Before you get to this post, just a little word of caution – if you are hungry, can I ask you to go eat first? Please?
Let me ask you a question: when it comes to the restaurants, how often can you recall the exact decor of the restaurant? Well, let me be careful with this – of course this question is intended for the foodies and not for the interior design majors. We typically remember great food and wine experiences (yes, extremely bad experiences get stuck in the head too – I still remember the worst spaghetti in my life in the little restaurant by the Lake George). Sometimes the exceptional service is also staying with you. But I would bet that decor for the most cases would be the last thing you would remember, especially if you visit the restaurant only once. But then there are exceptions. I still remember old Tavern on the Green, with all its imperial embellishments, or the wonderful Belgium restaurant we visited on Aruba, called Le Dome, which had 4 different dining rooms, each decorated in its own unique style. Why am I asking all the questions about remembering the decor? Please read on, you will see in a second.
Okay, so the goal of this post is not to take you on the memory lane, but to share our recent dining experience at the new restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut called Rouge Brasserie & Oyster Bar. We happened to come in a bit before our dining companions, so I had a little bit of time to walk around. The unique decor and variety of styles within somewhat of a limited space were strikingly different from most of the places I’d been to. The way the different sections were appointed were going from country French to cozy corner to the Royal French – all tastefully decorated and oh so different. Yes, as usual, I plan to inundate you with pictures, so take a look:
As it almost became customary, we started our evening at the bar. While the list of cocktails at Rouge is not too long, everything we had was very well made and very refreshing. Brigitte Bardot (cognac, fresh Lemon, sugar, raspberries and champagne) and Broken Heart Margarita (tequila, elderflower liquor, fresh sour, cointreau, raspberry grape & pink peppercorn) were both done just right, not too sweet (I’m really not a big fun of the sweet cocktails), withgood amount of alcohol, but very balanced at the same time. And it was just fun sitting by the shiny, well lit bar and watch Kelly compose the tasty concoctions.
Before we talk about food, I need to say a few words about the wine. I didn’t get a chance to see the wine list, so obviously I can’t comment on it – but during the evening, we were drinking two wines which were both, shall I say it, surprisingly outstanding. Our white wine was 2012 Domaine Saint-Lannes Côtes de Gascogne IGP (80% French Colombard, 20% Gros Manseng) – perfect nose of the bright white fruit, very inviting, light and round on the palate, with white apples, touch of lemon, dry and refreshingly crisp, excellent balance (Drinkability: 8). May be the fact that the white wine was good was not all that surprising, but for the red… Our red wine was 2010 Chateau Gobert Bordeaux AOC. Can you point to the “surprising” part just based on the name? I remember when I was just starting with wine, which was a bit more than 10 years ago, the year 2000 was declared the “Vintage of the Century” in Bordeaux, and I decided to try those best wines, buying Bordeaux AOC wines for $7 in the discount supermarket in New Jersey. When I tried to drink those wines, which were green, branch-chewy and plain harsh, for the life of me I couldn’t understand how that can be a great wine (of course I would never admit it in public). As I was learning about the wines, and especially listening to the Kevin Zraly’s explanations about circles of quality, I realized that basic Bordeaux, sourced from the grapes from the whole region, in general is something to avoid. Now, at the dinner, the red wine was poured (I didn’t see the label), and my first impression was “wow, this is very nice” – soft dark fruit on the nose, quite fruit forward on the palate, but without much exuberance or going over the top – some plums, ripe raspberries, touch of green bell pepper in the back, soft tannins, nice acidity, overall very balanced (Drinkability: 8-). When I saw the label, my first reaction was “Really?” – for a few seconds, I couldn’t believe this was actually a basic Bordeaux red wine. I will have to start paying attention to the Bordeaux AOC wines again, as this was one eye opening experience. And I want to complement whomever selected these wines for the restaurant – great choice!
Okay, time to talk about the food! In a word, we were treated royally at the Rouge – it was literally no holds barred type of dinner – everything you can think of was on the table – the caviar, the oysters, the lobster, and lots more.
First, our bread arrived in the form of tiny, but ohh so tasty baguettes, accompanies by the butter, fresh young radishes and cornichons:
From our appetizer course, the very first dish was Fish Eggs and Chips (house made potato chips, Crème fraîche) – as you can see from the name, it was a play on “Fish and Chips”, only instead of the actual fish we had something which could’ve become a fish – both black and red caviar was sprinkled over the house made potato chips:
I understand the word play here, and the dish overall was interesting – but I would probably use something more neutral as a medium instead of potato chips – some kind of white bread crackers or even crispy water crackers would play better with the saltiness of the caviar. But again, I can’t complain about the caviar as a starter – not at all.
When you start with the caviar, what is the next thing you should expect? The best selection of the fresh seafood, of course. And the best it was! Plateux De Fruits De Mer had fresh oysters, fresh clams, lobster tails and claws, and prawns, accompanies by the trio of sauces (shrimp cocktails, mayo with herbs and onion/vinegar for the oysters). Fresh and immaculate, one of the best seafood platters I ever had. I’m generally not a big fun of fresh clams – and these were delicious.
Seafood platters can be served in different types of restaurants, but nobody would argue that with Escargots Bourguignon (shallot parsley butter) we are getting into the real French traditional cooking. The escargot were excellent, succulent and satisfying. My only complaint was that I would serve the escargot separately from the toast, as the toast was completely soaked in butter in and out, but then I heard a number of people praising that exact butter-soaked toast. Anyway, this was definitely a delicious appetizer.
From French Classic to the French Classic – our next dish was Classic Steak Tartare (hand cut prime filet with charred country toast) – I tried steak tartare in Paris for the first time, and while I was scared with the plate put in front of me (raw ground beef was glaring at me, asking “will you dare put me in your mouth”), once that raw ground beef was mixed with all the condiments, it became one of my favorite dishes of the French cuisine. In our case, the steak was already premixed, so all we had to do was to put it on the toast and enjoy – which is exactly what we did! It was very tasty.
Our last appetizer was Warm Onion Tart (tomato confit & nicoise olives) – if you look at the size of that thing, it was literally the whole pizza! It turns out that the restaurant inherited a real pizza oven from one of the restaurants located before in the same space, so they definitely took a full advantage of that. That tart was delicious, withcrispy crust, and mild bitterness of arugula perfectly complementing sweetness of the onion. Great dish!
This was the end of our appetizer round, and while we were quite well fed already, the best was yet to come.
Our entrees included:
Skate Meuniere (parsley new potatoes, lemon brown butter) – outstanding, perfectly cooked fish, very meaty, nice lemony bite, without any fish aftertaste (you know, like the one you get sometimes from tilapia or catfish). This dish made many of us wonder why we don’t eat skate more often.
Moules Frites (white wine, garlic & fine herbs) – may be the best mussels ever. The sauce was soooo tasty, we had to request [lots of] additional bread. Simply delicious. Mussles were also served with very tasty french fries.
Short Rib Bourguignon (red wine sauce with pearl onions & truffled potatoes) – is there any other food in this world which spells “comfort” better than the slow cooked meat? Probably not. We were really full at this point, but nobody could resist that voluptuous (interesting word to describe the cooked meat, huh?), succulent meat. Sauce was exceptional, just perfectly savory without any unnecessary sweetness. Great finish to our wonderful meal.
Well, of course there was a dessert – luckily a small one, but super tasty! Chocolate French Custard was just perfect, not too sweet, with the very light and fluffy texture. And by the way, while we were at dessert, I learned something new! It appears that when you eat dessert (at least the one like this custard), you are supposed to turn the spoon upside down in your mouth, so the tongue with all its tastebuds will get in contact with the food, and not with the back of the spoon. I had no idea!
Last, but not least at all, we had a chance to talk to and express our heartfelt Thanks to the Executive Chef Josh Moulton, the mastermind behind this exceptional experience, Diego, our Maître D’, and Fabiana, the designer who created all that exceptional style I described at the beginning of this post.
If you will have an opportunity, I definitely recommend that you will ignore all my writing and go experience Rouge on your own. For those who are too far away, sorry, but you will have to take my word for it – this was definitely an outstanding meal, with great style and substance. Cheers!
Disclaimer: I attended the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
I don’t know how this works for you, but sometimes (lots more often than I want to) I find it very difficult for blogging to keep up with the life. Once you are bitten by the blogging bug, even the routine experiences always raise the question in your mind – “does it worth a blog post”. And the answer is often “yes” (it is your personal blog after all, your life’s journal). But from the “yes” answer to the blog post your happy with, there is a thorny road, filled with sudden and unexpected traps, gaps, and changes of directions – the thing called “life”. Life gets in the way, and the unwritten posts become the heavy load, as pleasant as a toothache, drilling your brain with similar persistence “and remember, you still didn’t write that blog post… Yeah… What is wrong with you, huh? Come on already”.
As you might be able to deduce from this lengthy prelude, this blog post will be one of those, supposed to be written a while ago, but coming to life only now. Well, I still think it still has a merit, but you tell me.
At the beginning of September, I was lucky enough to attend 4 trade wine tastings in the row. The trade tastings are conducted by the wholesalers and distributors for the wine trade – retailers and restaurateurs – to introduce new wines coming to the market. These trade tastings are very large in size – they might consist of 100 tables, each table featuring 6-10 different wines, so total number of wines can be easily in 600-800 range. Nobody can taste each and every of the 600 wines within 4 hours which is the typical duration of the tasting – you have to chose what do you want to taste.
Now that I described the trade tasting to you, let me ask you a question – let’s just conduct a mini poll with only one question – do you think the trade tasting is a hard work, or it is all fun, and all the attendees are there just to drink free wine and have a good time?
Now, let’s rephrase the question:
Let me tell you – it is a hard work. You only have a few seconds to evaluate wine. You don’t have the time for the full assessment – most importantly, even if you try to do the full assessment, you don’t have the time to write down your notes after you sip, swish, suck the air, swish again, spit, move to the next. After 5 Barolos in the row, your mouth becomes completely numb, and you need somehow to restore your taste buds. You grab a piece of Parmesan cheese (either that or a sip of a cold sparkling wine), and your taste buds gradually recover, only to be hit again and again. By the end of the 4 hours, you are really overwhelmed, but generally happy.
So the four trade tastings I attended were definitely overwhelming, but exciting at the same time, as I had an opportunity to taste wines I would never be able to taste otherwise, like, for instance, Tua Rita Redigaffi. Of course when you focus on quantity, the quality might suffer – as the desire is to taste as many wines as possible, looking for unique profiles and new discoveries, it is obvious that something has to give. So in my case, I didn’t even try to write down full wine descriptions or rate the wines on my standard 10 points scale. To move fast from wine to wine, I used the “+” signs where + technically means “well, ok”, ++ means “very good”, and +++ means “excellent”. I guess “+++” should be equivalent to my standard 8 rating, but the problem is that thinking about actual numerical ratings for me requires time, and using this system of pluses was allowing me to move from wine to wine a lot quicker. Oh yes, and to stay with my traditional system of half points, I also used half of the plus sign (-|) to mark the wines which I thought were better than, let’s say, ++, but not as good as +++.
So below you will find a huge (I’m not kidding) list of wines I liked during the 4 tastings I attended. Absolute majority of those wines are +++ wines, but yes, you will see wines with other ratings too. I also sometimes used a single word or very short sentences to convey my impressions better, so you will see it reflected in the list below. Additionally, when available, I listed the grapes and some additional information about the wine.
Before I will let you ponder at the list and look for the familiar wines, I want to present some of my general conclusions based on those 4 tastings. Here we go:
- One must be humble around wine and never make any assumptions as to taste and value of the wine without actually tasting it. My experience with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is an example of that (before tasting it, I couldn’t understand why would anyone pay for it double+ price of any other New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – now I do).
