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Dinner at Sorrento @Shangri-La (#6/257)

The recently opened Italian Restaurant at Shangri-la Eros Hotel has been making waves from day one and a tasting at the Sorrento beckoned me instantly to organise our next wine dinner at the restaurant with authentic Italian food with delicious Italian wines with a story to tell, and the dinner day before yesterday was declared one of the best out of the 257 dinners we have organised since the Delhi Wine club was founded in 2002, writes Subhash Arora- Founder President of the club

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewSorrento is a captivating town in Italy-gateway to the Coast of Amalfi, that highlights the unique nature and beauty of Italy.

Sorrento is a relatively new restaurant at Hotel Shangri-La-Eros that highlights the authentic Italian cuisine with Chef Luigi Ferraro from Calabria bringing Italian soul and his personal touch to the food.

Within a few days of the new restaurant opening, I went to have lunch there. I was impressed with the true-Italian style authentic food, decor and service. I decided immediately to organise a dinner for the Club and invite the Italian Ambassador H.E. Lorenzo Angolini as a special guest. He immediately accepted the invite very kindly and suggested 31st May as the date he would be available. (Happy for some, not-so-happy for others -he could not attend as he was called by his government to bring with him the marine allowed to go to Italy by the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, it was too late to postpone the date).

Carpene Malvolti Prosecco docg with Grappa

In what might be considered a big deviation, we started the evening with Grappa, usually the last pit stop before heading home after a complete a meal. Grappa is the bar adjacent to Sorrento, where we headed to start the evening. A very cosy and comfortable place, amenable to discussing any subject on earth after a glass or two of Prosecco docg or doc.

I had been seething since attending a wine tasting at Hotel Leela where both Prosecco doc and Prosecco docg were served with the same respect and described in the same breath with no attempt made to differentiate between the two.  Prosecco doc is the ubiquitous generic drink used to quench thirst by millions around the world but docg is the original Prosecco-as it were. The area from Conegliano in Veneto to Valdobbiadene-a 22 km of hilly stretch that not only, is panoramic but also produces very good quality bubbles.

Click For Large ViewIn India, most importers stock Prosecco (no importer can ignore the popularity but the emphasis is on the cheaper doc version which has over 4 times the production of docg. I didn’t have to scout around for the perfect, available, delicious docg- Carpene Malvolti has been my favourite for years, since I visited the oldest Prosecco producing winery in Conegliano and is perhaps the best Prosecco being sold in India- not only because I had it served at a friend’s daughter’s wedding where it was an instant hit and not only because we poured it at my son’s wedding where it was also consumed as a champagne despite my protests that it was a plebeian Prosecco even though the best my money could buy.

Fuller bodied, aromatic with a persistent citrus flavour with passion fruit in the back layer, it goes so smoothly down that one tends to drink as if there were no more three wines to follow at the dinner! The bruschettas with tomato, basil and rocket salad were a par for the course for vegetarians but the Roast chicken, wild mushrooms, parmesan snow Bruschetta was devoured by the non-vegetarians, downed by this SWAAD, juicy Prosecco. But what followed was even more talk-worthy; Mozzarella, sundried tomato and pine nut croquettes were slightly crunchy from outside but melted in the mouth with delicious flavours. Even the Free range chicken with Peruvian chili, and romesco sauce and served on stick was delicious, soft and spicy and the Brut was able to match because of the shade of sweetness and crisp acidity.

Weather gods had been very benevolent too since it was extremely pleasant outside the bar, which -caters well to al-fresco lovers and today (a bit of tweaking with the invisible mist coolers notwithstanding) it was a unanimous choice to enjoy the fresh weather outside with the Carpene.

Dining at the table

The restaurant had set aside half of the restaurant  space for Delhi Wine Club while the other half kept on getting filled by the time we were finishing with the Locally hand crafted buffalo mozzarella salad with tomatoes, Napolitano basil and extra virgin olive oil paired with Piccini Memoro Vino Blanco. This is an interesting white wine from the Tuscan family-owned winery by Piccinis because it has an interesting story.

