The Feast of the Gods – Dakshin’s Food and Wine Pairing
Recently I was invited by Sheraton Park’s Chef Harish of the famed restaurant Dakshin to enjoy their food and wine pairing. On only till the end of March I urge everyone to give this very decadent experience a try. For me it was not just a great meal with fantastic wine but a very educational experience on the tricky pairing of south Indian food with the prefect wine. Normally one associates the more full bodied heavy reds to complement our well spiced Indian food but boy was I pleasantly surprised… there was not a single red wine to be seen through the meal!!
The entire experience is a joint collaboration of the very charming Chef Harish and suave sommelier extraordinaire Kadhir. Each dish that was put forth on the menu was carefully thought out and the accompanying wine a perfect match. Click here for the non-vegetarian and vegetarian menus of the food and wine pairing. It’s very obvious that this love child of a menu has had a lot of thought and effort behind it. Click here for the complete menu.
Starting off with the food… for me the crispy Keerai Vadai paired with the crisp refreshing Prosecco was a stroke of genius. Despite being deep fried there is a lightness to the perfectly seasoned and executed Keerai Vadai that is so synchronous with the Prosecco that is not only beautiful to taste but also to look at. And yes… by now my readers know that I love all things pretty!
There is a smooth progression of the wine and food, which are always in perfect harmony. There was never a moment when I felt something was out of sync which is key for a successful food and wine pairing. Sommelier Kadhir and Chef Harish have nailed to that element perfection! But at the same time your palette is constantly challenged and exposed to new realms of flavor pairings. The wine brings freshness to a cuisine that is so ancient and complex.
The Nandu Puttu is a seafood lovers dream come true. The simplicity of the flavors is highlighted by the Prosecco (I’ll admit the Prosecco was my favorite of all the wines!). In Round two of the meal my dining companion loved the Kodi Vepudu and the Uralai Roast that were served with the flaky melt in your mouth Veechu Parotha. The Attukal Paya was good blast from the past with the ideal accompaniment of a lacy divine Idyappam. Whoever would’ve thought that a James Bond Smooth Riesling would accompany Kodi Vepudu and Attukal Paya?! And yes… Bond would have totally approved of the pairing too. :)
I must mention that the Riesling, unlike most Rieslings , was barely dry and went down your palette very smoothly with a nice burst of complimenting flavors. It was the right balance of not being too smooth or too dry because if it was dry, it may not have worked with the food served. This for me was a true stroke of genius.
Chef Harish explained how the butterbeans balanced out the heat of the green chilies in the China Vengaya Pacthmiligai Mandi. Surprisingly I loved drinking the Riesling while enjoying the Mandi. Whoever would’ve thought that a gorgeous Riesling would be the perfect accompaniment to the very traditional Mandi?!! I was quite dumbfounded!
Another dish apart from the keerai vadai that stood out for me was the unusual Pomegranate Rice (Puli madazhaoazham sadam). Chef Harish explained how the recipe is one that dates back to a couple of centuries. I truly appreciate the effort and interest that Chef Harish puts into the research and excavation of ancient and traditional recipes which if not for people like him, may be lost to us forever. The Riesling surprisingly echoed the lime in the pomegranate rice along with the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. The dish itself was an interesting combination of tart with bursts of sweetness as the seeds exploded in your mouth. It’s definitely something that seemed easy and I am looking forward to exploring in my own kitchen.
Meanwhile my companion had lost herself in the much-loved Andhra Kodi Biriyani and barely acknowledged my presence while digging in! Again I never would have paired a white wine with the spice heavy Biriyani but Kadhir… thank you for broadening my horizons!
The dessert was a great and fitting end to a lavish meal with the Vathalappam being the star of the show. It’s amazing how complex a simple combination of eggs, palm sugar and milk can become! The Badam Halwa was nicely done as it was the right amount of sweetness as I’ve tasted some rather cloyingly sweet versions in the past.
The only part of the meal that somehow did not stand out to me was the Bendakaya Thalimpu… which I guess is okay since I think it was meant to be a foil to the other dishes rather than a starring dish by itself.
The whole experience was so relaxing and I kept thinking it’s the prefect way to celebrate a special occasion or special day like Valentine’s Day (Hint hint hint to all you boyfriends and husbands!) with a loved one. Kadhir mentioned that one of the reasons he chose the effervescent proseco was because it was such a perfect drink to toast too and to kick start a celebration! And indeed it was a celebration of senses and flavors besides being educational at the same time (if only all my classes had some wine thrown in!). I was truly fortunate enough to experience this adventure and if you do venture out to try this extraordinary experience loose yourself in the moment as the smooth wine takes over lulling you to a state of bliss where the food just adds to the feeling of headiness. Now having said that… what are you waiting for?