Pukka is billed as a "Modern Indian Restaurant" and very forward-thinking - both of which were quite evident on this evening. Leading our small group of 14 was Sommelier Peter Boyd, who has 30 years experience teaching and working in the restaurant industry.
The theme of this tasting was titled "Matching Wines with Indian Food". Being East Indian myself, I know firsthand that it can be challenging to pair wine with Indian foods, even more so when combining wine with a 5 course tasting menu complete with spices, dips, chutneys and salsas.
For each of the final four courses for the remainder of the night, two wines were paired with two menu items to allow for some mix-and-matching as we sampled both wines with both food items together.
The Verdicchio balanced well with the Chicken Tikka, but showed very green, vegetal notes with the Samosa. The Chicken Tikka also paired well with the Sauvignon Blanc, very balanced, while also helping tone down the flavours of the wine. Indian chutneys can often dominate the flavour palate, and are often difficult to pair with wine. In this case, the Verdicchio and coriander chutney combined to provide a sensory overload consisting of very green flavours. Meanwhile, the (sweetish) tamarind, combined with meat and a lighter wine all provided a sense of balance.
With the Monkfish, the mildly sweet Riesling suddenly became quite dry, while adding the sambal brought spice into the equation. The Monkfish also overpowered the Grüner, resulting in neither wine pairing particularly well with this fish. Paired with the Pickerel, the Riesling overpowered the fish, while the Grüner was much better, including with the sambal.
Moving on to bigger dishes, the fourth course featured Butter Chicken in a tomato infused butter sauce and sweetened with maple syrup. Alongside this was a South Indian Vegetable Curry that was made in a coconut, tamarind, and mustard seed broth. The wines for this course were the 2010 Mittnacht-Klack Gewürztraminer (Alsace, France) and the 2011 Domaine des Lauribert Côtes du Rhône (France).
The sweet Gewürztraminer and the sweet, ripe fruited nature of this Côtes du Rhône complemented the sweet flavours from the Butter Chicken very well. Pairing these wines to the Vegetable Curry was intriguing as it paired well with the Côtes du Rhône, while also bringing out some smoky flavours. The Gewürz was great on its own - it was my favourite white wine of the evening - but merited only an average grading in my books when pairing with the Vegetable Curry.
Malbec and Syrah both pair wonderfully with lamb, so it's no surprise that the Argentinean blend (80% Malbec and 20% Syrah) paired really well with this dish. This Malbec/Syrah was my favourite red wine of the night. The Meritage is likely a blend of the classic Bordeaux grapes and paired relatively well with the lamb. However, I thought this wine was a bit too young to be opened right now (or could have been decanted prior to serving).
Overall, I thought this event was a great idea and fairly well executed. It's not often I see such great attention to wine pairings at Indian restaurants and was very refreshing! This was my first time visiting Pukka and I was quite impressed with the quality of their ingredients, including the use of fresh, high-quality meat. I would definitely come back.
Thank you Harsh Chawla, Derek Valleau, Peter Boyd and The Culinary Team at Pukka for putting together this special evening. Also, thank you to Krista Lamb for inviting me to this event as your guest. I very much enjoyed it and would highly encourage you to check out Pukka's Wine Evening event in August event - as all their other events are already sold out. And if you're not able to attend a Wine Evening, you'll be glad to know that most of the wines we paired tonight are available by the glass. Visit the Pukka events page for all the details.