A wok in the groves

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The next time you are in Saravanaa Bhavan, complement your Indian-Chinese dinner with a glass of wine

In this second edition outlining the marriage of good wine with popular Indian vegetarian cuisine, we take on an all-time favourite which is a classic blend of two popular Eastern cultures – the tangy, the tasty and the spicy Indian Chinese. In the world of fusion food, nothing can be more fantastic than Chinese noodles with an Indian twist. Why order Kadai Paneer all the time when you can order Paneer 65?

Saravanaa Bhavan is all about providing the customers with good quality vegetarian food that would suit all palates and all occasions. By introducing the Indian Chinese cuisine to the menu, Shekar and his team have added another dimension to the dining experience. Now kids can twirl tasty noodles on their forks while parents enjoy a plate of masala dosa with vada. Good food with a glass of good wine has the potential to make any dining experience heavenly and complete.

I sat down with Shekar from Saravanaa Bhavan and Mark Arnold from Winetrust Estates yet again to talk noodles, Manchurians, fried rice and wine.

The Indian-Chinese cuisine at Saravanaa Bhavan is predominantly Szechwan and offers a wide variety of tasty vegetarian food. The menu has three categories – the Chinese Starters that include the popular Gobi 65, Paneer 65 and vegetable Spring rolls amongst others; the Great Wall which features different kinds of fried rice and noodles including but not limited to Mushroom fried rice, Hakka fried rice and Szechwan noodles; and the From Our Chinese Wok section from where diners can order Cauliflower Manchurian, Paneer Manchurian, Baby corn Manchurian, Chilli Paneer, Chilli Vegetable and Vegetable Hot Garlic to name but a few. This menu has something for everyone.

And to take this dining experience to whole new level an assortment of fine wines from Winetrust Estates is made available to diners. Wines, be it red or white do not share the same space as the other alcoholic beverages. Drinking wine is not an act, it is an experience. Wines have character and so the best way to taste the wine is in small sips. A good finish will linger on the palate for quite a while and it is said that high quality wines tend to have a more defined the finish.

The entrees offered in the Indian-Chinese menu at Saravanaa Bhavan are hot and spicy with the Szechwan taste and some of them are fried. Since the food style is complex and interesting, the wine to go with it has to be complex and interesting too. The white wines are acidic in nature as they have the natural acidity of grapes and are wonderfully balanced to cut through the fried nature of the food, thus pleasing both the palate and the tummy.

So Mark recommends that the diner order either the Ocean Grove Cellar Reserve 38 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc or the Caitlin Cove Sauvignon Blanc. While the first one is crisp and zingy the second one has a lasting finish. Caitlin Cove Sauvignon Blanc displays lifted and complex characters of gooseberry and citrus with a hint of pineapple and marries well with Asian flavours. Ocean Grove Semillon Sauvignon Blanc comes from Victorian vineyards and is excellent value for money. The blend of Semillon and Sauvignon grape varieties is crisp and elegant. The characteristics it displays ranges from gooseberry to melons with a touch of herbs. These wines will definitely enhance the experience of enjoying the lip smacking Indian Chinese entrée dishes that diner has ordered.

The main dishes offered from the Great Wall and Our Chinese Wok will be beautifully complemented by the full-bodied red wines. The diner could choose between Picarus Shiraz or the Picarus Cabernet Sauvignon to complement the fried rice, noodles and the Manchurians. Both these wines come from the vineyards in South Australia. These high quality highly complex wines will marry perfectly with the food on offer.

Picarus Shiraz has the striking aroma of rich plums, pepper and spices. The palate is full and complex with pronounced spicy and minty characteristics. On the other hand, Picarus Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied and complex wine with the distinct aromas of mint and dark berries. This combined with the unique minty and berry characters makes this a luxuriously outstanding wine. When the ordered dishes come together with the right choice of wine, a normal dining experience catapults to exotic. Great tasting wines have that effect on the food, the palate and the company.

Shekar is very keen to ensure that couples, families, friends and colleagues who walk in through the doors of his restaurants, be it in Sydney or Melbourne, enjoy the best dining extravaganza — good quality vegetarian food hand-in-hand with a glass of superior quality wine. This is a very innovative and unique venture.

Clearly, Saravanaa Bhavan is no longer just a restaurant that serves South Indian food. The array of food choices makes family eating out fun as the scope is wide and varied. By partnering with Mark Arnold, he has taken this dining adventure a step further. Shekar and Mark agree that this is another move to exposing the wider Australian masses to the pleasures of fine Indian dining. “I want the different genres of Indian vegetarian cuisine be made available to the wider Australian market and this can be done beautifully with a marriage of food with wine,” says Shekar. Mark says, “Wines are not meant to be had in isolation. Wines are produced to complement food.”

So next time you go to Saravanaa Bhavan, remember to order a glass or two of red and white. Cheers!

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