Luscious, sweet white wines with exotic, upscale Indian cuisine – who would have imagined it? When I received the invitation to attend a Cru Classes tasting of Sauternes and Barsac (both sweet white wine appellations in Bordeaux, France) with a lunch to follow, I already knew what to expect to eat. We’d start with foie gras, I thought – many, many different types and styles of foie gras, as I experienced when I was a guest at Chateau Guiraud. Then, I thought, we’d have a salad, and perhaps duck a l'orange for an entrée. Now I have nothing against foie gras or duck a l'orange. French people have been enjoying this with sweet white wine for centuries, and they are “textbook pairings.” Yet wasn’t there a less rich alternative, I wondered.
As it turned out, Rohini Dey, proprietor of the hot new Vermillion restaurant, and her executive chef Maneet Chauhan, studied and tasted the sweet wines to be showcased, and developed an exciting new pairing idea for the lunch with luxurious seafood as the star. Before I go into detail about the menu, I’d like to explain that the presentation was absolutely fabulous, and went well beyond what one would typically get at any upscale restaurant, even Indian restaurants. The plates, for the most part, were oversized, in unusual shapes (think long rectangles), and decorated with attractive garnish.
The first course consisted of “cool crab salad” with salmon caviar, watercress juice, and seasoned vermicelli. This was to be paired with Chateau Doisy Daene 2007, which I found to be one of the most “feminine” of the wines we had enjoyed minutes earlier in a formal tasting and seminar. The wine was very light and fresh, with good acidity that worked well with the crab. On the same first course plate was “pani puri” — street Indian chaat, flour shells, potato, and chili mint water. This dish was paired with Chateau Guiraud 2005. These two wines provided an interesting contrast, as the Chateau Guiraud is a heavier, richer style of wine with bright acidity redolent of apricot jam.
Next came the seafood course, which included a single, large, incredibly delicious scallop coated with blue corn, and a seasonal seafood stew with a self-described “Indian kick.” Chateau Sigalas-Rabaud 2001 was paired with the scallop. The rich sweet texture of the wine contrasted with the sweet, fresh white scallop. The seafood stew, with its shrimp and tilapia and sauce with its subtle, sumptuous exotic spices such as cardamom, went quite well with the 2001 Chateau de Myrat, which was one of the darkest of the wines with a deep gold color and palate of rich concentrated apricot.