At first glance, the layout for the wine dinner reminded me of community-style seating, better known as communal dining, where you are seated next to potential strangers at a large (and usually centrally located) table. I’m not sure if you’ve had the opportunity to experience this type of arrangement but it can take some getting used to and some find it quite uncomfortable. This is much more popular in cities like New York and even Austin, but we are sure Houston will catch on eventually. Once I scanned the room, I immediately felt at ease. The Cheers (an 80’s sitcom for our younger readers) popped into my head and I began to imagine that old bar “where everyone knows your name.” People were greeting one another, hugging, kissing cheeks, shaking hands, laughing, and generally catching up like old friends do when some time has passed since their last rendezvous. For the most part, everyone here knew each other in some form or fashion. I felt welcomed and was excited for the night to begin.
Narin’s Bombay Brasserie in an authentic Indian restaurant located across the highway from the Galleria. It is a bit hidden and I can admit to passing this place several times and never feeling a need to stop by. However, this evening was different as I was invited to attend their Fall Wine Dinner. I chose a seat that provided a view of the main dining area; I have never been a fan of having my back to the entrance of a restaurant. Across from me were several couples who were all engaged in stories from war and politics, to feminism, shopping, upcoming weddings, and of course, fine dining and wine. I was going to fit right in! The evening was hosted by Sommelier Brett Walters of Republic National. He kicked off the dinner with an introduction to the wines he had selected for the evening. On this evening we were going to enjoy two whites, two reds and a cognac wine. The cognac wine was an eye raiser. I wanted to skip the dinner and get right to business of this dessert wine but I stood my course – focus girlfriend!
A delicious Grilled Parsnip and Pear Soup was first up. It was paired with Domaine des Baumard Savennieres (Loire Vallery, France). I tend to analyze the ingredients of a dish before tasting it in an attempt to set the correct expectations with my palate. I like to get her ready, you know. This soup was creamy, velvety, and full of life. The pear gave it that extra texture and was reminiscence of a blend between a bisque (for its creaminess) and a corn chowder (for its sweetness and texture). I didn’t think the pairing was spot on as it had too much of a bite on the end note. Brett agreed right before moving to next course – “After tasting the sweeter soup, you would expect it to be paired with a sweeter wine…I should have gone with a sweeter wine for this course.” He apologized for the not so perfect pairing and promised the remaining courses would be a treat and should pair quite nicely with the remaining entrees. I appreciated his honesty.
For the second course we were served Grilled Trout with Spinach Chiffonade. This was paired with the Four Graces Pinot Blanc (Willamette Valley, Oregon). I enjoyed the light texture of the fish, and the sauce, which resembled a tiki marsala, was very good as well. The Pinot Blanc paired nicely with the sauce and is always a great choice when eating fish. The Chicken in Papillote Pesto was our third course. This was served with the Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani (Piedmont, Italy). “What cool packaging”, I thought as I unraveled the foil bow and exposed the tender slices of chicken breast that were covered in pesto (I love this stuff with anything). Who doesn’t love opening a gift? This was served alongside a traditional basmati rice. I found the Dolcetto di Dogliani (means “little sweet one”) to be smooth and easy to drink and felt it would go well with almost anything. We ended our main courses with the Roasted Leg of Lamb topped with a Cabernet Demi Glaze and Roasted Garlic Mousse. Brett went with the Northstar Winery “Stella Maris” (Columbia Valley, Washington) for this course. I am not a fan of Cabs so this blend worked well for me. The lamb was a little more well done than I like, but still tender and flavorful. The garlic mousse was superb and ample amounts were provided for dipping.
And now ladies and gentlemen, we come to the moment you have been waiting for; the most important course of a meal…dessert. The dessert was intriguing enough to start a discussion of super fruits, for which the lychee is a member of. A bowl of lychee’s were actually brought out and passed as several people in the group discussed it’s origin and use. The Lychee Crème Brulee was gone in a matter of minutes. The surprisingly mild sweetness from the lychee was an interesting twist on this dessert. The Pierre Ferrand Pineau des Charentes (Cognac, France), paired with this crème brulee, was a fan favorite. I called it the “essence of Cognac”, and in my book, was one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. As Brett explained the process of making this wine I was as focused as a deer in headlights. With 18% alcohol content, it is made by adding Cognac to fresh grapes. As Brett wrapped up our lesson for the evening, several people at the table motioned the waiter for seconds. Trying to get a hold of this wine is not easy but it can be ordered from Spec’s or any other boutique liquor/wine establishment.
This was not your average wine dinner. There is no sipping going on in these parts. Your wine glasses are filled as often as you like and to your little hearts content. And of course the more everyone drank, the merrier the conversations became. The food was great, we enjoyed the wine selections, but the experience was the highlight of the evening. By the end of the night we had met everyone. It was like hanging out with friends and family (the ones you look forward to visiting with). I thoroughly enjoyed my evening and understood why everyone in the room was a “regular” of the Narin’s wine dinners. I sat across the table from owner, Narin Sehgal, and even got an chance to meet Ron Saikowski who is not only a well know wine columnist but also has eight fermentation tanks at the Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville, Texas (where he makes his own Cabernet’s and Chardonnay’s under his Quest label). At only $65 per person, this meal is a steal in comparison to other wine dinners in the area. I have promised to return to the next wine dinner and I am looking forward to picking up the conversations where we left them and I am even more so looking forward to visiting a place where “everyone knows my name”.
Urban Swank did receive a complimentary seat, but the opinions represented are our own.