Charles Donnadieu, the corporate sommelier of Lalit Group of hotels has an open mind when it comes to pairing food with wine. He does not shy away from the unconventional as his motive, along with that of Keshav Suri, Executive Director The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, is to popularize a wine culture in the country. And what better way to do this than pair good quality yet affordable wines with food that most Indians are familiar and comfortable with. Food sans pretention and frills.
First it was the humble roti “bread” paired with wines, both foreign and Indian at The Nannery at Baluchi and now it is our good old Indian-Chinese cuisine or Sino- Ludhianvi as prominent food writer and journalist Vir Sanghvi likes to call it.
This is Chinese food in its desi avatar also known as Chinjabi (Chinese-Punjabi) with staples such as chilli chicken, crispy lamb, chilli potatoes, chilli paneer, hakka noodles etc, comfort food for many. These dishes scream for beer or an off-dry Riesling which is usually the safest bet with Asian and Indian cuisine.
Charles and his team, however, have eschewed this option and come up with a fixed menu comprising of starters, main course & a dessert where Indian-Chinese dishes are paired with four wines from York Winery Nashik.
The starters, Dry Chilli Chicken & Prawn Sui Mai or Crispy Spinach with Corn & Vegetable Kothe are paired with two whites, York Sauvignon Blanc and York Chenin Blanc. Both these wines have good acidity which cuts through the fried food. A touch of residual sugar in the Chenin and presence of oak gives it a rounded texture which is a perfect foil for the spice and heat in the food. Presence of fruit in both these whites balances out the salt too, while refreshing the palate.
The Main course of Hakka Noodles and Crispy Lamb with Sesame Seeds (non-veg) or Potato in Dry Chilli Oil & Cauliflower in Garlic Butter Sauce (veg) is paired with one of my favorite Indian reds York Arros 2013. This lush jammy blend of Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz with finesse & depth and the softest tannins pairs surprising well with the buttery Cauliflower.
The rule of thumb while pairing dessert with wine is that the wine should be sweeter than the dessert. That is why sweet wines with a high residual sugar like demi-sec sparklings, ice-wines, late harvest wines, Muscat etc are used for pairing desserts. Here again Charles has been bold and paired York Brut Blanc de Blancs (a sparkling wine made with 100% Chenin Blanc) with Banana Fritters & a delicious Vanilla Ice-cream made using vanilla pods. Since this dessert is not overly sweet, this pairing works well.
The month long Woks pop-up at The Lalit New Delhi is a good opportunity to try out wines from the family owned York Winery, Nashik Maharashtra to see the progress of Indian wines in terms of quality. A lot of Indian wineries now have the talent and the infrastructure to make world class wines and York is one of them. Paired with some good old and very popular Indian-Chinese dishes, this is an offer you should check out.
By: Lavina Kharkwal
Woks Pop-Up at Quorum open for lunch and dinner, The Lalit New Delhi, Barakhamba Road is on only till 17th July 2016 (Rs 3000 pp, inclusive of all taxes)