Piccini Memoro was created 5 years ago to celebrate the 150th year of unification of Italy as one nation. It has taken grapes from the four different parts of Italy and makes a blend of 40% Viognier from Sicily, 30% Chardonnay from Trentino, 20% Vermentino from Tuscany and 10% Pecorino – an ancient Italian grape from the Marche. The wine was easy drinking with fruity flavours and made a good combination with the crisp and crunchy salad.

Click For Large ViewWe realised we were actually having a Degustation Menu when we were served the next dish- Oven roasted eggplant with buffalo mozzarella cheese and truffle pate stuffed Cappellacci, a signature pasta dish by Chef Ferraro. I could have had twice the amount of the 2 pieces served. Piccini Chianti Reserva DOCG 2012 was such a natural pairing that it was all over in seconds in the palate-but each of those seconds was an orgasmic experience. Piccini played a delightful –to- the- palate duet with it. It did an equally wonderful balancing act with the pear and beetroot risotto with gorgonzola which was more pink in colour and crunchy in texture.  

Main Course Red  

I advised the members that the Amarone 2009 from a well-established house would go well either with the Melange parmigiana for vegetarians (Crumb fried eggplant with mozzarella, tomato sauce and parmesan) or the 12- hours braised lamb shank with root vegetable and smoked polenta which was a classical match. I wasn’t sure if the Pan roasted Sea bass with fresh mushroom, nuts and black olive oil would be able to handle the all-powerful, high alcohol, tannins strong wine and make a celebratory match.

I am not a red-meat person usually but for the sake of giving my best to the wine (and of course- its best for the food) I ordered the lamb shank. My barometer for judging the quality of a lamb is that I should not have to use a knife to cut the meat off the bones. The meat was of incredible fine quality and fresh and thanks to the slow braising, it was falling off the bone. The smokiness in the polenta also was a nice finesse to match it even better with the wine-which, after 7 years of storage was perfect on the palate even though slightly higher in alcohol and felt a bit heavy and dense.

The vegetarians were pleased with the meal and the pairing. It was a bit of surprise and kudos to Chef Ferraro who had realized the full bodied red wine was being served with the dish and had tweaked the sauce somewhat. Mushrooms as the condiment always welcome powerful wines with robust tannins on the palate. I was surprised when I was given compliments for a very good paring with the fish. If at all, the credit goes to the Chef to understand each wine and doing his creative best with each dish; it’s not always easy to get the pairing right due to the limitation of the wines available.

Since we normally don’t serve dessert wines because of lack of interest, I don’t take much interest  in desserts. But Tiramisu is difficult to resist and the Chef Luigi’s version- Tender biscuit moistened with coffee and amaretto, mascarpone cream, coffee gelée and bits of almond biscuit was a perfect way of ending a perfect evening. The opinions were divided on the Infinity Chocolate gluten free 70% Warm chocolate cake, white chocolate pannacotta, Chocolate truffle ice cream with chocolate crunch but I was in no mood to take cognizance of the differences of opinion to mar a perfect dinner of the Delhi Wine Club.

Credits

Click For Large ViewApart from Chef Luigi Ferraro and his team of talented chefs, the credit for the perfect evening goes to Ashwani Kaushik, the Restaurant Service Manager who was a little nervous because of the absence of Suveer Sodhi, the F & B Director who had been suddenly called away to open a new hotel and he knew that Mr Parmeet Singh Nayar, General Manager of the hotel and who I have known for over a decade now, was watching his performance with a remote control; he had met a few of the members earlier in the evening.

I don’t know how a wine dinner could be better fun experience. I agreed with members who said that it was the best dinner ‘in a long time’. But I do know that when we work with restaurants and hotels who put their heart and soul into the evening, having a full faith on our commitment to wine but equally importantly, the overall gastronomical and social experience, we always have ‘the best’ evening even though there may be a minor slippages here and there-and today there were none! Even the wine importers had co-operated with us. Perhaps, it was because Ambassador Lorenzo Angolini and a few Italian diplomats were expected to be there. Perhaps, the restaurant strives to see their clients go back with a happy experience so they come back more often. In any case…

…we shall be back!! Jai Ho!!!

Subhash Arora

 

 

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Gallery By : Adil Arora