It’s always a tricky proposition to pair Indian food with wine. Matching and complementing the heavy spices and rich curries is not everyone’s cup of tea, or glass of wine for that matter. But at the Royal Dinner at Jamawar, The Leela organised by Fratelli Vineyards, such serious matters of pairing and balancing and complementing were left in the able hands of Wine Master Craig Wedge, a familiar face in wine soirees of the city and that Aussie bloke who everyone loves.
Given that the number of wines to pair were nine of Fratelli’s best, with a long and lavish dinner of 7 courses each in veg and non veg, and two long tables of us wine enthusiasts, food writers and lifestyle columnists to juggle with, Craig held centrestage with aplomb. And what started out as a quiet exploration soon turned into a fun journey through the complex world of wines, thanks to Craig’s trivia, story-telling capabilities, and infectious energy.
Mind you, he did have plenty of help from the excellent dishes cooked up by Corporate Chef Surender Mohan and his team. The very first course of Tulsi Jheenga (Baked Basil Prawn) and Guchhi Dilnasheen (Stuffed Morels) paired with a light and easy Vitae Tre white wine was not just impressive, but dazzling! Even though we knew there were 6 more courses to follow, we were clamouring for repeats of the bold and juicy Prawn and the meaty, heady umame of the Kashmiri Morels… that’s how good these dishes were!
As dinner progressed with a melting-on-the-tongue Gilawati Kebab, a hot Tomato Shorba served in a cute earthen pot, a beautifully-spiced Fish Curry in a Coconut broth, and a somewhat uncharacteristically sweet Murgh Badami Korma, the wines got bolder and more complex with a Chardonnay and a Sangiovese Bianco complementing the flavours. But the dramatic arrival of the Gosht ki Nihari (Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks) at the table turned out to be a conversation stopper, and with good reason too! Each succulent shank was served in a half-open mini Dutch Oven, the curls of smoke escaping out of its dark interiors giving you a whiff of the juices still bubbling inside, creating a beautiful aura of intrigue. Little wonder then that this would be paired with one of the most celebrated wines from Fratelli’s, and perhaps the country’s, eclectic cellar – the barrel-aged Sette.
All doubts of whether the dessert that followed would live up to this kind of a high were dispelled with the Chef’s take on the Sindhi honeycomb sweet, the Malai Ghevar. It came jam-packed with thick Rabdi and assorted nuts, and provided the perfect finish to the evening, paired with a daintily-fluted glass of the dessert wine, Santo.
It’s exciting times right now, riding the wave of the new food revolution that has taken a renewed interest in and zeal for traditional Indian dishes, elaborate centuries-old recipes, and slow-cooking to eke out maximum flavours. Favourites like the age-old Gilawati Kebab or Nalli Nihari that were pretty much in the ‘boring’ and ‘passe’ category have made a comeback to many restaurant menus globally as well as here, and are often the shining stars of the menu. And pairing such dishes with the right wine just helps further the cause of Indian cuisine, giving it the ‘new cool’ dressing that it well deserves. So here’s raising my glass to more such stimulating sessions of great food paired with fine wines, and good company too!