Monday, September 30, 2013

Wine and International Cuisine at Junoon

With European food, there is a long history of pairing food with wine. If you know a bit about wine, it's not impossibly difficult to pick a wine to match your meal at a French restaurant. But for more international cuisine, it can be a bit tricky. Thankfully, we have the old standby of Riesling to meet all our adventurous dining needs.

While European dishes may develop some complicated flavors in their sauces, many Asian dishes rely on a depth of spices seldom seen in Western cuisine. At a quality Indian restaurant like Junoon in Manhattan, a dish may simmer in a dozen spices, including hot peppers. Riesling offers simple, crisp flavors that can't compete with the flavors of a spicy meal. Even better, that hint of sweetness from the grape will often soothe the heat from the spice.

In the cavernous restaurant, we sat down amid the trendy crowd, feeling like we were having dinner in the middle of some big party. Amid it all, a handful of plates drifted across our table, a wide range of flavors to match the bottle of Riesling we'd ordered to share. Against the spicy shrimp, we saw the real benefit of Riesling, as the sweetness of even a semi-dry can play well with heat. With chickpeas though, the wine could have stood to be a bit more dry to counteract the fattiness of the beans. The wine was far too big for the lamb in light sauce, but offered a nice sweetness to match the sweetness in the cauliflower steak.

It's tough to match a bottle of wine to multiple courses, and even more difficult when you aren't as familiar with a cuisine. At a time like this, you can always fall back on what you are familiar with. We like to be adventurous with our wines, but sometimes the meal is adventure enough.

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