Stuart George

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Thirsty Buddhas: Food and Wine at Trishna

In Restaurants/wine and food on September 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm

On 8 September, Trishna restaurant in Marylebone hosted an evening of food and wine matching to showcase its new Austrian wine-listings and recently launched Wine Club.

Opened in November 2008, Trishna is a sister outfit to the Mumbai restaurant of the same name, which, uniquely for a “destination” restaurant in India, is not part of a luxury hotel. Trishna’s London founder and owner Karam Sethi has a “brand agreement” with the Mumbai operation, though ownership remains separate.

Trishna (image courtesy of Cooke and Brand PR)“Marylebone has a nice feel to it, like a small village,” says Karam. “There are lots of boutique businesses, not many chains.” The lease on the Blandford Street premises was signed in May 2008 just before the credit crunch hit that autumn. But business has been quite good. Typically there are “a minimum of ten walkers per night.” Fifteen bookings can often turn into 60 covers. Nobu Matsuhisa himself has dined here!

Karam, who was previously a chef at Zuma, clearly works extremely hard—he had bags under his eyes like a harassed hound dog. Judging from his various titles, Trishna’s General Manager, Sommelier and Wine Buyer Leo Kiem also has a busy life. He has some radical ideas on matching wine with curries: “Did you ever think of emphasizing the heat of chillies and spices with a tannic Barolo 2004 from Burlotto? Or with deep flavoured reds such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape Grand Veneur 2004? Ben Glaetzer’s Bishop Shiraz 2006 from Australia? Or a powerful and full-bodied Valpolicella Amarone 2004 from Guerrieri Rizzardi? Choices, choices, choices… Does it seem to be complicated? Only if you see all this as a problem rather than a opportunity to discover something new.”

Image courtesy of Cooke and Brand PRThere are 120 or so bins on the wine list. The Austrian wines we tried were, with all due respect, not that well-known. But Leo argues that lesser names means lower prices. Erich Machherndl’s Grüner Veltliner Smaragd 2007 is £34; F.X. Pichler’s Grüner Kellerberg would probably be at least £100.

We tasted the “Crab Festival menu” that is being offered as part of National Seafood Month in September. The menu is £34.50 for the food plus £32.50 for the appropriate wines—quite reasonable for the quality of the food and wine and the location. These are complex and often powerful dishes that are very challenging for wines. But Leo has done a great job on matching clean, relatively simple wines to tame the sometimes fiery dishes.

A “Lobster and Champagne” menu will be served 15-21 September, comprising Whole Tandoor-roasted Native Lobster and a half bottle of Champagne for £60 per person.

Champagne Alexandre Bonnet Blanc de Noir NV

Served as an aperitif. Alexandre Bonnet is based in Les Riceys in the Aube. This is a fruity Pinot Noir/Meunier blend that seems to have quite a high dosage.

2006 Weingut Tegernseerhof Riesling Kellerberg Wachau

This wine set the standard and template for the evening—clean, fresh and wearing no make-up, which can be fatal for wine with spicy foods. Clean as a whisker, it was excellent with the first course of Blue Swimmer Crab Rasam and Blue Swimmer Crab Tikki , the lemon fruit and mineral flavours of the wine just about standing up to the spices.

Blue Swimmer and Japanese crab are more packed with flavour, says Karam, and so able to absorb more flavours. British crab is comparatively lighter and “sweeter.” Richard Murray, a young fishmonger in Battersea, supplies Trishna’s crabs.

2005 E. Tscheppe Atanasius Neusiedlersee-Hugelland

A Zweigelt & Blaufränkisch blend paired with Dorset Crab Naan, Brown Meat Chutney and Tomato and Pickled Ginger Kachumber. The spicy, slightly dusty nose—the wine is aged in old barrels, apparently—did not inspire much confidence at first but the palate was less dusty and had a nice juicy structure, not dissimilar to Dolcetto. Karam advised trying together all three elements of the second course with the wine. He was right—it was delicious.

2006 Weingut Allram Grüner Veltliner “Hasel” Alte Reben Kamptal

Made from 25+-year-old vines, this was excellent with the challenging and complex dish of Japanese Snow Crab and Native Lobster Salad, Mooli and Cucumber, Cauliflower Pakora and Green Chilli and Lime—the restaurant’s best selling dish. This was perhaps the best pairing of the evening; by itself, the wine was less impressive.

2006 Juris Pinot Noir Selection Neusiedlersee

Chocolate and blueberry nose, suggesting power rather than elegance, with a rich and silky palate and a good, ageworthy structure.

It was paired with the richest and most delicious dish of the evening: Cornish Brown Crab with Butter, Pepper and Garlic, served with rice, spinach, spiced potatoes and naan bread. The potatoes were particularly yummy, spiced with Kashmiri chillies and roasted basmati rice, the latter giving a crunchy and nutty texture. But ultimately they were a bit too hot to handle for the wine, even if the sweetness of the Pinot fruit cut through the richness of the crab.

Leo said that normally he would pair this dish with Barolo.

2006 K+K Kirnbauer Welschriesling Icewine Deutschkreutz

This was harvested on 28 December 2006 at 15 °F (-7°C) and 35°KMW (41.2° Brix). On the basis that one degree Brix corresponds to about 18g/ltr sugar, this would mean residual sugar here of 741.6g/ltr, which seems a little excessive! Probably the figure is about half that.

It has the slightly “burnt” nose typical of very late-harvested wines, though it is also a bit grapey. The acid/sugar balance is excellent—it is not at all cloying. It was drank with an outstanding dessert of Poached Pear with Homemade Saffron and Pistachio Ice Cream. Yum.

Kasteel Cru

An eccentric nightcap. This is an Alsatian beer brewed using Champagne yeasts. It is very fizzy and quite sweet and honeyed. At Trishna it is usually paired with lamb chops, according to Leo.

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More thoughts on wine competitions

In Tastings on September 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Further to my comments on wine competitions after my recent stint at the Austrian Wine Challenge, Radio 4’s Today programme on 3 September featured a brief interview with Willie Lebus of Bibendum Wine Ltd. billed as follows: “Willie Lebus discusses why many wines, according to research published in the Journal of Wine Economics, are viewed as extraordinarily good at some competitions but viewed as below average at others.”

Willie argued that it is all about the “quality of judges… It is a lottery.” He made some very sound points but was given less than three minutes to make his case.

The broadcast is available on the BBC website until September 10. Willie’s interview is at 2:57, just before the end of the three-hour show.