I rarely go to the Tableview and Blouberg area. When I received an invitation from Nikki Dumas to join her at Blowfish Restaurant for an early dinner, prior to seeing a preview of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, it seemed an appropriate ‘starter’ to a must-see movie.
Nikki is a wine consultant to Blowfish, and has won a coveted Diamond Award from Diner’s Club International for the winelist she has created for Blowfish for the past two years, as well as a Wine Spectator Award. She is a passionate wine lover, and uses the word ‘swirl’ a lot. She came to Cape Town to open Vilamoura in Camps Bay, and then joined the Slick restaurant group when Vilamoura closed down. She worked at both Balducci and Belthazar, on the wine side, and became Deputy General Manager. She has been a wine consultant for over a year now, her Winestyle consultancy offering waiter training, winetastings, and she compiles winelists.
Blowfish belongs to the Singer Group, which has a number of hospitality interests. I recognised Oliver Wing, the Operations Manager, when I arrived. He used to be a manager at Haiku and Bukhara, and was sent to London to open Haiku there. The restaurant is located in the Dolphin Beach Hotel in Blouberg, and is a large space, seating about 180 guests. The restaurant has a view onto the Atlantic Ocean, over the roofs of hotel rooms below. It is a large open-plan room, with a sushi bar with conveyor belt, a bar, and upstairs there is a TV/smoking room, as well as the wine cellar, in which functions are hosted, including workshops on how to make sushi. The chairs are Greek-style, all in white, and white is the dominant colour in terms of furniture and fittings, except for beige plastic table cloths.
Blowfish uses a cute illustration of a blowfish on every page of its menu and on the winelist, creating good synergy between the two documents. The pay-off line is ‘Seafood Sushi Sunset’, it being rare for a restaurant to have one.
There is a fish counter (as per Codfather in Camps Bay), from which one can order a selection of fish and shellfish, in the size of one’s choice, which is then weighed and charged. The fish types on offer at Blowfish are angelfish, bluefish, butterfish, calamari, Cape salmon, Dorado, kingklip, monkfish, Norwegian Salmon, cob, sole, swordfish, tuna (yellowfin), yellowtail, sardines, Cape rock lobster, king prawns, langoustines, Tiger medium prawns, Tiger giant prawns and oysters. I was impressed that the cost per gram was shown per fish type. Soon a similar meat counter will be introduced.
What impressed me tremendously was the depiction on the menu of each of the ‘green’ fishes on the SASSI list, which are those that are in good supply. A whole page of the menu is dedicated to the restaurant’s “Green Values”, the first time I have seen this on a menu. It states that the restaurant is a “SASSI Aware” participant, to “promote and offer you sustainable seafood choices from legal sources in an effort to help improve the conservation status of over-exploited seafood species.” Contact details of the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative are provided. Near the fish counter a SASSI poster has been put up, showing the different green, orange and red fish and shellfish types. I would have loved to see them show the orange symbols on the other fish dishes (e.g. prawns and kingklip) on the menu, to be absolutely correct, allowing their customers to choose whether they want to order ‘orange’ fish. By implication, the non-marked fish dishes on the menu would be orange.
The Blowfish menu is very extensive in offering sushi, salads, soup, platters, combinations of meat and fish, and the fish ordered from the counter. Starters range in price from R40 – R55, and include a bacon and seafood skewer, bushveld sushi made with crocodile, trio of salmon, Thai-style fishcakes, king calamari, Wok beef, and mussels. The sushi choice is vast, covering two pages of the menu, including Fresh rolls, Cooked rolls, Traditional Maki rolls, Inside Out rolls, platters (ranging from a 12-piece Nigiri at R125 to a 60-piece Chef’s Speciality platter at R550), sushi salads and hot sushi. The cost for smaller portions of sushi depends on its ingredients, roughly ranging from R25 for three to R45 for four pieces. The Chef’s Recommendation section has a selection of dishes, ranging from R 95 for the kingklip to SQ for the crayfish curry. One can also order duck, Fillet Mignon, lamb rack, and the Chef’s signature dish, being Seafood Espetada. Platters cost as little as R99, for the Blouberg platter (kingklip, calamari, and prawn skewer), up to R 220 for the Kite-Boarders platter (mussels, calamari, linefish and rock lobster). A selection of stir-fry dishes is also available, from R65 upwards.
I love a prawn and avo handroll, and that at Blowfish was the best I’ve had, being more moist than recent ones I have tasted, with mayonnaise added, very reasonably priced at R40. It was hard to choose what to order from the menu, and therefore I chose a piece of kingklip, some calamari and a tiger prawn from the fish counter, to be grilled and served with Basmati rice. The selected fish and shellfish is prepared with the “fishmonger’s” seasoned ‘signature Blowfish spices’, and one has a choice of four sauces: lemon butter, garlic butter, sweet and sour, and peri peri.
As the movie started at 8 pm, and I had to drive to the Waterfront to see it, I had to eat quickly when the main course arrived, to make it back to the city in time. I could not finish all of the food, as it was far too large a serving. It was excellent, the massive prawn being a highlight. I missed out on the desserts, but could have ordered a Lindt chocolate brownie, Croque en Bouche, baked cheesecake, chocolate banana spring rolls and more, at a most reasonable cost of R25 – R 35. A cheese platter is also available at R75.
Nikki has created two winelists for Blowfish, one just focused on imported wines, and the other on local wines. She is very proudly South African when it comes to her wine recommendations, and she has included about 140 local wines on the winelist. She describes each variety, indicating the colour one should expect, and the flavours they should have. The region of origin of each wine is indicated, and the wines are listed from lowest to highest price per variety, the perfect winelist! The Sauvignon Blanc section is the largest, with 24 options, and the prices of all the brands are very reasonable, ranging from R 90 for Hazendal to R240 for Neil Ellis. MCC’s start at R90 for Pieter Cruythoff Brut, which Nikki says comes from the Swartland, to R428 for Constantia Uitsig. White wines sell better than red wines at Blowfish, but Nikki has a good selection of red wines too. Ten Shiraz wines are offered, the Landskroon and Porcupine Ridge being most reasonably priced at R105, to R 260 for Grande Provence. Corkage is the lowest I have seen, at R20 for the first two bottles, and increases to R50 per bottle thereafter. The winelist also proudly records the awards it has won.
While Blowfish is too far for me to travel to from the Atlantic Seaboard, I know where to eat when I next go to that area. I could see how popular the restaurant is amongst locals – from being the first to arrive at 18h00, the restaurant was close to full with locals, bringing their children and babies in prams, when I left two hours later.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage