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Delhi Wine Club at The Yum Yum Tree (#15/129)

When I tasted any dish at  the trial run at the Yum Yum Tree, Varun Tuli, the owner would ask me if it did not taste better than in the China Kitchen at the Hyatt Regency. Whether it did or not, mattered not at such early stage of the restaurant but the confidence, passion and aspiration meant he had his palate at the right place and vision quite clear and focussed on quality and service.

When I wanted to inform the members that service could be an issue as the restaurant was new, he took exception to my insinuation and took upon himself the challenge of proving that the restaurant was ready with excellent service. His continual tasting of wines even before the license was obtained, aggressive pricing of his wine list, Bormioli Rocco Italian stemware, elegant chinaware, not-to-mention the décor which his interior-decorator mother had done beautifully, saving him a pretty packet in the process as well; were signs enough that he was on the right track.

Many people mistakenly believe Chinese food cannot be pared with wines- this is similar to saying wines cannot be a match for the spicy Indian foods. True, the Chinese and the Indians love to have their 'Chinese tea'-and pots of it too, with or without the food and live very long. But having organised several dinners where matching Chinese or even Japanese food with wine was fun and rewarding, it was a given for us that we would organise a wine dinner of the Delhi Wine Club as soon as he was ready with the license.

We in India are used to having Chinese food the same way as Indian food; order 5-8 dishes depending to the people on the table and make a pot-pourri. Our first task was to design the menu so we could stick to the usual format of 1- 2- 2 (aperitif-white-red wines). The flexible lot that we are, we decided to change it to 1-3-1 for this match as whites do go better with Chinese, I believe; and red, powerful cabernets or Bordeaux blends could be left for a later exercise.

Another objective was to choose wines from their menu, which one would normally order when not with important clients. So no pink Champagne for this event- a Rosado Brut Cava from Freixenet, the most selling sparkling wine in the world would be fine, thank you. Valdivieso Sauvignon would be quite aromatic, fruity and crisp so long as it was 2007. Viña Esmeralda would be the perfumed and fruity wine, ideal for most of the light bodied dishes, thanks to the Moscatel and Gewürztraminer blend. Reasonably oaked Lindemans Chardonnay would handle even the spare ribs and fresh crabs while the South African red Goats (do Roam) would soothe the palates and pockets of red wine lovers who like their women and wines warm-blooded and spicy- like in Cotes du Rhone, south of France.  

To do the individual paring and giving each wine an equal opportunity to shine for a recall on the next visit, we split the menu into different parts- Varun and his chef went for Crisp followed by a Soup and Dimsum course. This followed by a Singapore Platter was to be a precursor to the Main course; the last item on the menu being the usual Dessert.

Crunchy prawns made the perfect crisp starter, especially as the mildly tannic rose cava was a beautiful match. Soup had a perfect flavour, a trifle too powerful for the perfumed Sauvignon which had a lighter body and sat lighter on the palate too.

Spare ribs and the soft chilli crabs were the award winning dishes which won hands down as the best pair-with or without the medium bodied Esmeralda which had the perfume as well as performance written all over. A highly recommended combo at the restaurant, though I would be equally ecstatic with the rose cava combination.

Sea bass with Creamy Five Pepper Sauce was rather light and flavourful but the sauce made it face bravely the oak in Lindeman's Chardonnay- nowhere near the best wines we have served in the past but was adequate. One has had so much of shredded lamb with the Chinese food since childhood, that it would take a miracle to discover an extra-ordinary dish and today was no exception. Chinese Broccoli was a disappointment. One might have enjoyed it, only if had been chewable.

The red 'Goats do Roam' did provide a salutary effect with the main course. Mildly tannic, this medium bodied warm wine offered a pleasant accompaniment with the lamb as well as mushroom kungpao.

The desserts were perfect in terms of quantity as well as quality though most of the members-especially the lady members seem to be chocolate connoisseurs and it is not easy to get exclamatory comments from them.

There was plenty of food, plenty of wine and plenty of bonhomie and camaraderie which the Club members have always enjoyed. What was mercifully lacking was the boring class-room type of lecture that some quack sommeliers in India keep insisting is a must at a wine dinner.

If the members understood that the Cava is a bottle fermented sparkling wine giving value for money, the Freixenet Rose Brut is a dry bubbly made from Trepat, a local red variety grape from Spain grown from Rioja in the Northwest to Barcelona in the east-and blended with Grenache, if they loved the fragrance of Gewuertz and fruitiness of Moscatel  in Viña Esmeralda, if they simply enjoyed the warmth and spiciness of the Goats, and if they understood that brands like the Australian Lindemans are becoming global enough to source wines from anywhere else ( with Chateau Indage taking a serious note of it), and  above all they enjoyed the dinner enough to pre-book the almost sell-out dinner at ai restaurant on November 16th with NZ wines, it would explain why the Delhi Wine Club was voted as the best wine club in India in 2007, the wine waiters (as the daily Mail Today so unkindly describes a sommelier) be damned.

'Fantastic' was the simple acclaim from Susanne Bell, a senior winemaker and winery manager at the Stonehaven Winery in Padthaway, South Australia. She was the guest of Debra and Peter Linford, the Australian Trade Commissioner, new members of the club. 'My first day in India and I am so impressed with what the club is doing in promoting wine,' she said, with the promise of supporting the club in any way her winery could. She is part of an Australian agricultural delegation visiting India.  

And, yes! As the young Varun did not fail to point out in the very first communication, the name of the restaurant is the plain vanilla 'The Yum Yum Tree.' And his service staff did live up to his challenge that the restaurant is capable enough to provide a 5-star service. Whether it beats the China Kitchen or not, is a matter of individual opinion!



Photos By Adil Arora





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