Veggie wine and dine at Tuskers, Sofitel

It’s not everyday that you receive an invitation for a vegetarian wining and dining experience. Vegetarian food with wine? What’s that? That, is actually a culinary revelation that the chefs at Sofitel decided to unfurl on a languid Friday night. The saga of north Indian delicacies and choice red and white wines from the Loire Valley of France unfolded over four decadent rounds of wining and dining, followed by a dessert to sweeten an already pleased palate.

Round 1: A fruity start

Pasacal jolivet sancerre blanc, 2013 at Tuskers, Sofitel

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Blanc, 2013
Paired with assorted sampler of
Palak Anardane ke Kebab
Fresh pomegranate seeds and curd stuffed spinach cake
Makai ke Pakode
American corn crush mixed with gram flour, chilli powder, fresh coriander, fried and served with green chutney
Bharwan Paneer
Cottage cheese stuffed with mint and coriander chutney, marinated with homemade masala and curd cooked in a charcoal oven

Palak Anardane ke Kebab, Bharwan Paneer and Makai ke Pakode
(Top to bottom) Palak Anardane ke Kebab, Bharwan Paneer and Makai ke Pakode

I’d had a long and weary day at work and a glass of fresh and fruity Sancerre Blanc was exactly the panacea I needed. We writers had just begin to introduce ourselves to each other when Sanjay Menon, wine importer and director of Sonarys and Sansula made an appearance. He spotted one gentleman dipping his pakoda into some green chutney and instantly cautioned him against it. “There’s already so much flavour on the table!” He did concede that the notes of bell pepper in the chutney might go well with the wine. But I decided to let the pakoda crumble in my mouth, as is, and flood it with the sweet taste of corn and the crispiness of fried gram flour.

Makai ke Pakode at Tuskers, Sofitel
Have this on a chilly evening with adrak chai for company

Menon proceeded to tell us how each dish on the table had a different role to play in enhancing the flavour of the wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. “The richness of the paneer cuts the wine’s acidity while the bitterness of the kebab brings out the wine’s fruity element.” He wanted us to taste the wine with some remnant of the food we’d just eaten still in our mouths, and note how the flavour was different from when we had the wine on its own. I felt like I was in a hospitality class and suddenly, I wanted to enroll in one of those finishing schools and learn all about being a lady of finesse.

Bharwan Paneer at Tuskers, Sofitel
Huge chunks of succulent paneer made their way into our eager tummies

Round 2: A serious red

Bouchard pere et fils beaune du chateau cote-d'or, 2008 at Tuskers, Sofitel

Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Du Château Côte-D’Or, 2008
Paired with assorted sampler of
Sangri Ke Koftey
Cottage cheese dumpling, stuffed with pickled kher sangri cooked in tomato and yoghurt gravy
Kacchey Kele ki Subzi
Boiled raw banana cubes tempered with cumin seeds, onion and tomatoes, turmeric powder, green chilli, finished with fresh coriander
Whole wheat flour based thin bread cooked on a hot plate

Kacchey Kele ki Subzi, Phulka and Sangri ke Kofte at Tuskers, Sofitel
(In clockwise order) Kacchey Kele ki Subzi, Sangri ke Kofte and Phulka

Sangri ke kofte familiarised me with the Rajasthani favourite kher sangri, a bean and berry combination that was blended with cottage cheese in this case. However, the dish I was really blown away by was the Kacchey Kele ki Subzi, whose gravy was a melting pot of delicious Indian spices. While I loved the Sancerre Blanc, I didn’t take as well to the burgundy red. Menon told us that wines from the Burgundy region were a favourite with French emperor Napolean Bonaparte. “This one is made from pinot noir grapes and contains notes of cherry, strawberry and tomato leaf,” he said.

Round 3: A white encore

La vielles ferme AOC Cotes de luberon blanc, 2013 at Tuskers, Sofitel

La Vieilles Ferme AOC Côtes de Luberon Blanc, 2013
Paired with assorted sampler of
Baingan Bhartha
Charcoal oven cooked eggplant, chopped and cooked in onion,tomatoes, garlic and ginger
Bhuna Palak
Spinach cooked with garlic and red chillies
Dal Panchmel
Combination of five lentils cooked with onion, tomato and spices
Whole wheat flour tandoori bread

Baingan Bhartha, Bhuna Palak, Dal Panchmel and Roti at Tuskers, Sofitel
(In clockwise order, starting top left) Baingan Bhartha, Bhuna Palak, Dal Panchmel and Roti

Now it was time for the main course and yet another tryst with a white wine. Although the Vielles Ferme was pleasantly full-bodied, I realised that the Sancerre Blanc had stolen my heart as far as whites were concerned. The conversation veered to why wines are rarely paired with vegetarian cuisine. “Vegetarian restaurants are frequented more by families who’d rather not drink in front of their children,” opined Menon. And that’s where Tuskers fills a crucial gap. Menon cited an interesting formula for wine appreciation, “If food has a value of 1 and wine has a value of 1, food plus wine must equal more than two!”

Dal Panchmel at Tuskers, Sofitel
The dal was creamy, flavourful and supremely satisfying

Round 4: A full-bodied end

Paul Jaboulet Aine Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone, 2012 at Tuskers, Sofitel

Paul Jaboulet Ainé Parallèle 45 Côtes du Rhone, 2012
Paired with assorted sampler of
Amritsari Wadi
Punjabi home style lentil wadi cooked in onion and tomato gravy
Jeera Rice
Rice tossed in cumin seeds

Jeera rice with Amritsari Wadi
Jeera rice with Amritsari Wadi

Menon joked, “Indian food has so much complexity, sometimes I sit with 2-3 different glasses of wine!” Pairing wines with Indian cuisines is definitely a challenge but the effort is worth it, I realised, as I sipped my glass of Parallele 45. It was one of the best reds I’d ever had, robust and replete with spice elements such as cinnamon and white pepper. I’ve never understood all the ceremony that goes into sipping wine but Menon explained how swirling allows the wine to breathe and holding it at the stem is essential, lest you pass on your body heat. “Stick your nose in as far as it will go!” he exhorted, eliciting a few giggles. The amritsari wadi was quite spicy and the wine tasted sweeter as a result.

The wines came packaged in beautiful Sofitel bottles
The wines came packaged in beautiful Sofitel bottles

We ended with Moong Dal Halwa (crushed green grams cooked in ghee and sugar) which I polished off in such a hurry that the only evidence it ever existed lies in my wine-misted memories. It wasn’t the best moong dal halwa I’d ever tasted but I liked it because it was light and not as fatty as the warm dessert usually tends to be. I will close this hunger-inducing post by thanking the two men who made it such an unparalleled delight:

Sanjay Menon, sommelier extraordinaire and importer of wines

Sanjay Menon, wine importer and expert

The good folks at Sofitel, particularly the manager and chef at Tuskers

The manager and chef at Tuskers, Sofitel

So if you’re a vegetarian with a wine connoisseur’s heart, you know where to head this Friday. Tuskers, Sofitel is located at Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai.

Tuskers - Sofitel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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