Months ago, a friend excitedly told me about her plans to eat out at a new restaurant in Bangalore, in total darkness. “But what if a fly wandered into your food?” I pointed out, not without sadistic pleasure. “ You wouldn’t even realise it.” And thus the conversation, and her short-lived happiness, came to an end.
So when I was asked to review a blind wine dinner at The Olive Kitchen & Bar in Mahalaxmi recently, I could not swat the nagging feeling that this was karma working overtime.
The dinner, named Twisted Decadence, was organised by All Things Nice in association with The Olive Kitchen & Bar. The concept of dining blindfolded or in the dark heavily relies on the enhancement of the remaining senses when one of them is compromised. It runs the risk of going either way: some may be too embarrassed to enjoy the concept or blindfolds may leave a few feeling claustrophobic. The rest may end up having a whale of a time guzzling wine.
In the menu, gourmet food was split into three sections — starters, main course and dessert. The wine was not. When I was sober enough to gather my thoughts the next morning, I recalled having five different kind of wines.
We were welcomed with rose tinted sparkling wine from Sula. To our parched throats, the no-frills wine tasted fresh, light and pleasantly tingly. Even blindfolded, the wine continued to tantalise our senses — the ones that were allowed to work, that is.
A plate of roast beetroot, green apple & chevre roulade made its way to our table, along with a bottle of Zonin Pinot Grigio 2011 Fruili Aquileia Italy, a ‘light bodied’ white wine from Aquileia, the north east of Italy. The vegetarian starter turned out to be a bit of a dissapointment: I’m no fan of goat cheese and here, a fat slab of the cheese was carefully laid on the arugula & pinenut salad bed. The acidity of the white wine is supposed to cut through and open up the flavours of the cheese, I was told. But to me, blindfolded or otherwise, the cheese’s pungent taste and smell completely overpowered the wine. The Zonin Pinot Grigio 2011 Fruili Aquileia Italy, on its own, was delightful, a little dry and a little fruity, just like it was meant to be. It was a good accompaniment to the non-vegetarian dish, Spiced Seafood Escabeche, as it opened up the subtle orange flavours of the dish which had shrimps, squid rings and Arctic salmon in a marinade of spiked oranges and star anise.
It took a pumpkin to save the meal. Mille feuille of roast pumpkin, marinated artichoke and grilled asparagus was served with a smoked pimento sauce and saffron polenta stuffed crepes along with two bottles of wine: Fratelli Vineyards Sette 2009 Akluj India and Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2009 South Africa. In spite of my limited skills as a wine taster, I could make out that more full-bodied wine was being served to us as we progressed through the meal.
Both the Indian and South African wine were ‘weightier’ and hence blended well with the slow braised lamb shoulder and the flavours of the confit of duck with a late harvest, kokum and orange reduction. Once blindfolded, the flavours of the wine did seem to open up and become more distinct. We took long sips of the wine, allowing it to coat our tongues. And very soon, we were in high spirits.
The most interesting part of the meal was the dessert — not for the exquisite Belgian dark chocolate paté that was served with a chambord and red currant compote, but for the dessert wine, Vallonne Vineyards Vin De Passerillage 2011, Nasik, India that was brought to our table.
The dessert wine was appropriately sweet and struck a fine balance with the dark chocolate. This was the third Indian wine to be served to us during the course of the meal — a fact we should be proud of, we were told. And we were. The empty wine glasses were proof of it.