Story of a Plate: Tempura Linefish at Tokara

On the menu: Tempura linefish with sushi rice, avocado, sesame, wasabi mayonnaise & spiced lemon dressing

On a recent visit, we found this dish to be a real standout, both on the plate and in its precision of flavour. What was the inspiration behind it?

Chef Richard Carstens: In 1993 I was working for my mentor, Ralph van Pletzen, at a restaurant called Ralph’s in Stellenbosch, and he was the one who introduced me to a lot of aspects of Asian cuisine, like Indonesian, Chinese and Thai.

In those days not everything was readily available on the Internet, but there were these amazing magazines like Vogue Entertaining, and I was always drawn to Japanese cuisine, which was really coming to the fore in Australia. So I went to Australia around ’97-’98, and lived in Melbourne for that period, working for a chef who was into French-Japanese fusion, or Franco-Japanese cuisine. When I came back in ’98 I was working at Le Provençal restaurant in Franschhoek (now Grande Provence), and that’s where I started Franco-Japanese cuisine. There’s one dish from that era, the “Franco-Japanese interpretation” of oyster, prawn, calamari, and linefish, which I still do an evolution of every year (sometimes with up to three different versions, like when I was working in at Lynton Hall,* where we changed our degustation menu every night). Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Tempura Linefish at Tokara”

Food festivals: the good, the bad, and the ugly

From our latest newsletter:

Just as Cape Town gears up to host its very first pizza and pasta festival, it was slightly unnerving to read about a recent pizza festival in Brooklyn, New York, that left attendees feeling rightly cheated of the money they had spent on tickets (up to $69 per person), when instead of an abundance of pies (as they call them over there), they found mostly empty tents and pretty pathetic pizza offerings.

Continue reading “Food festivals: the good, the bad, and the ugly”

Pinch of Salt: Vegetables Are The New Black

By Pete Goffe-Wood.

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.” Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Growing up you couldn’t get me to eat vegetables for love or money – the best I could muster was iceberg lettuce (provided it was doused in Thousand Island dressing) or potatoes, but even that was restricted to chips and roasted, mash at a push. I could eat tomatoes that were cooked in a sauce but would rather eat my own hand before a raw one passed my lips. I didn’t even try mushrooms until I was sixteen.

Why, you may ask – my answer would be that I have absolutely no idea – I just didn’t like the idea of vegetables. I was a very fussy eater as a kid and I guess my mother just indulged me. I remember one evening she was away, so my dad had taken on the cooking duties. Having no clue as to what we kids did or didn’t eat, he decided that blackmail was the best course of action and told myself and my two sisters (one of whom, to this day, is still a ridiculously fussy eater) that if we ate everything on our plates he would take us to the Drive-In. I realise that this seriously dates me and any millennials reading this will have to Google search Drive-Ins, but in our household in the 70s this was a serious treat, especially on a school night. Continue reading “Pinch of Salt: Vegetables Are The New Black”

Story of a Plate: Trout with Guava at Hartford House

On the menu: Wayfarer smoked trout with guava (part of a tasting menu which changes every night)

We were intrigued by the combination of fish and guava – how did that come about?

Chef Constantijn Hahndiek: Yes, it is an unusual dish, and the reason we went for the guava is because that trout is so unique; it’s got both a strong smokey flavour, and also quite a bit of saltiness from the smoking process.

We don’t smoke it in-house, because we can’t beat the quality of Wayfarer (which is extremely well known for their way of smoking; they are artisanal smokers, with an underground tunnel that actually feeds into their smoker, and their curing process is quite special as well). So with that trout – and especially the wine we served with it [the 2010 Jacques Bruére Blanc de Blanc] –  we were relying on all those other elements to make that guava work. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Trout with Guava at Hartford House”

Table Manners: The Joys of Not Needing Supper

By Darrel Bristow-Bovey.

I wouldn’t choose to travel overseas with me. It’s not that I’m a cheapskate – actually, no, it’s precisely that I’m a cheapskate. I have ruined more foreign meals than an old man with an accordion wandering from table to table in an Italian restaurant. I sit and scowl at the menu, I purse my lips and make mental conversions into rands, I snarl at wine waiters and start suggesting to my wife that we share the main course. I am well aware that these are not attractive qualities but I can’t help it and it’s too late for me to change.

