designed in such a way as to be conducive to more drinking'. Not easy to analyse his reasoning, but suffice it to say that the aperitif wine was finished much quicker this evening.

One extraneous factor could also be the wine. Verdicchio Colli di Jesi 2009 LeVele was so fresh, fruity and crispy that it was just not possible for the early arrivals to stick to one glass or for some even two. Since I travelled to the Marché region on the eastern coast of Italy a couple of years ago, I have been in love with this varietal and I have strongly believed and advocated that this is a delicious wine for the Indian palate. Enzo Marcella introduced this wine in collaboration with Riona Wines last year and every time we had opened this wine at a club event, the consumption had gone up. Le Vele label was introduced for the first time at a club event and it was an instant winner.

Perhaps it was also the snacks- chicken tikka with stone flower masala, tawa roasted and served on Khasta Roti, and the  pan-fried roomali rolls, stuffed with mushroom, pine nuts -both these dishes hugged the white wine pretty nicely and with pleasure.

Many extra bottles of the next wine later- a Rose, most of which were actually off and dead, thanks to the poor storage of the importer and the older vintage had to be drained off (wonder if they might have been useful for a wine spa!), we moved everyone to the restaurant which Marut had been prudent enough to reserve completely for the members. For a few outsiders he had offered the PDR which is quite cosy and can be an exclusive  party place for a group of 10-15 people, with a LED TV and music system well in place.

One would have thought that Marut would spend the evening mixing with members as most of them are his prime targets for exclusive contemporary Indian cuisine (he does not like to be known as a restaurant for Indian fusion food). But he had no time for such niceties this evening. He went straight into the kitchen and like a true General, led his team of chefs from the front, being an integral part of the cooking. No wonder, each and every dish was exquisite in taste, with flavours and textures as enjoyable as a glass of fine, premium wines…

…talking of which, there turned out to be a general shortage- our members are by now used to having their stomach’s content while we were trying to satisfy the palates. Draining off the rest of the Rose bottles did not help the situation any. It was by an infusion of additional wines from the house cellar (which incidentally is rather well stacked for an Indian restaurant-perhaps Marut is counting on the ‘Return of the Ex-pat’) that some order was brought to an almost chaotic wine situation. Undoubtedly, the flavours and spices in the food at the restaurant would help wine give additional pleasure to the buds.

The first dish, Rawas (fish) reminded many Bengali members of a Bengali fish dish- sure enough, he had used some Bengali spices to make it. Boned thigh of chicken, filled with chicken farce and sultanas, almonds, pistachio, perfumed with arq kewra and cardamom, grilled in the tandoor, might have read like a heavy dish but it was quite light on the palate. Boned lamb shank set afloat in gold-enriched, spiced gravy was not only exotic- it was lajawaab (‘delicious’ won’t aptly describe this preparation) with a seductive texture. Arhar Dal which was a part of the condiments did not exactly fire up the culinary cylinders, though!

It is not often that the pre-plated service is seamless, especially at a stand-alone restaurant. But Marut had promised me that he had taken the plated service as a challenge and was equipped to serve a hundred pre-plated meals at the same time. Well, the 5-course dinner he served, instead of a typical thali meal, is a compliment to his management capability and that of Rajesh Chatterjee who is managing the restaurant and the bar that was to open a few days later.

There was not a member who was not floored by the food and the service- the wine service would still need a bit of polishing up for a 50+ wine drinking crowd, not a possibility in the near future! The silverware and stemware are of very high standard and one can be sure it would become a usual haunt for people demanding a less rustic Indian cuisine and many expats as one could gather from the conversation between a few of the members belonging to this community.

A tip to the wise! Thali meal offers a great value in this restaurant! One could order a plate or two of kebabs and go for the thali though we had a special menu prepared for the evening. ‘I wanted to do something unique for the Delhi Wine Club members,’ said Marut. Perhaps for the first time, we did not interefere with the food Menu suggested by a restaurant and the choice of dishes, except requesting the addition of a dish here and there was left entirely to Marut and his team. His passion and creative was in full display this evening with many members saying, ’yeh dil maange more!’ with an equal number reminded of the great event at the Magique last year, vociferously asking, ‘when are we having a dinner at Magique again?’

Two different places and venues, two different ambiences and surroundings and two entirely different cuisines, Marut  has proved that he can handle a wide culinary canvas.

Subhash Arora



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