Entries tagged with “Asian”.


The new The Yard in the Silo District of the V&A Waterfront opened last week, as a multi-cultural cuisine restaurant, but also offering a bar, a homeware shop, and a Deli. It is the most unique restaurant I have experienced, in its diverse food offering. (more…)

Last month Llewellyn Lambert and I went to try out Ben Wei Sushi, Asian, and Fusion restaurant in Wembley Square, by invitation from PMPR Solutions, the PR agency representing the restaurant. We were served a wide variety of Asian, sushi, and fusion foods. Ben Wei means ‘original taste’ in Mandarin. Some of the dishes we tried had not yet been added to the menu.  (more…)

eat-out-2016-logoLast night Eat Out presented its 2016 Western Cape Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Everyday Eatery Award winners, the second year that the awards have been presented provincially (previously presented nationally), and are less controversial than last year, with one exception! (more…)

Eatout-best-everyday-eateriesLast week Eat Out dropped the bombshell that it is changing its ‘Best Of‘ awards, awarding an award in 10 categories (five of them new), in each of our country’s provinces, making it a total of 90 ‘Best of‘ awards! The method of selecting the ‘Best of‘ winners has changed dramatically, making the new winners of 2015 incomparable to those of the past four years! It appears to stem from Eat Out‘s desperation to be national, and not to be criticized for being so Cape-dominant in its awards. It makes a mockery of what the Eat Out awards stand for!

Almost three weeks ago Eat Out announced the shocking news that it had separated the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards from the ‘Best Of‘ awards, the latter awards to be presented in October already, in Cape Town and in Johannesburg. Given the news of the award base of what they are now calling Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Best Everyday Eateries Awards (more…)

imageNew Media Publishing has made a surprise announcement about its 2015 Eat Out Restaurant Awards, which will be held on Sunday 15 November.

A number of changes (yet again) have been introduced, and one wonders how well they will go down with the chefs, for whom the (more…)

CapeTownTourism AGM Cake Whale CottageLast night Cape Town Tourism held what many say is the best AGM ever, with a dynamic and funny keynote speaker Vusi Thembekwayo, and a very entertaining Anton Groenewald from the City of Cape Town  Tourism, Events, and Marketing Directorate, being the highlight of the event held at the Tsogo Sun Cape Sun, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of Cape Town Tourism since its re-invention in 2004.

I arrived late, returning from Franschhoek, as Groenewald was speaking.  He kindly gave me his notes, for use for writing this blogpost.  His Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, Councillor Garreth Bloor, was present, and many a joke was at his expense.  Groenewald started his talk by reflecting on the past three years in which he has headed up theCapeTownTourism AGM Anton Groenewald Whale Cottage Tourism Directorate of the City, and has spent R1,5 billion.  He confirmed the three-year agreement signed with Cape Town Tourism, which came with a promise of R120 million over the next three years.   Reflecting on the successes of the past year, Groenewald presented its highlights as being World Travel Market Africa, a collaboration with Thebe Reed, which attracted 4500 trade visitors and 220 media, and for which the city has signed for another two (more…)

GWCGN Vergelegen Sharon Hosking AndreYesterday was the second time that I had the privilege to attend the Best of Wine Tourism Awards, the 2014 awards presented to the winning wine estates at Vergelegen’s Stables restaurant.  The wine estate representatives were advised to not neglect the booming Chinese tourism generally, as well as wine tourism market specifically.

Cape Town/Winelands is one of ten members of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network, and within each of these geographic regions the wine estates compete for the honour to be named the best in the category.  Winners for 2014 were awarded as follows: Wine Tourism Restaurant (won by Camphors at Vergelegen), Art & Culture (Vergelegen), Accommodation (Babylonstoren), Architecture and Landscapes (Babylonstoren), Wine Tourism Services (Delaire Graff), Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices (La Motte), and Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences (Spice Route).  Vergelegen was named the overall South African winner for 2014, with two first places and four second places out of the seven awards (it did not enter the Accommodation category, not offering any).

I was lucky to sit next to Bradley Brouwer, SA Tourism Regional Manager GWCGN Vergelegen Bradley Brouwer Whale Cottage Portfoliofor Asia Pacific, who was the keynote speaker, especially as I had missed his talk, driving through from a function at Jordan Wines at that time. Bradley is very entertaining, and shared that he was first appointed to head up the Japanese SA Tourism office eight years ago. and on arriving at his hotel and offering a generous tip, the taxi driver threw the money back at him, the hotel explaining to him that is regarded as an insult to be given a tip, as the (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Skywise and FlySafair are both low cost airlines due to take off soon in flying between Cape Town and Johannesburg, with FlySafair having an advantage in taking off on 17 October, despite criticism that it is not meeting the ownership criterion of no more than 25% foreign ownership.

*   BA will cut its number of flights per week between London and Johannesburg from 17 to 14 in February, when it introduces the A380 aircraft on this route.

*   Ending its themed ‘Taking Tapas to…’ dinners, Bistro Sixteen82 is going Asian for the month of October. Ten dishes from the Orient include StickyBistro Sixteen 82 Tapas Asian image001 Chinese Ribs and Teriyaki Chicken.  From November the restaurant returns to its classic tapas menu. (via media release from Communication Services Africa)

*   Parliament has a wine cellar with 3000 wines, writes Emile Joubert. Called the Speaker’s Parliamentary Wine Cellar,  Speaker of the National Assembly Max Sisulu said that Parliament is situated ‘around the (more…)

I had heard from a chef a while ago that the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards will be changed this year, in that all the judges have been let go, and that new judging categories will be added for the annual evaluation. 

