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Delhi Wine Club
DWC Wine Dinner at Élan with Elan and an Elaan

Posted: Monday, 19 August 2013 11:38

DWC Wine Dinner at Élan with Elan and an Elaan

Aug 19: The previous dinner of the Delhi Wine Club was a Pre-Independence Day celebration with élan at Élan Restaurant, the soft-launched Indian Cuisine Restaurant at the Lodhi (formerly Hotel Aman), which seems to have made an implicit ‘Elaan’ (proclamation) that it intends to become the top innovative, new-breed Indian Restaurant in town even before it has been formally opened, writes Subhash Arora

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewThe 214th wine dinner of the Delhi Wine Club had many special features, the most important being bringing in the Independence Day (it’s a Dry Day by law across India) even though the restaurant had clearly told us that the excise rules called for no wine to be served after 11:30 pm. Not to boast about our patriotism by choosing Indian cuisine, we did conscientiously plan to select a venue where we would relish this cuisine. The decision fell in our lap when I had a meeting with Aman Dhall of Brindco at the Elan Bar a couple of weeks earlier and Robyn Bickford, the Kiwi co-GM of the hotel walked in. We were treated to such succulent and creative finger foods and cocktails (for me wine only, thank you!) it was natural to source the wines from Brindco.

The Restaurant has not been officially launched though people do walk in and the Menu is in place, with a few items still undergoing experimentation under the guidance of Exec Chef Ritesh Negi and Sous Chef Pankaj, both of whom are as talented as they are humble and soft spoken. In a way, it was a soft launch for the Restaurant with the members of the Club who were requested to give post-dinner critique and suggestions.

Click For Large ViewWe noticed the first innovation as we entered on Wednesday, 14th August when we were greeted by gol-gappa shots at the interactive counter in the Elan Bar that is full of tiered small wine coolers forming one wall of the bar. Slightly wary about the spices in the water, I decided to have them first. This was followed by an unending stream of delicious snacks that matched the Ti Amo Prosecco DOC NV well. Amritsari fish with potato wedges were as delicious as they ever could be. Chutney Prawns was an innovation as was the papad cannini-the small bite sized papadam stuffed with spiced yogurt-both really yummy. Watermelon with feta is a regular on many restaurants’ salad lists but the Nepalese spice timuru made it brilliant with the sweetness of the watermelon contrasted by the cheese and spice that was a wee bit on the salty side. Masala foie gras on ulta tawa paratha was another innovation-most people loved it though I found the paratha too chewy; I would have preferred it crispier. The piece de résistance was decidedly the lamb pillow burani, with a small piece of lamb resting on a pillow shaped puffed pastry and an interesting sauce as a part of the snack-outstanding.

The variety of snacks was so much that we had decided to serve the first still white wine, the Villa Maria Riesling 2011 also at the Bar. This turned out to be somewhat of an administrative issue. However, it was a perfect charmer with the snacks.

Click For Large ViewBarramundi and the Dahi Kabab served at the table were both delicious but overshadowed the Schlumberger Grand Cru Riesling 2005 which was still slightly closed and unfortunately, did not appear to be in the pink of health despite its typical Alsace Riesling petrol-ly aromas and minerality. The biggest surprise of the evening was the Kala Khatta Sorbet-with aam papad. Members were ecstatic about it with the sweet and sour flavours exploding in the mouth-a very innovative sorbet for the Indian palate.

The main course continued to be top notch, full of innovations with the Taar Ghosht, Luckhnavi Paneer Dolma (that simply melted in your mouth) and the Ghosht (mutton) Biryani being finger-licking delicious. Not to take away the credit from the Executive Chef Ritesh Negi, the F & B Manager Namrata Sakpal explained that one of the reasons was that the restaurant used only New Zealand lamb which was tenderer and even had plenty of succulent marrow in the bone. So many dishes rained on the table, so many different types of breads were served that one got lost trying to taste all of them with a few members missing out on a dish or two.

The red Bordeaux Chateau Rollan La Demoiselle de By 2010 from Medoc was a quaffable, fairly  luscious wine with soft tannins, that paired well as the first wine with the main course dishes as well as by itself. But when the Chianti Reserva 2009 from Castello di Nipozzano estate of the Tuscan biggie Frescobaldi, was served as the second wine, it overshadowed the first wine instantly and came out ahead unanimously, though our objective was to offer two different wines-one a Bordeaux Blend and the other a typical Chianti of superior quality made with 90% Sangiovese.

Click For Large ViewTime for dessert-but before that it was time to stand up and sing our National Anthem led by our member C S Vaidyanathan, even if it meant making a few of the diners sitting in the restaurant within earshot of our reserved corner that included the PDR, get up and join in the singing.  Of course, as a gesture, the tricolor cake that was cut be our senior member K. K. Veenugopal following the Anthem, was also served to these guests.

As a dessert the Bhopi Dohi (Mishti Dohi) had a pleasant enough flavour but the Santara Kulfi served on the inside of the orange peel was a favourite with many people who also agreed that the shots of Kashmir Kahwa were a gentle reminder to us that Kashmir belongs to us (although some cynics would point out that as a corollary if we were served an Italian Pizza, it would not mean that Italy is ours too!). Sometimes, subtle gestures ought to be welcomed and not questioned.

It was also a time to ponder on the absurdity of the law that required the wine bottles to be removed by 11:30 pm-half an hour before the Independence Day. It does not make sense to bar wine and beer in a restaurant even on the Independence Day but as Arora pointed out in a lighter vein while explaining Article 47 of the Indian Constitution that encourages the States to enforce prohibition, our forefathers perhaps did not know the virtues of drinking wine in moderation. However, we had consumed enough wine to continue with the bonhomie. During the time, we also carried out a quiz to test wine knowledge of the members - Arun Verma and Parag Tripathi were the winners and are entitled to discounts for a future event.

Click For Large ViewIt was gracious of Robyn Bickford and Manav Garewal, the Co-GM couple to join us at the Elan Bar and chat with the members.  It is not easy to serve such a wide variety to around 35 demanding customers who have to be served umpteen dishes and 4 wines with perfect harmony. The serving staff did an adequate job with a few members realising only later that they had missed out on a few of the dishes. But with time and experience with a few similar dinners, the restaurant will hopefully tweak the service.

Suveer Sodhi, the young F & B Director of the Lodhi was behind the plan which was well executed by the F&B Manager Namrata Sakpal. Chefs Ritesh Negi and Pankaj Sharma were the true protagonists of the evening which was dedicated to the 67th Independence Day of India.

The DWC members are not likely to forget the evening for a long time. We at the club believe that good gourmet food for wine lovers implies a balanced combination of wine and food where wine contributes 51% and food 49%. Today, that order was reversed.

Subhash Arora

Gallery                          Menu   

Tags: Élan Restaurant, Aman Dhall, Brindco, Ritesh Negi, Ti Amo Prosecco DOC NV, Villa Maria Riesling, Schlumberger Grand Cru Riesling, Bordeaux Chateau Rollan La Demoiselle de By 2010, Robyn Bickford, Manav Garewal


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