Tag Archives: JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity

K3 Alfresco at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity : A Perfect Winter Rendezvous

Some of my fondest memories of winter are centred around food. Sitting around a bonfire eating peanuts and gajjak in Jammu during Lohri; driving for masala tea and hot pakoras to a road side tea stall in Rajpur from our house in Dehradun; plucking fresh spinach and mustard from our kitchen garden in Kaka Nagar, New Delhi, cooking it over an open fire and eating it along with home-made “makki rotis”.

Countless nostalgic food moments like these, associated with places where I have lived. Somehow I feel less guilty about over-eating at this time of the year. The weight gain that invariably happens, gets camouflaged by layers of clothing, which is a blessing.

During winters, the urge for a barbecue usually takes me to a nearby “dhaba”, or to Old Delhi, where you can stand around numerous roadside makeshift charcoal grills, and devour delicious kebabs and skewered meats.

But there are times, when I really yearn for a nice juicy lamb chop, paired with a robust red wine or some top quality grilled fish. For this, however, I head to a fine dining restaurant, preferably having outdoor seating, as this kind of food is best enjoyed when it is fresh off the grill, and cooked right in front of you.

When I read that K3, the all-day dining at JW Marriott, Aerocity New Delhi, had added an outdoor extension called K3 Alfresco serving barbecues and grilled dishes, it seemed like the perfect solution for my yearnings and I decided to check it out.

Luckily Delhi has had an unusually mild winter this year. So the thought of sitting outdoors did not seen very daunting.

K3, with its elaborate menu and popular Sunday brunches has already established its reputation as one of the best fine dining destinations in Delhi -NCR. I was not disappointed with the new addition, K3 Alfresco, either.

K3 Alfresco at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity
K3 Alfresco at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity

The menu at K3 Alfresco is limited since it is predominantly about grills. Prawns, Scallops, Goat Cheese Tart and something called Provolone Brulee are offered as the appetizers. For the mains the choice is wider and the several options include Lobster, Fish (Sea Bass, Black Cod, John Dory), New Zealand Lamb Chops, Pork Chops & Chicken Breast. Vegetarians can choose between Charred Polenta and Wild Mushroom & Asparagus Gougère.

There is a wide variety of sauces to go with the mains, Béarnaise, Caper Beurre Blanc, Red Wine Jus, Pepper, Mushroom etc. Plenty of interesting sides too.

I ordered Grilled Jumbo Prawns, Goat Cheese Tart (absolutely delicious and must try) among the appetisers and Sea Bass & New Zealand Lamb Chops from the mains. The wine I chose with the seafood was Dr Loosen 2013 Riesling and with the lamb chops it was Frescobaldi Pater Sangiovese, both by the glass. The deal here is that if you order one main dish ( Rs 1500-3500) from the grill; the soup, sides and a pre-plated dessert come free of cost.

Grilled Sea Bass; Grilled Prawns; New Zealand Lamb Chops, Goat Cheese Tart, Dr Loosen Riesling, Dessert Platter with Creme Brulee & Valrhona Chocolate Mousse.
Grilled Sea Bass; Grilled Prawns; New Zealand Lamb Chops, Goat Cheese Tart, Dr Loosen Riesling, Dessert Platter with Creme Brulee & Valrhona Chocolate Mousse. All food pics are mine except the Sea Bass

Now Sea Bass is a delicate fish which requires minimal cooking. Executive Chef Vivek Bhatt and Executive Sous Chef Ishika Konar had respected that. The fish presented to me was white, soft, flakey and just melted in the mouth.

The Prawns were a wee bit over but Chef Ishika nailed the lamb chops. I had asked them to be done medium and this is how I got them, succulent with the juices intact. The cooking techniques of the chefs was spot on. They understood the ingredients and respected them.

Chef Ishika Konar, Executive Sous Chef, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity. She specialises in Mediterranean, German, & Mexican Cuisine and her forte is western hot kitchen & garde manger.
Chef Ishika Konar, Executive Sous Chef, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity. She specialises in Mediterranean, German, & Mexican Cuisine and her forte is western hot kitchen & garde manger.

One reason why I like going to K3 is the well thought out wine list and some great offers by the glass. Plus there is Director Beverages, Ankur Chawla, one of India’s best sommeliers, whose advice can always be sought, when in doubt about which wine to pair with your meal.

K3 Alfresco is a dinner only, season bound offer (during winters till mid-Feb). I loved the romantic ambience. It seems like a perfect place to take your date on a cold winter evening.

In case you need additional heating, there are enough tower heaters which don’t let you feel the chill, even though you are seated in the open.

So if you are looking for a special evening to try out some delicious grills, you know where to head to.

By : Lavina Kharkwal

A day at Fratelli Vineyards during Harvest

I often wonder what drives some people into abandoning a fairly comfortable life to pursue seemingly impossible tasks where chances of success are uncertain. Is it a firm belief in their abilities to succeed or is risk taking a part of their DNA?

