It took six months and R62000 to get to eat at FYN Restaurant last night, the Japanese-style fine dining restaurant which Chef Peter Tempelhoff opened in Speakers Corner in the City centre at the end of November 2018. Whilst very apprehensive, given the unpleasant pre-history, I was most pleasantly surprised at the dining experience, with the exception of our waiter, who was a major let down for the restaurant!
For those who have not followed the controversial banning of me by Chef Peter from his new restaurant a few days before it was to open its doors, resulting in a quick R60000 High Court action instituted by the Chef when I wrote about his reversal in previously ensuring me that all would be fyn for me to eat there, the details follow below. A negotiated settlement between the two advocates on the steps of the High Court led to the ‘upliftment of the ban’ from FYN, giving me the right to ‘review the restaurant, without any limit being placed on her by the applicants other than that she undertakes to do so in a professional manner’, in exchange for some minor amendments to my Blogpost about the original ban.
I had been invited to eat at FYN under the care and protection of my friends the Friedmans, who also happen to be Chef Pete’s landlords, and he appears to have categorically refused them permission to accompany me to dinner last night, saying that he did not want me there, and that I had cost him a lot of money….! It was not a good start to going to eat at FYN, being dropped from a six month attempt to arrange a mutually acceptable date with my friends, and then to be dropped in the last minute. Overhearing my conversation with them, my dearest Parisian friend offered to accompany to the restaurant, so I transparently made the booking in my name on the Dineplan reservation system and paid a deposit of R400 for each of us.
I had such a busy day yesterday, departing overseas for an exciting long journey later today, that I could not worry too much about what would await me at FYN. When GM Jennifer Hugé greeted us at the entrance with a big hug, and kind words, I knew it was going to all be ok, especially when we heard that Chef Peter and his Head Chef Ashley Moss were in Japan. My friend was delighted that she could speak French again, to Jennifer, ten days after arriving back in our city.
I must declare that I am not usually a fan of Asian cuisine, and do not have experience of Japanese Food. So for me the dinner was like taking a quick trip to Japan, experiencing Japanese style dishes, beverages, and plates and bowls on which the food was served. My friend has been to Japan, so she was far more familiar with the terminology and the cuisine, and the drinks served.
We had booked a kitchen counter seat, the counter closest to us being used by Pastry Chef Caroline du Plessis and her assistant. Yet we had a good overview of the restaurant, which had a busy buzz, overseen by its Sous Chef Julia du Toit, as if she had done so all along, having moved to FYN from Greenhouse.
We were introduced to our waiter Stanley, and he brought two cocktails to our table: A FYN Martini made with Roku gin, sancho, Lime, Basil, and lemongrass; and an Umeboshi Margarita made with Fortaleza, Yuzu, syrup, and Umeboshi liqueur. The latter had an interesting sweet and salt taste, the salted rim dominating the drink, while the former became sweeter the more I tasted it. My friend and I tasted both cocktails, she gravitating more towards the Margarita.
Dominating the decor in the large square space with massive glass windows facing Table Mountain is a ceiling Mobile, made of poplar wood discs, strung from the ceiling, not only softening the space, a most unusual decor touch, but also dampening the sound and echo coming from the big space and its high ceiling. The discs matched a wooden underplate on the table. The decor design was done by Tristan du Plessis, whose work we had admired at the Gorgeous George Hotel last week. The tables are very close together, and are sparse with only the cutlery, a linen napkin, a bonsai tree (clever touch), a granite chopstick and cutlery stand, and wine glasses. Sola cutlery is used, as well as Chef Sommelier. The furniture was created by Christopher Carl from Guideline. There is no artwork, the beauty of the restaurant focused on its staff, and their activity in creating beautiful tasty food. The bar is at the entrance to the restaurant, while the cloakroom, with a disabled sign, is in the lift passage. A few orchids in lilac and in white added colour to an otherwise neutral and grey dominant colour palette. The restaurant can seat 58 patrons, some on a Mezzanine Level.
Stanley brought us the standard FYN menu, printed on cream board, 16 courses, some grouped together, mainly small plates except for the main course, at a cost of R975 per person, and an additional R595 for a wine flight. Stanley also showed me the Plant Menu, charged at R750, and the Pescatarian Menu at R975. Stanley said that FYN stands for local fresh ingredients, prepared in a Japanese style. Two or three dishes on the menu are changed monthly, we were told. One gets the menu in a sleeve, without the prices, to take home.
We were introduced to Sommelier Donovan Ravell, previously at Buitenverwachting, and he spoilt us greatly. He recommended a taste of Vriesenhof Pinotage 2009, which my friend drank, whilst I had the Kallista, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Merlot (34%), and the balance made up of Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
The first course of four dishes was the Canapés, tiny bites to stimulate our appetite, and get the palates adjusted to the Japanese feast to come. He advised the order of eating them too, and we were to share them, he said:
#. Daikon Maki, 16 month aged soya gel, coriander pesto, su su, and sancho mayonnaise. Su su was described by Stanley as a fruit that looks like a gem squash;
#. Prawn crudo from Mozambique, Clementine purée, dashi, mayonnaise, katsoubushi flakes, and kelp ash, presented on a dried kelp ‘spoon’. This was a small bite, its taste not being distinctive,
#. Crab cone with avocado purée, topped with flying fish caviar, presented on top of a bed of black wild rice, which we were to make sure was not on the cone when we ate it. This canapé had a crunchy texture.
