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Dinner at Zanotta Restaurant (# 5/157)

Photos By:: Adil Arora

The casual visitor to the sleek Ambience Mall just across the Delhi border can easily miss the presence of the first outpost of one of India’s leading luxury hotel chains, the Leela Kempinski, in the National Capital Region. Well that’s where the Delhi Wine Club was headed on Sunday the 14th March for its #5 /157 (5th event this year and 157th since the club was founded in 2002) wine dinner at Zanotta –the hotel’s rooftop Italian cuisine restaurant.

I really don’t know whether it was the prospect of an Italian dinner with Italian wines or whether the word had spread about the delicious cuisine at Zanotta or whether it was the equidistant location for both our Delhi and Gurgaon members but the event was sold out even before Subhash Arora even released the wine list for the evening.

Not only that, the supportive hotel management went a long way in making the evening a success by reserving the entire restaurant exclusively for us.

Such exclusivity as we have seen on a number of past occasions is ideal as there are no other guests who would be disturbed and a microphone can be used by Subhash to guide us thru the nuances of the wines on hand. In fact these (sometimes not so brief!) tasting notes during the course of the meal from Subhash form a very integral part of our Delhi Wine Club wine dinner model.

Once thru the doors at Zanotta, one cannot but help a sharp intake of breath at the twin visual distractions that catch the eye. Firstly, the floor- to -ceiling wine cellar displaying wine on both sides, gives you the instant impression that the restaurant is serious about its wines. The second visual distraction is  the view from the vast bank of windows straight ahead –six floors up and the hustle and bustle of Gurgaon gives way to softly twinkling lights – you could be downtown in any Western city. Paired with an open plan kitchen, there are plenty of visual delights on hand at Zanotta.

So whilst we oohed and aahed at the view and nibbled on the hors d'œuvres, the pop of the bottles of Tiamo Spumante Brut signified the evening was under way. Prosseco is fast gaining ground on its traditional rival, Champagne and the Tiamo Prosseco was a fine example of why this Italian method of producing sparkling wine may  soon be the world leader in the sparkling wine category. The straw coloured Tiamo had a floral and fruity bouquet yet retained crispness on the palate which handled the sharpness of the goat cheese as well as the garlic of the prawns.

As we sat down on the three long tables, one could not help but have silent praise for the restaurant staff headed by Abhishek Roy and his team – the table setup was faultless, there was adequate glassware in place and a special personalized menu was at each place awaiting the diner.

The guest of honour this evening was the incoming Commerecial Counsellor of the Italian Embassy, Mr. Gianluca Brusco and the Chief Guest was H.E. Roberto Toscano, the Italian Ambassador. Italians whether from the Embassy or from the diasporas in the food and wine world in Delhi have traditionally always been strong supporters of the Delhi Wine Club.

Chef Naveen Thapa and his team got the ball rolling with roundels of smoked duck breast which we paired with the Marchesi di Barolo Gavi Classico DOCG 2008 – made from the Cortese grape, this superb medium bodied wine with a taste of apples in the finish lived up to its DOCG billing –one where amongst other regulations the output of wine is limited to 4 tons an acre thereby ensuring good concentration of flavour. To be frank, the Gavi paired much better with the fried mussel croquettes than with the duck.

Next up was the star of the evening –the crab bisque –the bisque itself had body and flavour which was supplemented excellently by the generous helpings of crab meat in each portion. The general opinion at our table was that the sequence of the duck and soup should have been interchanged as the crab bisque would have gone brilliantly with the Gavi rather than the Umani Ronchi Cumaro Rosso Conero DOC 2003 – a ruby red wine with a bouquet and mouth of cherries and plums – I was fortunate to have a few dregs of Gavi left by the time the soup came around and I had to agree.

After an interesting sorbet, we had the pleasure of sampling two Amarones with our main courses of either Lamb or the Barley risotto –both blends of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes – the first was a Speri St Urbano DOC 2003, a rich muscular wine with the alcohol at 15% and strong supporting tannins. The to Allegrini Amarone Classico DOC 2000 had the benefit of being served decanted which opened up this complex wine with chocolate and cherry on the palate. Subhash told us that the wine had now earned DOCG- a well deserved promotion!

That normally should have wrapped up things as far as the wines for the evening was concerned –all of them procured from Brindco- but Subhash Arora had a surprise up in store for us. To commemorate his friendship with the Italian wine icon Angelo Gaja, he pulled out from his private collection: the Gaja Magari Ca’Marcanda IGT 2006 to accompany the truffle filled brie and the petit fours. This predominantly Merlot blend with Cab Sav and Cabernet Franc was a little oaky but otherwise well balanced with fruit–an elegant wine with a long lingering finish. Many thanks Subhash!!

No doubt a hotel with a mall attached has plenty of close- to- home competition for the diner’s rupee but if Chef Thapa’s offerings and the seamless and efficient service of the waiting staff, not to talk of the beautiful ambience are anything to go by, Zanotta should soon become one of the finer Italian restaurants in Gurgaon and Delhi. Best of luck from the Delhi Wine Club.

Arun Batra



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