As TT mentioned, I was recently in South Africa. My friend, DY, and I were fortunate enough to follow MVB home for the holidays. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a few of my great eats.
Fortunately for me, MVB is fully aware of how much I love and appreciate food. Months before our trip, she informed DY and I that she booked one very special dinner for us to enjoy in Capetown. Of course, the first thing I did was Google restaurants in Capetown and couldn’t wait to find out where we were going. After countless requests and pestering, MVB informed me that we’d be dining at Le Quartier Francais, one of Top 50 restaurants in the world!
After one hour drive into wine-country, we arrived at the restaurant. After settling into the dining area, we were presented with a glass of Graham Beck Brut – the champagne drunk by Nelson Mandela (and used by Obama to celebrate his presidential win)! After selecting the 9-course African Tasting Menu + wine pairing, we were presented with our amuse-bouche. I can’t remember exactly what these all were, but there were all very good.
This was a sponge-cake thing. My favorite part of this dish, though, was that it was served on a porcupine quill! So cool! I later discovered you could buy them at all the tourist shops… but I tried to find my own on the Safari (and failed).
The next one had a custard filling in a tomato cone. I couldn’t decide if I really liked or disliked the tomato cone, but I ate the whole thing, so I guess I like it. It was definitely interesting.
Lastly, there were two crispy-things offered with our champagne. On the left was an apple crisp; I didn’t expect to like this, but I did. The apple was a subtle taste that added a refreshing, lightness to the crisp. On the right was a Chicharrón-type pork crisp and it was delicious! I ate up most of these on my own. They were both so light and not greasy at all. It was a good sign of the things to come.
Our next starter gave MVB a slight panic-attack. What looked like a can of fish and a quenelle of peanut butter arrived to our table.
Apparently Lucky Strike is a very cheap canned-fish eaten in South Africa, and MVB was shocked and appalled to see it served at the restaurant. Fortunately, it was a ruse and the can was only used as a cooking vessel for the cornbread inside!
The cornbread was moist and yummy with full corn kernels inside. The “peanut butter” was actually a butter. And the whole thing was also served with a really long flatbread. Overall, and fun presentation and start to the evening.
Before our first course, we were given this gelatin-foamy palate cleanser. Yes, all this food was before our 9-courses even started!! The gelatin was meaty and weird and I was happy that I was only expected to have one bite. My palate was cleansed.
Finally, our first course arrived and boy, was it worth waiting for!! At first all we could see was smoke
But then we saw the deliciousness hiding underneath…
A smoked oyster with diced chorizo and passion fruit. It sounded like a strange combination but it was truly amazing!! The oyster was creamy and the salty chorizo and sweet fruit balanced the dish so perfectly. Yummm… thinking about it now makes me want to fly back for another one!
Our next course consisted of Lemon-poached West coast Crayfish tails (middle), Prawn Mousse Wafers (left), and homemade Marshmallow (right).
This dish was also fantastic! The crayfish was fresh and sweet.
The prawn mousse sounded like it could be a complete success or complete failure; however, based on where I was sitting, I was betting on success and I was right! It had a great prawn taste and was a light airy mousse, without tasting “fishy.” The wafers sandwiching the mousse were very thin, but kept their crispiness, and added a touch of sweetness.
The marshmallow was an interesting addition to the plate. I liked it on its own, and it was ok when eating together with the crayfish and prawn, but it didn’t seem like a necessity.
I was certain the next course was made specially for me: Foie Gras heaven!!
On the right was a large portion of foie gras, on the left a foie gras terrine, and in the middle a piece of toasted…brioche? Everything was perfect! The foie gras was rich and creamy and had little crunchy bits underneath to add just a touch of texture. The terrine jelly layers were a little thicker than I would’ve preferred, but there was so much of everything that I just ate around it. This dish and the smoked oyster were fighting for my favorite (although the oyster might win based on originality and presentation).
We were now moving into the entrees, but before our next dish came out we were each given a sprig of an herb to smell and identify.
It was a fun little game that we all failed. The waiter had a good laugh at us though as we sniffed and sniffed. Can you guess what it is by looking?
As you can see from the picture, the wine pairing was starting to affect my vision. However, my palate was still just fine! The risotto was cooked just al dente, which a creamy-herby sauce.
Next up was poultry – quail breast with a fried poached quail egg.
This was fantastic! The quail breast was cooked perfectly, keeping it moist and juicy. The quail egg was also a delight! It was poached just enough so that it was still runny and provided a nice ‘sauce’ for the breast. The crunchiness on the outside of the egg also added something different. I finished this entire plate, regardless of the fact that I was feeling a bit full and had 4 more courses to go!
Next was a Braised and Fried Karoo Lamb with Basil Lemon Sauce and Chakalaka marmalade.
This dish was just ok. I was more disappointed because I was so looking forward to trying Karoo lamb. However, the friedness of the meat overwhelmed it and I couldn’t get a true taste of the meat. Individually, each element of the dish was nice, but all together the flavors got a bit lost.
We knew we were nearing the end when our next course arrived – cheese!
I only realized after I started eating, and MVB pointed out, the dish was cleverly plated like an easel with paint splotched. (Clearly I’m not an artist). It was very cute. Anyways, the cheese was Dale fromage Huguenot cheddar . The little pizza-bite looking things were hollow crackers, and the “paint” was fig jam. Overall, a nice dish to ease into the desserts. What’s not to like about cheese?!
Next up was dessert #1- Pear and Baobub Parfait, Lemon verbana, rejoice and pistachio.
Usually I’m a big dessert fan, but this just didn’t do it for me. Something about the dusted baobub on top combined with the plate full of foam, just didn’t make for a winning dessert. It wasn’t bad but it was just wasn’t to my taste. And after 7 courses done and 1 more to go, I couldn’t find room to keep eating it.
Dessert #2 was much more successful for me: Orange and Buttermilk cannelloni, jersey milk sorbet and fennel.
Even though I was incredibly full, I indulged in this. The orange and buttermilk combination was delicious and wasn’t very heavy, after all that I had already eaten. A great ending (or so I thought).
DY is a big chocolate fan, so she was a little disappointed when neither of the dessert courses incorporated chocolate. Fortunately for her, and unfortunately for my tummy, we were presented with a plate of petit fours with a lot of chocolate. I think I ate one bite of the chocolate cake before I had to give up.
Overall, this was one of the more amazing meals I’ve had. Although a couple courses were just ok, 7 out of 9 ain’t bad!! Plus the total meal, including the wine pairing for all 9 courses, translated to only $170! Amazing! The whole experience, from the presentation of the food to the incredibly friendly service, made for a wonderful night. Thanks to MVB for planning such a memorable evening!