From chef's palette, for your palate
Trying out a meal at The Imperial's 1911, SUMITRA SENAPATY finds it a feast for both eyes and palate. But the crowning glory of this imperial fiesta is provided by the Spanish and Chilean wines of Miguel Torres... .
A MEAL at The Imperial's 1911 in New Delhi is a series of aesthetic surprises, with picturesque groupings of exquisitely transformed ingredients. Adding the ethereal touch to the Imperial festival are the Spanish and Chilean wines of Miguel Torres - the legendary Spanish winemaker - whose roots can be traced back to the 17th Century. Even in those days the ancestors of Miguel Torres
were vintners and sold their family wine on a small scale.
We sip a seductively scented Chardonnay from Spain, while Miguel Torres informs us that his company has just opened its first bonded warehouse in India with a distribution network in Delhi. Torres has reserved four wines exclusively for the Imperial, which include Mas La Plana 1985, and Torres Reserva Real 1997. The Spanish company's most renowned sommelier, Toni Batet Collado has also been sent to match the wines with the food. At lunch, with the starters we drank the Maquehua Chardonnay 2000 from Chile, an attractive straw yellow colour with gold and grey edges along with slight hints of hazelnuts, smoke and honey.
When the dishes work, they demand from you a palatal pause to reflect on the flavours and on the ingenuity that has treated ingredients so creatively. The soft lobster is an appetiser but the entire crustacean - scooped from the Kochi waters - is not edible. So eat morsels of its delectable meat with the Red Capsicum Coulis. It is garnished with an Avocado Salsa and circled by a light, aromatic sauce. Most of us could not bring ourselves to consume this appetiser until we had first gazed our fill at Chef Bruno Cerdan's artistry. Chef Bruno's head is in the appetisers, but his heart is in the entrees. The mains were stunningly good. Lasagna, because it's familiar, is often a reliable test in a kitchen. This one, a treatment at once soul satisfying and sumptuous, is as good as it gets - shredded duck, suffused with fresh tomato sauce that imparts a softer ambrosia than do the herbs, richly blended with pesto and folded into the Lasagna.
With modern fusion cuisine and new world wines, the choices and confusion are great! Earlier a meal with wine used to be simple. The rule was white wine with white food and red wine with red food. But mostly we don't just eat vegetables in white sauce and roast meat with Chablis or Merlot these days. But some classic matches - Stilton with port, and goat cheese with Sauvignon Blanc - have survived the changes in food fashion. When the pairing of food and wine works well, each enhances the other, making the meal greater than if you had consumed them separately. With the juicy Masala Gosht we drank the Spanish Gran Coronas 1997, which is rich, dark and ruby coloured. Intense aroma with fruity notes over a background of vegetables, green coffee beans, smoke and leather. Pondering over a glass of wine, we recalled that long before Fappucino and Polynesian cocktails there was wine, the fermented grape juice with attitude. It may conjure up images of wine geek speak. Thankfully though, some wine you just don't need to think about. Some wine you just drink.
Enter wines from Miguel Torres. Now talk about a finale! What better use of strawberries than the Ice Cream Nougat enclosed with dark bitter chocolate and topped with sweet fresh strawberries? And what remains a fragrant memory is the Moscatel Oro from Spain, a decadent and celestial dessert wine with floral scents of roses, geraniums and lemons. A nice final touch is the Gran Torres Orange Liqueur, which does its bit to light up both eyes and palates. Next time when you want to add a little Spanish touch to your dinner table, why not try a Torres?
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