There is no perfection, but there is a desire to achieve greatness.
For the Hungry Man, who had eaten at The Fat Duck and DOM amongst other Icari in the last year, The Tasting Room was in the same league, which is quite something for a local restaurant. To explain the caveat: No matter how much I want to believe that our good places are on par with the best in the world, I don’t think we have many tables that you could confidently tell internationals to fly over to for a meal. Sure, it is often the ludicrously beautiful setting or the ridiculously good prices that tip the scale positively in our favour, but an experience that is untainted by any whiff of condescension is rare.
So, although I have written about this evening in a previous post, the HM encouraged me to return to my thoughts, and here they are.
It was a warm evening, and the sun that still streamed into the dining room (a little overtly African for my tastes) was distracting for the first half an hour. I don’t like being baked while eating the coddled. Since I am at it, here are the other gripes: the pianist was loud, the winelist is poor. So, with that done, you can see there was not a great deal to moan about – and we were on high whinge alert. Service was smooth, personable and intelligent too.
Wood pidgeon, duck and foie gras ballotine with a peach and rooibos chutney:
The first of eight dishes that arrive as works of food art. You stop and look. You discuss and stare. You wonder how to move in on it. This first dish was full of complementary mellow flavours, all charged by the POW of the chutney.
Organic lamb tartare, blood sausage and confit rillette:
Deep earthy bass flavours, layered textures, with a cauliflower mash infused with truffle. There were these little dots of colour on many of the dishes, like on this one – these we discovered were little acid-spots of hallucinogenic flavour, often foils to the main flavours.
Monkfish, red steenbras, shellfish navarin in a burnt orange broth:
Brilliantly cooked steenbras, great monkfish but over an undercooked potato fondant and an oversalted broth made this the only dish that was not perfectly cooked in all departments.
Sumac-seared tuna, potato, olive caesar salad and tomatillo:
A wsiwyg dish, but perfectly executed, the tuna an absolute study in freshness. Colour and texture ace.
Lacquered pork belly, crayfish and oxtail risotto, potato koeksisters and cherry jus:
Intense, deep and powerful flavour on the pork; dancing with the “surf and turf” risotto that could have been its own dish. Koeksisters are a type of doughnut (not usually made from potato but flour) and here they added mainly a playful touch. (But the chef will have other ideas, no doubt).
Orange-roasted wildebeest rump, potato and lamb neck fondant, mango atchar, almonds:
More meat on meat. This dish had “old South Africa” flavours of venison with citrus and fruit and offset by the almond. The fondant was convincingly rich, something of an outlier in the concept, but again I am probably wrong.
Porcini-crusted gemsbok, mushroom and three bean salad, sweetbread and foie gras ravioli, cep jus:
The blowout, a monster of depth and calorific intensity – enlivened by a genius cep vinaigrette brush on the plate. Praise be to reduction of cep.
Double-baked asiago souffle, tomatillo and granny smith salad, spiced nuts:
A wonderful technical achievement, with the lift of the acid in the salad and the crown of crunchy nuts.
After the meal, we learnt that Margot Janse, the head chef, was not in the kitchen on this evening, would she have caught the undercooked potato?