- Once you cross $60 (approximately), California Cabernet Sauvignon become “one better than the other”.
- Looks like 2010 was a great year in California, for sure for Cabernet Sauvignon – I didn’t taste a single bad wine from that vintage.
- I have a problem with California Chardonnay. It seems that all the complainers about too much oak, vanilla and butter finally had their way. Now, it is practically impossible to find those big and buttery wines, and most of the California Chardonnays produced today are dull, have no character and overall universally boring. Somebody, please change (fix) that!!!
Ready to look at the list? Hold on, here are some pictures of the wines in the tastings:
I feel inclined to still add a few more comments, this time just explaining the logic of what you will find in the list. I was choosing the wines to taste based on the few factors:
1. Price – yes, I wanted to taste many expensive wines – go ahead, blame me for it.
2. Uniqueness – I don’t know when and if ever again I will have an opportunity to taste Tua Rita Redigaffi or Catena Zapata Adrianna single vineyard Malbec (both wines are part of my Must Try List) – so of course I made an effort to taste those wines.
3. Wines with rare grapes – as I continue my Wine Century journey, I still always look for the grapes I didn’t taste before. This time I added 4 – Moscatel Morisco, Sauvignon Gris, Kountouro Blanc and Tribidrag
4. Otherwise I was just following the lead of my friend Zak who was tasting wines for his store.
And (ready for it?), here is the list of the wines I tasted, sorted by the country – but I’m warning you – continue at your own risk – you might get overwhelmed too…
Reminder – unless otherwise noted, all the wines below are +++ wines, thus these are all the wines really liked, and it is only a fraction of what we had to work through…
Now – enjoy and cheers!
About two month ago (yes, I know, I’m the speedy one) I was invited to participate in the virtual tasting. The subject – Italian wines. To be more precise, the wines from Umbria, made out of the grape called Sagrantino.
I never participated in the virtual tasting before, so I was not sure how it was going to work. The idea was simple. I will get the wine, which should be opened and tasted in parallel with the winemakers, who will be doing it live on ustream. Of course I gladly agreed to take part in this wine
The subject was wines from Umbria, from the region called Montefalco. Actually, it was not just one tasting, but two – one for the wines called Montefalco Rosso, and the second one for the wines called Montefalco Sagrantino.
It appears that Sagrantino is an Italian indigenous grape, which seems to be cultivated in Umbria for at least 500 years, if not longer. However in the 1960s it became literally extinct, and if it would not be the effort of the few winemakers, Sagrantino would be gone completely from the winemaking scene.
Sagrantino has dark and very thick skin, which results in very tannic and concentrated wines, literally black in color when young. Sagrantino has the highest polyphenolic content among most of the red grapes, if not among all red grapes in the world (take a look at the chart below). Just to get technical for a second, polyphenols (also called phenolic compounds) is a large group of chemical compounds, responsible for color, texture and mouthfeel of the wine (think tannins!), and the group also includes medically beneficial elements, such as reservatrol. As usual, I have to refer you to Wikipedia for additional reading, but I hope you get the point here.
My wines arrived few days before the tasting. As luck would have it, the day which the wines spent on the UPS truck, was one and only day in September when temperature outside reached 96F (extremely atypical for Connecticut in September). When I took the wines out of the box, I could feel that they are quite warm – on average, my wine thermometer showed all the bottles to be at around 84F, so I was obviously concerned… I opened a number of bottles the next day, and to my big relief, the was no sign of heat damage (I quickly closed the wines back using the gas canister) – I was ready for the tasting.
First day of tasting was dedicated to the wines called Montefalco Rosso. Montefalco Rosso wines typically are Sangiovese based, with the addition of 10% – 15% Sagrantino and 10%-15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We had an opportunity to taste through 5 different wines:
At the specific time, the ustream broadcast started with live tasting, where the panel of winemakers from all 5 wineries were talking about their wines and answering the questions. The ustream broadcast was accompanied by the live twitter exchange among all the participants in the tasting. The twitter stream was used to ask panelists the questions, share tasting notes and impressions. Definitely was interesting to see and hear the diversity of opinion both from the panel, and from the audience on twitter. To be entirely honest, the most difficult part was to do a few things at once – taking my own notes, talking to the people on twitter and listening to the panelists – difficult, but well worth it!
Below are my notes for the 5 Montefalco Rosso wines we tasted (as you will see, not necessarily taken exactly during that live tasting session).
2009 Romanelli Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, Sangiovese 65%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 10%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%, 12 month French oak, 6 month in the bottle) – good dark fruit, easy to drink. Drinkability: 7
2010 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso DOC (13.5% ABV, Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15%, Colorino 15%, 12 month in stainless steel, 6 month in the bottle) – day 2 notes – outstanding. Dark inviting fruit with a hint of sage on the nose, spicy cherries (cherries + black pepper) on the palate, with tobacco notes in the background. Delicious! Drinkability: 8+
2010 Le Cimate Montefalco Rosso DOC (14.5% ABV, Sangiovese 60%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 15%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%) – was perfectly drinkable 6 (!) days after opening the bottle. Spectacular. Supple, ripe cherries, perfect acidity, espresso and dark chocolate, powerful, balanced. Drinkability: 8+
2009 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso DOC (14% ABV, 60% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 25% Merlot, 12 month French oak, 6 month in bottle) – Excellent. Dark, spicy earthy nose with some gaminess. Excellent minerality and dark fruit on the palate. Drinkability: 8+
2009 Colle Ciocco Montefalco Rosso DOC (14% ABV, Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 15%, 12 month in oak barrels, 4 month in the bottle) – nice soft red fruit on the nose, sweet and supple fruit on the palate, good acidity, soft tannins. Drinkability: 7+
The next day we had the tasting of Montefalco Sagrantino wines. Montefalco Sagrantino wines are made out of 100% Sagrantino grapes. The tasting was done in the same format – panel of winemakers discusses the wines live via ustream, and twitter followers taste and discuss in parallel.
It was recommended to open wines one hour before the tasting. Considering how massive those wines are, I would think the right suggestion would’ve been to open them in the morning. I don’t know if it could make the difference, but I have to admit that my experience was rather frustrating during the live tasting. For the most of the wines, I couldn’t get any of the flavor descriptors and impressions, compare to what was exposed by the other twitter tasters. For instance, Arnaldo Caprai was showing literally as corked, where the other tasters had violets, black tea and other nice things to say. Literally only one or two wines cooperated with me during tasting. But – most of them came back nicely right after (see the notes).
Below are my notes for the Montefalco Sagrantino wines (all wines are 100% Sagrantino).
2006 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, 15 month in oak, 12 month in the bottle) – Dark fruit on the nose, same on the palate, very restrained. I’m sure needed more time. Drinkability: 7+
2007 Caprai Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, 20-24 month in French oak barrique, minimum 6 month in the bottle) – opened on 09/17, then closed with the argon canister. Reopened on 09/23. Concentrated, very dark. Initially gave an impression of being mildly corked. After 3 days finally started to open up into something interesting. Very substantial tannins ( more of stem/seeds tannins than oak). Dark fruit with undertones of leather and black tea. Drinkability: 8-
2007 Tenuta Castelbuono Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, 28 month in oak, 10 month in the bottle) – dark supple fruit on the palate, very powerful, a wine with “broad shoulders”. Beautifully opened over the next few days, showing roasted meat notes on the palate, good acidity, excellent balance. Drinkability: 8-
2008 Tenuta Bellafonte Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14% ABV, 36 month in large barrels, 10 month in bottle) – wine was first tasted on 9/17, then closed with gas canister. Reopened on 9/25. Powerful, concentrated, almost black color in the glass. Nice fruit undertones, cassis and plums, with more tannins coming in later. Overall delicious and “dangerous” wine. Drinkability: 8
2008 Colle del Saraceno Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (14.5% ABV, 12 month stainless steel, 12 month French oak barriques, 6 month in the bottle) – this wine unfortunately showed signs of the heat damage. N/R.
All in all, this was a great experience. The virtual tasting format was pretty well done, and I definitely will be looking forward to more virtual wine tastings in the future. And for the wines – my notes are above, and I definitely recommend looking for Montefalco wines – both Rosso and Sagrantino well worth your attention. Cheers!
Disclaimer: The wines were provided complementary by the PR agency. All opinions are my own.
A while ago I got an email from the Axial Vinos marketing, informing me that two of the Spanish wines from Axial Vinos portfolio had been recently added to the Trader Joe’s wine selection. I was also asked if I would accept a sample of the wines. As you might now, I have a difficult relationship with the samples – I don’t actively solicit them, and I consider each request individually. To be entirely honest, I had less than a handful of requests for sending the samples, and so far I didn’t reject any. I don’t have a strong criteria for rejection, it would probably have to be something like a Crane Lake of Sutter Home, for me to say “no, thank you”, but nevertheless, that makes me feel better.
As the wines which were offered to me were Spanish wines, which are some of my favorites in the world, of course I said “yes, please”. A few weeks later, the wines arrived, and then I had an opportunity to taste them – and now I would like to share my impressions with you.
Before we get to the wines, a few words about Axial Vinos. It appears that Axial Vinos is an export company, which works with the wineries in different regions of Spain, where it sources all of their wines. Axial Vinos portfolio includes more than a dozen of different wineries, located in all the leading regions, such as Ribera Del Duero, La Rioja, Penedes and others.
Now, let’s talk about the wines. From the get go, I really liked the packaging:
You know, this additional layer of paper, wrapped around the bottles, enhances an element of mystery. Wine in the bottle is always a mystery, this is what makes it such fun – you really don’t know what is there, behind the cork, so your imagination can run wild, simply based on all the visual cues – the shape of the bottle, the label, the capsule. Here you can’t clearly see even those details, so the mystery multiplies.
But of course the next step is to unwrap the bottles (and admire the labels):
2012 Zumaya Tempranillo Ribera del Duero DO (13.5% ABV, 100% Tempranillo) – nice and simple, food friendly wine. Hint of dark fruit on the nose, some blackberries and espresso notes on the palate. Tannins are soft and light, good acidity, good balance. Easy to drink. Drinkability: 7
2011 LA MANO Mencía Roble Bierzo DO (13% ABV, 100% Mencía) – what I like about Mencía-based wines as a whole is energy. Somehow all the Mencía wines I tasted to the date have this universal bright and uplifting character. This wine had nice, freshly pressed juice on the nose with the prevailing aromas of the fresh cherries. Similar cherries/plum profile on the palate, simple, clean, medium body, round dark fruit, easy to drink. Drinkability: 7+
NV La Granja 360 Cava Brut (11.5% ABV, 70% Xarel-lo, 30% Parellada) – simple and elegant, perfectly refreshing, just a touch of sweetness, good acidity, very balanced overall. Drinkability: 8-
All in all, this 3 wines can serve as a perfect introduction into the wonderful world of Spanish wines. To all the lucky people who can buy their wines at Trader Joe’s (Trader Joe’s in Connecticut doesn’t sell wines, so I’m not one of them), I highly recommend not to miss on all these wines. Considering that the Turkey Day is coming, I believe all three wines will pair quite well with the Thanksgiving feast, and I’m sure you will not break the bank to get them. If you will try or have tried these wines already – let me know what do you think.
That’s all I have for you for today, folks. Enjoy your Friday – and the weekend is coming! Cheers!
Do you know what is curry? Well, may be you do, but it appears that I didn’t. To be more precise, I thought I knew – and I didn’t. Anyway, the explanation is coming down below – keep reading and looking at the pictures.
Aladin Indian Bistro located at the busy intersection in Norwalk, CT, literally around the corner from one of the best food stores in the area, Stew Leonard’s. Despite the busy intersection part, there is plenty parking in the back, which definitely helps. I don’t know about you, but when I’m thinking about going to the restaurant, parking is probably one of my very first concerns – I need to know if I will be circling around the busy street for half an hour or not, so again, I’m talking about important stuff here.
The Aladin’s interior is nicely appointed, with wood and leather, with enough space between the tables, and comfortable and inviting lighting.
As we got situated at our table, the neverending array of food started to appear. First, it was Papadum, the thin crisp flatbreads, made out of yellow lentil flour right at the restaurant – very tasty on its own and with the sauces. By the way, as I consider this visit more of a personal learning of the Indian cuisine, I will include here the links to the relevant articles on Wikipedia – here is the one for Papadum. We were also served a trio of accompanying sauces – Mint sauce, Braun Tamarind sauce and Onion Vinegar relish – all worked very well with papadum.
Our first dish was Spiced Sea Bass Pakoda (Sea Bass Fritters. Chili Yogurt sauce) – tender pieces of fish, deep fried in a special batter. This dish was quite successful in texture and had very mild spicy profile. I also really liked the presentation. By the way, continuing our education here, Pakoda ( often spelled as Pakora) is the common name for the deep fried snack in India and other Asian countries – here is your link to Wikipedia to learn more.
Next dish was Artichoke-Scallion Pakoda (Roasted eggplant Tamarind aioli). Unfortunately, it was really dry and chewy – it looks pretty, though.
Ahh, almost forgot – of course we were drinking wine. The wine list at Aladin is small, but I found it to be quite appropriate for the type of cuisine the restaurant is serving. There is a good selection of the both light whites and reds, also the prices look quite reasonable. Overall we had 3 different wines during the course of a dinner. For the white, we had 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Saint M Riesling, Pfalz, Germany – very nice, simple, some honeydew notes on the palate, with a good amount of acidity and touch of sweetness, very refreshing – and most importantly, working quite well with practically all the dishes. Our first red was 2012 Gougenheim Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – simple red, with some good acidity and light raspberries profile. Later on we switched to the 2012 900 Grapes Pinot Noir Marlborough, New Zealand – nice Pinot Noir profile, with some plump cherries both on the nose and the palate, may be a touch too sweet, but working well with the dishes.
Our dinner continued with the trio of Chicken Kebabs – done in three different styles, all pieces perfectly tender, moist and juicy. When I cook myself, I generally avoid chicken kebab, as I typically have a hard time trying not to dry it out. The kebab which we were served, was probably one of the very best I ever had.
The next dish was probably one of the most favorite in the group – it is probably enough to say that we asked for the refill a couple of times. The dish was Karari Bhindi (Crispy okra with red onion, cilantro and green chili), as we called it a “crispy okra salad” – a perfect combination of spices and crunchy texture, very tasty.
Appearing next were a few dishes. Bagar Dal (yellow lentil flavored with cumin, curry leaves, fresh garlic and dry chili) was very tasty, and so was Rogan Josh Traditional (Goat with tomato curry with a hint of Yogurt):
Just to go on with our overall theme of learning, here is the link for Dal (a thick stew made out of dried legumes) and Rogan Josh – an aromatic lamb or goat-based stew. I don’t get to eat goat all that often, so it was an interesting experience and overall a very tasty dish.
Next up – Signature Lamb Dampak (tender Lamb cubes cooked in a sealed copper vessel) – this was a bit more familiar than the previous dish, very flavorful and aromatic, perfectly going over the jasmine rice, an excellent dish overall:
And then we had bread! Well, if you are familiar with the Indian cuisine, you know that I’m talking about Naan. It is generally served hot, and it is one of my very favorite types of bread you can get in the restaurant. It perfectly accompanies all of the stew-like dishes, and it literally melts in your mouth. We went through quite a few baskets of Naan, as you can never get enough of it.