In the case of Alessio Secci, the Italian Partner and one of the co-owners of Fratelli Wines, it is both, along with a desire to come out of his comfort zone and constantly challenge himself. That is why he quit a highly profitable family business in Florence Italy and together with Sekhri brothers from Delhi and Mohite Patils of Sholapur, embarked on a journey to make wine in a country like India, not really known for wine production and where both wine making and marketing is a tough proposition.

Piero Masi, a famous Tuscan winemaker was roped in and together these seven partners planted vineyards and set up a cutting edge winery, in a back of beyond place with inhospitable terrain like Akluj (170 kms south of Pune) where it is difficult to grow anything, leave alone Sangiovese, a grape varietal not known to do well outside its home in Central Italy. This was in the year 2006 and rest as they say is history.

Fratelli Wines is now a well-established brand and counted among the top wine companies of India. However all this has not come about easily. To use words like “blood sweat & tears” sounds terribly clichéd but wine making is a serious business even though it may sound very romantic. It’s a long term investment where you pump in a lot of money and returns come only after many years. That is why it is not possible to talk about wine without using the word “passion” as it is the only driving force which propels people like Alessio, Piero, Kapil Sekhri and other partners of Fratelli Wines to continue with their dream.

Making wine is also a very intricate business. Spending a day at Fratelli Winery during harvest season showed me what exactly it entails to get that bottle of wine from the vineyard to the table. Harvest is by far the busiest and most important time in a winemaker’s calendar. It is also the toughest as it involves spending endless hours under the harsh sun, checking the grapes for optimum ripeness and balance between natural sugar and acidity. Choosing the right time for picking is extremely crucial and though there are instruments to measure “brix” or concentration of grape sugars, it is also about personal judgement. That is why either Alessio or Piero Masi is always around during harvest to personally oversee the operations. The vagaries of weather don’t help much either. For example, this year an exceptionally hot winter in Akluj led to an early harvest at Fratelli Vineyards which was then stopped when it became cooler, and resumed in January.

The winery too functions round the clock during harvest with workers doing day and night shifts. The flurry of activities begins early morning when the grapes come in from the vineyards. Destemming, crushing, pressing, transferring into tanks, adding of yeast, délestage (rack and return), processes which are all carried out in succession. Doing a round of the winery I became familiar with terms like “punch-downs” and “pump-overs”, tasted grape juice from the tanks at every stage of fermentation and saw how blending is done to reach that perfect flavour. I was given in a lesson in how decisions are made, whether to use malolactic which alters the aroma and texture of wine and storage (whether to use stainless steel tanks or oak barrels) understood procedures like clarification, stabilization and finally saw the preparation for bottling. Who said wine-making was glamorous?

Vrushal Kedari, Assistant Wine Maker at Fratelli Wines involved in wine making process
Vrushal Kedari, Assistant Wine Maker at Fratelli Wines involved in wine making process

And these are just the winery operations. At the vineyard it’s a different ball game altogether. I was explained that there are many aspects to take care of like irrigation, canopy management, bunch weight, pruning decisions, all of which affect the quality of grapes. Fratelli owns vineyards at three sites in Akluj, Nimgaon, Garwar & Motewadi (where the winery stands). Some time back the Oval Bar at JW Marriott, New Delhi Aerocity had launched a unique promotion “Celebrating Select Indian Produce” where three flights of Fratelli wines named after these three vineyard sites were offered at discounted rates. This was a fabulous idea to promote “terroir” and a long way from days when Indian wines were not even featured on the wine list of 5 star hotels. And now hotels are proudly showcasing Indian wines highlighting the progress made both in quality and wine making process.

While the sights and smell of a winery fascinate me what I love most is tasting wine with the wine maker. It is a special moment when he pours the wine in your glass. This is a wine which is in pristine condition as it has never travelled and always tastes better. I tried some of the latest 2015 vintages of Fratelli wines and loved the Chenin Blanc, Vitae Chardonnay and a new label Vitae Sangiovese. Recently released 2012 vintage of the super-premium flagship wine Sette, is in my opinion, the best so far in terms of balance and structure. What I like about Fratelli Wines wines is that they have struck a perfect balance between being “product-oriented” and “market-oriented” catering to consumer taste without compromising on quality and their own ethos.

With Alessio Secci, one of the partners and co-owner of Fratelli Wines.
With Alessio Secci, one of the partners and co-owner of Fratelli Wines.

So next time you see a bottle of wine, remember all the effort which has gone into bringing it to your table. It is not just grape juice in there but a story of terroir and the trials and tribulations of the wine maker.

By : Lavina Kharkwal

Fratelli Winery & Vineryards at Akluj, 170 kms from Pune Maharashtra.
Fratelli Winery & Vineryards at Akluj, 170 kms from Pune Maharashtra.