We were on Sipan island in the Elafiti archipelago, just off the coast of Croatia. The night before we’d been in Dubrovnik and had eaten at a restaurant whose name I have expunged from my memory because when the bill arrived I think I experienced a small stroke. Continue reading “Table Manners: The Joys of Not Needing Supper”

Plates and places for dining in style

In our latest newsletter we explored the issue of fine dining:

There seem to be an abundance of dining “styles” these days, including some new hybrids, like “fast fine” and “fast casual”, and older movements getting modern attention, like “nose-to”tail” and “farm-to-plate”. But what about good old-fashioned “fine dining”?

The website Fine Dining Lovers recently posed the question of what fine dining is to a group of celebrated chefs across the world, and their varied answers point to the fact that there is certainly nothing “old-fashioned” about it – at least not in the sense that there is a strict formula for how to provide it. One chef summed it up as being about “making people feel good”, while another mentioned providing diners with the “best experience” in a way that doesn’t have to be “formal”, “pretentious”, or “elegant”. Chef Mauro Colagreco (chef-patron of the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazur on the French Riviera) had perhaps the most poetic answer: “For me it’s a big question. It’s a place where you work with memory, with art. I think it’s a place where you find emotions, luxury – but new luxury. Once, to have a garden was common, something everyday, but today to eat something from the garden is a luxury. Luxury has changed.” Continue reading “Plates and places for dining in style”

Table Manners: Love, Life, and Takeaways

By Darrel Bristow-Bovey.

“Can I get the manti as a takeaway?” I asked.

The waitress stared at me as though she hadn’t fully understood.

“A takeaway,” I said, miming someone wrapping a small parcel and then handing it to another person who nods and smiles and takes it from the first person and sniffs it appreciatively then tucks it under their arm and walks away with it. I am excellent at charades and I don’t know why more people don’t want me on their team. “I think I’m out of time so I’ll have to take it away with me.”

She stared at me some more, her eyes growing wider. This was strange: she seemed to understand basic English when I arrived. She looked around in panic and waved to another guy who came over and they consulted, talking in low, urgent Turkish, throwing me looks of alarm and befuddlement.

Continue reading “Table Manners: Love, Life, and Takeaways”

Story of a Plate: Octopus at La Tête

On the menu: Octopus, fennel and sea spinach

The octopus was phenomenal. Would you mind telling us how the dish came together, with the fennel and sea spinach?

Chef Giles Edwards: As with most of the dishes, it’s really about the supplier. Our chicken hearts come from Angus at Spier – they’re amazing, so I think about how I can make them appealing to everyone else. I put a deep-fried potato bake on the plate, and it just works perfectly with the dish, and it becomes an attraction – it’s the same with the octopus. I always cook it the same way; it just comes down to what I pair it with and how I use it. The octopus comes from South Coast Fisheries, who source it from False Bay. It’s Atlantic octopus, and there are not many restaurateurs buying it. Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Octopus at La Tête”

Amazon, Whole Foods, and the future of food

From our latest newsletter:

Some of the biggest news on the international food scene last week was the announcement that Amazon would be acquiring the US-based grocery Whole Foods Market for a cool $13.7 billion. (Whole Foods calls itself “America’s Healthiest Grocery”, and as its name suggests, the focus is on organic, sustainable products.)

With Whole Food Markets currently only located in the US, Canada and the UK, it’s a deal which won’t have any immediate impact on our local food scene (no drone delivered organic kale quite yet!), but there is speculation that it could have far-reaching consequences for the global food industry.

Continue reading “Amazon, Whole Foods, and the future of food”

Story of a Plate: Bread and bokkom butter at Wolfgat

 

On the menu: Part of “Strandveld snacks” at the beginning of lunch

We were intrigued by all your dishes, but especially the bread with bokkom butter, which was like a bagna cauda, but West Coast style. Can you tell us about how that came about?

Kobus van der Merwe: At Oep ve Koep (our previous space which is still run by my family), we used to serve a fried bokkom* fillet in different versions – there was a breakfast-y one with egg, and we did a seared watermelon with bokkom and seaweed. And then everyone in the kitchen always grabbed and dipped their bread in the pan that we fried the bokkom in, because the juices were just ridiculous. We fried them in a little oil, and then we added butter while the bokkoms were heating up, and then, almost as a joke, because it’s the nicest feeling to clean a pan with bread in the kitchen, we started thinking of sending that to the table, and then just refining it a little bit.

Continue reading “Story of a Plate: Bread and bokkom butter at Wolfgat”