# Yakitori of guineafowl, skewered, with Malay spices, and onions for my friend, and trout without onion for me, served with atchar mayonnaise to give it the Malay flavours.
The service attention in general is fantastic, and whenever we went to the cloakroom or photographed an interior, our napkin was refolded or replaced with a fresh one. Our water glasses were topped up regularly, we never having to ask for it. Once my pen dropped onto the floor, and a staff member walking past saw it and bent to pick it up for me.
The second course was a bread one, described as ‘At the Campfire’, with a brass holder in which tea light candles were lit, and a bowl with bone marrow butter placed, mine appearing white as it did not have onion ash on it, as did that of my friend. Only when the butter had completely melted did Stanley bring a steamed bread roll, in honour of the country’s African roots, called Idombolo. That of my friend was topped with Furikaki, a Japanese spice with onion. We dipped pieces of the roll into the melted butter.
Donovan brought us a taster of Bellingham The Bernard, Old Vine Chenin Blanc, the grapes from vines 37 to 47 years old, to pair with the scallops and squid starters. He also brought a bottle of Thorne & Daughters, a blend of Mourvèdre (50%), and 25% each of Grenache and Cinsault, to pair with the tuna and duck starters.
The third course was a tray of five starters, one tray for each of us, and were to showcase the ingredients which are in season, and the chef skill.
# Pickled daikon and baby cucumber was crispy and crunchy, colourful, and was accompanied by a seaweed salad. The order of eating the Starters was recommended, but this one was ideally eaten in between the other starters.
# Rice 7-day smoked rare Duck breast, fermented pear purée, fresh pear, liver parfait, miso glaze, aubergine, black sesame vinaigrette, walnuts, and a nori chip prepared tempura style. I loved this starter, tiny slices of rare breast, with the liver parfait. Many of the ingredients mentioned I could not taste.
# My friend loved the melt in the mouth scallop in particular, served in a truffle sauce called Keishi, with the finest carrot chips and purée, and Spring truffle slices. We asked for spoons, to savor every last bit of the sauce.
# Yellowfin tuna with Ishikawa rice, steamed octopus, daikon, and nori strips.
# Squid Somen was a dish of cold noodles, topped with squid tentacles, served with coconut yogurt. A Cape Malay onion sauce was poured over my friend’s dish, containing chives, chili, curry, and celery crisps.
The next course was a palate cleanser, prepared right in front of us by the Pastry chefs. It was a Pomelo and Lime Sorbet, topped with a slice of dehydrated pomelo. This was drizzled at the table with Roku gin and an organic citrus syrup. The gin was gentle in not overpowering the taste of the palate cleanser.
For the main course the French Laguiole steak knife was offered. Grass-fed beef fillet was served with green bean ‘risotto’, eringi mushroom, parsley root, umami jus, Ponzu gel, and crispy sweet breads, the fillet being extremely tender. I loved the plate the dish was served in, enhancing its taste.
For the dessert course Donovan brought us the ultimate spoil, of Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2015. Three desserts were presented on a tray:
#. Yuzu curd, raspberries pickled in yuzu stock purée, wild rice coated in white chocolate, giving this dish a crispy crunch, coconut sorbet, and a dehydrated raspberry.
# Madagascan chocolate cremeaux, salted Japanese plum, hazelnut praline, fennel ice cream, Malva pudding, the only other local flavour, dehydrated chocolate mousse tuille, and candied fennel seeds, giving crunch and texture too. The presentation of this dish was less successful, with brown chocolate in a brown bowl.
# White coffee Créme Brûlée
To finish off the evening, I had a pot of Nigiro Earl Grey tea, which was accompanied by dark chocolate and citrus truffles.
Did I get value for money for my R62000 dinner? In real terms of course not, the most expensive meal I have ever eaten, despite the food being excellent in its tastes, textures and presentation, the friendly chefs and staff, and the buzz in the beautiful space. The service by Stanley was a major let down, his pronunciation leaving much to be desired, and he not knowing how to spell the Japanese ingredients he was mentioning to us. The wines and cocktails were not charged, a gracious gift. Jennifer showered us with kindness. But for the honour of always writing the truth, the R62000 legal battle to retain my reputation and stand by what I write was worth every cent! And with that, the benefit of being able to eat at and review FYN.
FYN, 5th floor, Speakers Corner, Parliament Street, Cape Town. Tel 0637721888 www.fynrestaurant.com Instagram: @fynrestaurant
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein