We are all familiar with wine pairing events, but it isn’t very often that one hears of whiskey being paired with food. Though whiskey is the favourite tipple of Indians, the way we drink it is usually before dinner along with some snacks as we find the concept of pairing too engaging. While there are some basic rules in place for wine pairing, whites with fish and reds with red meat, whiskey pairing is a field relatively unexplored.
There are very few people who have the requisite knowledge about nosing and tasting notes of malts and can correctly match whiskey flavours with food aromas. An exception is Sandeep Arora, India’s first Whiskey Ambassador, who has helped curate a new menu titled Samvat 1780, at Singh Sahib, Eros Hotel, Nehru Place. In this menu some signature dishes of undivided Punjab are paired with some of the finest blended scotches and single malts like Johnny Walker GoldLabel, Johnny Walker Blue Label, Chivas Regal 18 Y.O, Royal Salute,Ballantine’s 17 Y.O (named Whiskey of the Year 2011 by Jim Murray), Balvenie Double Wood, Glenfiddich 21 Y.O, Talisker 10 Y.O, Glenlivet 18 Y.O, Dalmore 12 Y.O, Highland Park and many more.
A lot of research seems to have gone in while planning the wide array of appetizers, both vegetarian and non- vegetarian, representing the various regions of undivided Punjab like Potohar, Sarghoda, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Amritsar. What is interesting about the menu is that there are six different trails on offer like the Trail of Blends, Comfort, Premium and Exotic, ranging from Rs 2495 to Rs 3295 per person, keeping in mind the different taste profiles of the diners. From people who love their blended scotch like Johnny Walker and Chivas Regal but would like to expand their palates and move on to malts, to those who like their single malts but would like to move on to more premium brands, there is something for everyone. Drink Less but Drink Better seems to be the new motto and the emphasis is on showing the versatility ofwhiskey and open up people to its different styles.
Whiskey is a hard masculine drink with a macho image as it has a high level of alcohol. It is fascinating to understand how it works with food. In the words of Sandeep Arora “Pick up a whiskey which has the most flavour, complexity, and visual appeal and first create its personality. It is only after that you chose a dish to match with it. It is as delicate a matter as choosing a bride. Most qormas and curries don’t pair well with whiskey as the tongue gets coated with spices and the flavours do not really come across. Whereas a chewy meat likes a boti kebeb does well with smoky malt like Laphroaig”.
Keeping all these important elements in mind Chef Suprabhat Roy has designed a menu featuring appetizers like Kasuri Murg Tikka or Potohari Challi Kebab, Amritsari Macchhi, Jalandhari Seekh, Sarsonda Sole Tikka, Paneer Ajwain Tikka, Hara Mawa Bhara Kebab, Subz Pudina Seekh, Khumb di Khatai, Tandoori Hare Phool (broccoli) Safed Chane da Kebab, which will act as perfect accompaniment to the whiskeys on offer. The endeavour here has been to keep the food simple and allow the malts to shine through. One can throw in a main course of Dhaba Meat, Mash di Dal, Makhani Paneer, Raita, Pulao and Assorted Indian Breads at an additional Rs 595 p.p, and violá, you have a complete meal. To round off the experience there is Gulab Jamun with Shahi Tukra with compliments from the chef.
The voyage that we embarked on was the Trail of Comfort which began with the Glenfiddich 21 Y.O paired with the Sarson Da SoleTikka. On the nose the scotch had floral notes of banana & figs with a touch of smoke while the tasting notes were of pepper, vanilla, ginger and lime. By adding just a dash of water the bouquet of the whiskey was released intensifying the pleasure. The fish delicately spiced with mustard just soared with the pairing. Next was the elegant and complex Glenlivet 18 Y.O. with a sweet burst of spices and bitter orange. The Kasuri Murg Tikka, which came with it, was garnished with meringue to offset the austerity of the scotch. The Talisker 10 Y.O had a citrus sweetness and felt peppery at the back of the mouth. This was served with the Safed Chane da Kebab stuffed with apricot, adding spice to its exquisite sweet taste The last pairing was of Glenmorangie The Original with notes lemon, nectarine & apples and was paired with Tandoori Ananas (pineapple) Anardana, an unconventional an interesting pairing.
The new menu Samvat 1780 is on offer till the end of September.
Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgment and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review, but readers need to consider this review keeping this fact in mind.
– Lavina Kharkwal