To read more on Fratelli Wines you may click on the following links

https://highonwines.com/2015/06/02/fratelli-wines-making-a-splash-in-india-abroad/

https://highonwines.com/2014/11/13/fratelli-wines-launches-three-new-labels-vitae-vitae-tre-sette-2011-and-makes-forays-into-imported-wines/

 

 

 

Berries & More at Akira Back, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity

Give me berries over any other fruit as for me personally there is nothing more delicious than biting into a ripe juicy plump berry, be it strawberry, raspberry, blueberry or blackberry. Other than the taste I find them visually appealing as they come in vibrant colors. And they are “health treasures” as these little wonders come packed with cancer fighting antioxidants which neutralize those dangerous villains called free radicals that cause cell damage in our body. Berries contain tons of vitamins, anthocyanidins which can slow down ageing and something called flavonoids (also found in red wine) which have a slimming effect on our bodies as they inhibit fat absorption.

You must be wondering why I am extolling the health benefits of this luscious “super food”. Well that’s because a few days back I got a chance to try out some great berry based dishes at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity’s contemporary Japanese restaurant Akira Back, where currently, there is food festival called “Berries and More” going on. It was a revelation to see seasonal berries being presented in a non-dessert form as they were incorporated in savory dishes and combined with seafood. I thought it was a brilliant way of making dining out a healthy option.

Hawaii born Chef Corey E Asato who heads the team at Akira Back, suggested I begin my meal with Strawberry Salad featuring juicy strawberries, thinly sliced cucumbers, mixed greens and balsamic reduction served with an amazu pepper dressing. The salad, though simple, packed quite a punch. Fresh strawberries and balsamic reduction have a natural affinity for each other and the sweet tangy flavors in the salad were balanced nicely with the salty sharp amazu dressing.

The next dish I tried was Tuna Tataki with Berry Tosazu. Tataki, which is basically pan seared meat or fish, is a very popular appetizer in Japanese restaurants. So in case you have a fear of eating raw fish (sashimi) I suggest you try Tataki as it’s a great way to eat tuna. This dish had some interesting components like truffled amazu ponzu shaved onions, micro pea shoots & renkon chips (Japanese lotus roots same as our nadru or kamal kakri). Berries were used more than just a decorative garnish here as the berry wasbai tosazu was layered with acidity and umami flavors and helped in bringing the dish together.

Strawberry Salad & Tuna Tataki with Berry Tosazu
Strawberry Salad & Tuna Tataki with Berry Tosazu

Negami with Raspberry Ginger was next on the table. In simple English this was skewered grilled chicken basted with a delicious raspberry ginger glaze, macha salt, the chicken pieces interspersed with curled negi (Japanese onion). This is a great option for the non-fish/seafood eating Delhi folks. The vegetarian version comes with roasted vegetables with cranberry ponzu (a tangy soy-based citrus sauce)

The last berry based savory dish presented before me was Smoked Salmon with Berry Ratatouille served on a bed of Inaniwa Udon with lemon grass coconut broth. Since this was the first time I tried these noodles, Chef Corey explained that Inaniwa are hand-stretched & thinner than regular udon and are counted as one of Japan’s 100 best local dishes from rural areas. The noodles had a distinctive feel in the mouth as they had a firm body. As for the salmon,  we all know it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and when combined with the goodness of berries, this was a super healthy delicious dish that I finished in no time.

Smoked Salmon with Berry Ratatouille and Inaniwa Udon : Photo courtesy Akira Back
Smoked Salmon with Berry Ratatouille and Inaniwa Udon : Photo Courtesy Akira Back

I ended my meal with Panna Cotta garnished with fresh raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and a berry tuile providing a crunchy textural contrast.

Talking to Chef Corey Asato who along with Chef Tomoyuki Kiga has been entrusted with executing the vision of Chef Akira Back, I could easily see his passion for cooking and desire to learn and better himself by experimenting with various techniques and ingredients. Here he takes a classic cuisine like Japanese and with subtle twists, turns it into something so palatable that it suits Indian taste buds perfectly. It is not without reason that Akira Back has firmly established itself as the top fine-dine option for Japanese Korean cuisine, not just in Delhi but in India.

Chef Corey E. Asato with his team at Akira Back
Chef Corey E. Asato with his team at Akira Back

The pleasure of eating here increases manifold when you have people like Beverage Manager Ankur Chawla, one of India’s most knowledgeable sommeliers, to guide you through the well thought out wine list and explain about the various types of Sake (Japanese rice wine) like Jun Mai, Honjozo, Ginjo & Daiginzo on offer.

Believe me eating out becomes an experience to cherish.

