Filipino cuisine isn’t one we usually think of when we talk about wine and food pairings. But Romy Dorotan, chef and coowner — with his wife Amy Besa — of Cendrillon, a restaurant in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, sees it differently. His dishes from his native Philippines are traditional. His wine list is extensive. And his pairings of the two are remarkable for being both iconoclastic and on target. Filipino foods are known for such tangy ingredients as vinegar, tamarind and the native Kalamansi lime (not the best friends of wine); while French wines are known as food’s natural lovers. Could the two find happiness as an international couple? To find out, we matched each of three classic Filipino dishes with two French wines.
The opening course was lumpia, a generic term for vegetables, meat or fish in a wrap, served fresh or deepfried. The one Romy prepared was fresh, in a purple yam wrap and filled with Napa cabbage, bean sprouts, leeks, jicama and mushrooms, and served with peanut sauce and tamarind sauce. The wines: a demisec Huet Le Mont Vouvray 2000, Loire Valley, and a Côtes de Provence Château Peyrassol Rosé 2006. And the winner? By far, the fresh, fruity, floral, silky, pale pink rosé.
We matched each of three classic Filipino dishes with two French wines.
Singigang, our second course, is a soupy dish that can be made with chicken, pork or fish. Ours featured sea bass in a clear fish broth enlivened with fresh tamarind, water spinach, tomato, leek and radish. With it, Romy poured two whites: Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2002, First Cru, and Domaine du Bagnol 2003, Cassis. Again, there was no contest. With its bright liveliness, the Cassis shone as the perfect escort for this dish Chicken adobo, the national dish of the Philippines, was braised in rice vinegar, garlic, coconut milk, bay leaf, soy sauce, chilis and peppercorn and came to the table sizzling in its clay pot. Here, we had two red wines — Dirler Cuvée Ludivine Pinot Noir 2001, Alsace, and La Geynale Cornas 2001, Rhône Valley. We sipped the wines. We tasted the chicken. We smiled. Romy had not found just one perfect match. He had found two, different from each other, yet a fascinating French-Filipino threesome. Vive l’amour.
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