Remember I asked you if you know what curry is? This was the question which Chef Roy, the Executive Chef and Owner of Aladin, asked us during one of his appearances:
I felt that the question is probably not as straight-forward as it seemed, but nevertheless, my answer was “of course! it is a spice!”. Well, this is exactly where I was wrong. Curry is a way of cooking with multitude of spices, but not the spice on its own! There all sorts of curry spices, all widely used in the cooking throughout the Asia, and they often share some common ingredients, like coriander and cumin, but overall, all those curries are different depending on the country and the dish which they will be used for. Apparntly “curry spice” as a nomenclature, was created a few hundred years ago, to sell a common blend of spices to the Westerners, as Asian-style cooking was becoming popular in Europe. And again, I have to refer you to the Wikipedia if you want to learn more.
Just to share my personal learning with you, I also learned that coriander is a seed of… cilantro! I love cilantro in everything, and I use coriander quite often, especially when it comes to the Fall cooking (roasted butternut squash soup is one example) – but I had no idea they are related! Live and learn…
Anyway, there are still a few dishes worth mentioning. We had Tawa “Surf n Turf” (combination Tandoori kebab platter of meat and seafood), very tasty:
There were more dishes, but I honestly lost track at that point of what was what, so here are the pictures (but I remember that everything was tasty!):
And, of course, the desert! Traditional Rice Pudding, nice, creamy, may be a touch too sweet for my taste, but still very refreshing after such an extensive meal:
All in all, this was an excellent “deep dive” into the world of the Indian cuisine, very unique and different. And as usual, the last thing left to do is to thank Chef Roy and his staff for the excellent meal and great education. Cheers!
Disclaimer: I attended the dinner as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
Aladin Indian Bistro
36 Westport Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851
Phone: (203) 939-9040
I’m again [lucky bastard] in Portugal, and get to enjoy this beautiful country. Of course one of the first places I have to visit is a supermarket, to see what’s new in the wine section (you can find some illustrations for my first encounter here). My eyes stop on the bottle of wine from the unknown region for me – Tejo. There were both red and white wines, standing next to each other, so I decided to grab both.
Let me give you description of the wines.
2012 Enóloga Antonina Barbosa Vinho Branco Tejo Vinho Regional (12.5% ABV, made from the Portuguese grape called Fernao Pires): Light yellowish color in the glass. Spectacular perfumed nose, resembling some of the best French Viognier – shows bright perfumed fruit, very elegant, not over the top. Very round and delicate on the palate, touch of apricot, peach and white apple, fresh acidity, perfectly dry and balanced. Drinkability: 8
2012 Enóloga Antonina Barbosa Vinho Tinto Tejo Vinho Regional (13% ABV, a blend of Aragonez, Castelao and Cabernet Sauvignon): Ruby red color in the glass. Fresh fruit nose, shows nice ripe concentrated fruit and a touch of earthiness. On the palate, very restrained, dry, touch of tart cherries, some earthiness and light tannins presence. Good acidity and good overall balance. Drinkability: 7
So we are looking at two good wines. Now, let me ask you a question. Based on the description above, how much these wines should cost?
I will give you a few seconds to think about.
And a few more seconds.
And a few more.
Ready? What do you think?
Okay, we can skip the drum roll, but let me know if you expected to see this number.
A whooping €1.29.
I think this is pretty impressive, that such a level of quality can be achieved at such a price of the wine. This wine is a private label, made for the Pingo Doce stores, by the Falua winery. Of course as this is the case with the private labels, no additional details can be found on the winery web site.
I also learned about relatively new designation for the Portuguese wines – Tejo Vinha Regional, which was created in 2009 to be used in the Ribatejo region. Ribatejo DOC (higher classification) is retained for some specific areas of the region.
That’s all I have for you for now. There were many other great wines, food and very special experiences, like Port barrel tasting all the way to the 1970 – this all hopefully will be shared in this blog in the orderly fashion.
So, can you top my quality/price ratio? I will let you think about it. Cheers!