By: Lavina Kharkwal

Sake Cocktail & Grey Goose Martini at Akira Back
Sake Cocktail & Grey Goose Martini at Akira Back

Berries & More 18th -27th February 2016

6 pm -11.45 pm

Akira Back at JW Marriott

New Delhi Aerocity

 

 

Chilean Wine Masterclass by Prochile India at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity

“Good wines for a good price.” Let’s be honest here. We all want quality, yet we don’t wish to pay astronomical sums for it. “Value for Money” is what Chilean wines are known for and this is how Chile has managed to topple Australia as the world’s fourth largest wine exporter both in volume and in dollar worth ($1.9 billion worth of wine exported by Chile in 2014). And it isn’t just cheap inexpensive wines that we are talking about. There are some good quality wines from newer regions and made in different styles coming from this beautiful country which has often been called “Bordeaux of the Southern hemisphere”. Chile can finally claim to having a wine style which it can call its own.

Chile has earned a reputation as the world’s foremost wine exporter helped by great demand for its wines all across the world and some brilliant marketing through organizations like Prochile, which is Chile’s foreign trade promotion body. Recently the Commercial Counsellor and Director of Prochile India, Carolina Vasquez, organized the first edition of Chilean Wine Masterclass at JWMarriott New Delhi Aerocity, for journalists, F&B professionals, restaurateurs and consumers to promote Chilean wine in India. Wines showcased were from some top producers like Emiliana, Valdivieso, Vina Tarapaca, Balduzzi and a new entrant Golden Garden distributed in India by Surya Phadke’s QualeMagni.

Carolina Vasquez spoke eloquently about the varied topography of Chile, from Andes Mountains in the east to Pacific Ocean in the west, to Atacama Desert in the north to Patagonian glaciers in the south. This offers a remarkable matrix of terroirs as a result of which there is a greater diversity to Chilean wines. There are some world class whites coming from the newer cooler wine zones which are closer to the ocean and to Antarctica and vines are being planted at much higher altitudes, where a few years back it would have been unthinkable. The geographical isolation of Chile has been a blessing for its wine industry as it has kept the country phylloxera free, that dreaded disease which has been the bane of viticulturists.  Near perfect conditions for vine growing and an unpolluted Mediterranean climate has made it possible for a large proportion of vines to be cultivated organically. There is more focus on quality now and fewer yields which result in better fruit.

Carolina Vasquez, Director Prochile India speaking at the Chilean Wine Masterclass at JW Marriott New Delhi
Carolina Vasquez, Director Prochile India speaking at the Chilean Wine Masterclass at JW Marriott New Delhi

Coming to the wines at the masterclass we began with four whites. The first two were from Emiliana (reputed producers who own vineyards in Chile’s best wine valleys) Emiliana Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from Bio Bio Valley in Southern Chile and Emiliana Chardonnay 2014 from Casablanca Valley. Emiliana wines are imported and distributed in India by Hema Connoisseur Collections. The other two whites were Viña Tarapaca Chardonnay 2014 (slightly sweet) from Maipo Valley (imported by Brindco) and Balduzzi Chardonnay 2014 from Maule Valley (imported by Nature’s Bounty). It was a good exposure to whites from different regions of Chile and grown at different altitudes. What they all had in common was crisp minerality, freshness and fruity nature.

Chilean White Wines served at the Masterclass
Chilean White Wines served at the Masterclass

Among the reds, for which Chile is gaining a good reputation, we tried the Emiliana Merlot 2013 from Rapel Valley, Balduzzi Reserva Merlot 2012, an oaked Merlot from Maule Valley, Emiliana Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 from Central Valley and Golden Garden Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 also from Central Valley. These are all fruity, easy drinking wines and are available in India at affordable price points.

Some red wines from Chile that we tasted at the Masterclass
Some red wines from Chile that we tasted at the Masterclass

The last two reds were both from Valdivieso  (imported and distributed in India by Agnetta International), Valdivieso Pinot Noir Reserva 2102 and Caballo Loco (No 14) named after the winemaker Jorge Coderch called “Crazy Horse”. A multi-vintage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec & Merlot, made by the Solera method where previous productions are blended with new batch, a part of which is then reserved for future productions, this was the best and most complex Chilean red I have had the pleasure of  tasting.

Valdivieso Wines from Chile
Valdivieso Wines from Chile

The first edition of Chilean Wine Masterclass was a great success and full marks to team Prochile led by the Director Carolina Vasquez who took this wonderful initiative. Looking forward to many more such sessions and hoping to taste some Carmenere which was missing this time.

What I would recommend to my readers is to pick up a bottle or glass of that Chilean wine and remember, that at the end of the day,  the best wines are those that we drink with family and friends.

By : Lavina Kharkwal

To read more on Chilean Wines available in India you may click on the following link

https://highonwines.com/2014/11/06/chilean-wine-food-festival-2014-wine-tasting-at-the-lalit-new-delhi/