Thursday, February 19, 2009

Love conquerors all

Everyone wants to make a quick buck! In our age of marketing this means that every commercial opportunity is exploited where vaguely possible. Valentines Day falls right in the middle of this arena, along with Christmas and New Year. On these festive occasions restaurants will place a minimum 20% mark up! Well at least the ones worth dining at… I guess it is fair though; after all they end up having to work and therefore can’t celebrate along with the rest of us?

Valentines Day has become particularly commercial (at least Christmas and New Year are public holidays and therefore overtime charge is justified). However, true love is something worth celebrating, and love does conqueror all, even the credit card! Or maybe it is just because I am a Pisces…

After a booking made at Jardine’s four months prior, our appetites were thoroughly whetted with the arrival of the Saint Valentines Day menu a few days beforehand. Scrolling down the page I was jolted out of my dreamy state by the price. Nonetheless, so enticing was the menu that any consideration of cancelling was soon dispelled. We just had to go! With all the hype and excitement, were we doomed to be left disappointed?

Right from the beginning the meal was a fantastic experience! Service was warm and efficient and we were soon seated and sipping on a glass of Drappier Brut Rosè champagne. The amuse bouche was served in an emptied boiled egg shell and comprising oyster foam on top and inside smoked salmon scrambled egg with a poached West Coast oyster.

For starters Sash had seared scallops with roasted candy striped beetroot, steamed scallop mousse and port reduction while I decided on the duck confit stuffed brioche with seared foie gras, preserved apricot and caramelized parsnip purée. Sash was left somewhat disappointed – the scallops were prepared to perfection but lacked seasoning. Later we heard similar complaints from other tables. I on the other hand was rapturous – this was possibly the best single dish I have ever had. The combination of confit duck, creamy foie gras and purée was astounding…

For mains Sash had baked cob with crayfish mousse, roasted baby fennel and bouibaisse, and I had aged chalmar fillet with celeriac tart titan, braised savoy cabbage with pancetta, bone marrow, wild truffle jus and cauliflower purée. To put it simply, both were incredible! In particular the slight charred taste of bone marrow infused with the truffle jus and coupled with the celeriac tart titan added an entirely new dimension to the fillet – carnivorous bliss!

Dessert was a dark chocolate soufflé flambé which was delicious and very light thankfully given the preceding rich food. Finally to round off the meal, a selection of chocolate truffles, dark chocolate fudge and raspberry macaroons was served.

Well I can undoubtedly say that we did not leave disappointed. Barring the scallops each dish was carefully composed, with each ingredient perfectly complimenting the others. To say that it was worth every cent would be an understatement.

Friday, February 13, 2009

To market to market

A recent visit to the Saturday morning Neighbourgoods market in Salt River once again reminded me of how much I really enjoy a good market. The hustle and bustle along with the sheer variety of things on offer to eat then and there and to take home. However what has been brought to my attention is that we have very little in SA that compares to the food markets abroad, especially when it comes to fresh ingredients.

If you ever find yourself in Barcelona, do try the La Boqueria Market off La Ramblas. As foodies we were in utter awe of what was available – from the usual fresh fruit and vegetables all the way to the sublime and ridiculous for a South African (i.e. truffles and rabbits). If only we could have this back home…

The sheer vibrancy also astounded us. However our biggest disappointment was that as we were not at all conversant in either Catalan or Spanish it was difficult to negotiate or purchase anything and it was much to our relief that we eventually found a stall with someone who could understand us!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Grand Mugal Extravaganza

We have dined at Chandani on a number of occasions, including a wonderful evening to celebrate Diwali – the festival of lights. The ambience that this restored Woodstock house has is truly special, and coupled with the fantastic and friendly service and wide array of tasty dishes, we highly recommend trying it out.

As we were trying to show some visiting Brits an experience off the tourist beaten track, Chandani was an easy choice as it ticked most boxes. Just as a note, when eating curry, I recommend ordering an assortment of dishes for the table and sharing as this definitely adds to the overall experience, especially if you abandon Western customs and eat with your hands!

For the table we ordered:
Brinjal Masala (house specialty - rustic Indian dhaba (highway inn) style preparation of brinjal),
Murg Makhani (Tandoori chicken simmered in a rich tomato and butter curry accented with fenugreek/methi),
Jhinga Goan Curry (Prawns gently cooked in a creamy coconut curry tempered with curry leaves and mustard seeds)
Dal Makhani (Black lentils and kidney beans in a creamy base, tempered in ghee)
Palak Gosht (lamb cubes in spinach curry)
To accompany this we order some butter naan bread and basmati rice.

Our past experience has shown that some dishes are amazing, while others can disappoint. This is however to be expected given the wide variety of dishes available on the menu. However we must have chosen well on this occasion as everything was delicious, although particular favourites were the Jhinga Goan curry and the Brinjal Masala. To round the meal off we had Kulfi and Bombay Crush.

This is a great restaurant to try, especially if you have vegetarians, as there is a wide range of suitable options available. A warning however is that all meals appear to be prepared fresh so they do take a while to be served!