I received confirmation of the judging change directly from one of the judges, Anna Trapido telling me spontaneously that she had been “fired” from her one-year tenure as one of the four Eat Out judges.  Long-term judges Pete Goffe-Wood and Arnold Tanzer have been let go too, leaving Eat Out editor Abigail Donnelly as the sole judge to choose the elite Top 10 chefs of the country.  The problem with this of course is that every restaurant worth its salt knows what she looks like, and will be expecting her visit if they expect to be on the Top 20 shortlist.  Every restaurant kitchen probably has her photograph, in anticipation of her visit! 

The Eat Out judging change announcement was made in the Eat Out newsletter last week, and there is no mention of the ex-judges, nor is their past contribution acknowledged.  Ms Donnelly writes: “It’s a very big responsibility, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.  Through the year, I make an effort to visit restaurants more than once, so to get the most balanced view possible.  It’s also of the utmost importance for me to get to know the chefs behind the food and find out what their philosophies are”, she wrote.  What exactly she means when she writes that “I won’t be judging for my peers.  I will be judging with knowledgeable foodies in mind.  The people who are actually dining out at Top 10 restaurants on a regular basis”  is unclear. This makes one worry – was Ms Donnelly judging to satisfy her fellow judges in the past, and what would have made their taste in and evaluation of restaurants different to that of the ‘foodies’ she writes about?   This begs the question as to the comparability of the Awards outcome in November this year, compared to that of all previous years.

A further uncertainty is exactly what Ms Donnelly means when she writes about a further judging change: “…the awards are going to be much more inclusive and will celebrate the best Asian, steakhouse, Italian, bistro and country-style restaurants.  The awards are no longer only about the celebration of fine-dining establishments.  It’s very important that the fabulous specialist eateries dotted around the country are given the recognition they deserve.”  It was not clear from the newsletter if the restaurant types mentioned by her will each attract awards for the best in each category, or if all of these styles will compete with fine-dining restaurants.  One would also have liked to see recognition for the best South African-style restaurant, for the Restaurant that is most environmentally responsible in its sourcing, handling and disposal of food, and for the Restaurant with the best Menu. 

In addition to announcing the Top 10 Restaurant list, as well as the Top Restaurant, Top Chef, and Top Service, the following categories will be added: Best New Restaurant of the Year, and Most Stylish Establishment in the Country.  This could cause some compromises, as we saw in the 2009 Awards, when Bizerca won in a newly created Bistro category that year, and fell off the Top 10 list.  It also would be easier for Nobu at the One&Only Cape Town, for example, to win Top Asian restaurant, when it should really be a contender in the more competitive Top 10 Restaurant award.

To gain clarification, we sent Ms Donnelly some questions, and her response time was impressive, especially as she was ill. 

Why the change in judging?

The time to include the voices of our audiences felt right. Everything we do is informed by our network of 30+ national food critics, as well as our (very vocal) online audience of over 70 000. They deliver consistent feedback about their dining experiences throughout the year. As such it is not only my experience that will inform the top 10 list, but also the voices of these Eat Out fans.  
Does it not signal a vote of no confidence in your ex fellow judges?
No. I have great respect for their knowledge and experience and would have no hesitation to work with any of them again.

Does it allow consistency with previous awards?
Absolutely. Consistency will always be key – it’s what our brand is about. Whether the judging is done by one person or ten people, it’s a subjective process. I am however judging restaurants according to criteria and a scorecard. 

Please can you explain how you will cater for the non fine-dining restaurants in the awards?  
Our new award categories are more inclusive – and allows for more non-fine dining restaurants to be recognized. Best steakhouse, Best bistro, Best Italian restaurant, Best Asian restaurant and Best country-style restaurant along with Best new restaurant will celebrate restaurants that will probably not be categorized as fine dining. These eateries make up the bulk of our database of restaurants, as well as the places most frequented by our consumers.

How will you choose your shortlist?
I will be looking at all the specific categories and then shortlist restaurants. Together with our reviewers and online users I will determine who is consistently shining. In the Asian category, I’ll consider places serving anything from sushi to Thai, from inner city to harbour edge. In the Italian category, family-run trattorias to ultra modern pizzerias. Steakhouses to be considered might focus on serving the best-aged or grass fed meat. The best bistro will be a restaurant that is doing something more than casual but just not too fine dining. The country style eatery will be tucked away, off the beaten track, where there is cooked with care and generosity. The best new restaurant will be awarded to a restaurant that has opened its doors in 2011. Thank you so much for taking the time and interest in this. Hoping to hear your voice come through in the top 10 too!

Ms Donnelly and her Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards will be closely watched, no doubt, as no restaurant likes change if it could disadvantage them.  However, it does sound as if the awards will be more inclusive than in the past, and the additional categories give a lot more restaurants a chance of winning recognition at the awards.  There will be many keen chefs holding thumbs that Ms Donnelly will grace their restaurant tables in the next few months!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

It is a strange feeling to enter the newly opened Asian Leaf Restaurant and Bar in what was the location of two favourite restaurants – The Showroom and Portofino – in that the restaurant interior is exactly as it was when Cormac Keane closed Portofino in April, with a few changes – grass green serviettes on the side plates, brand new staff wearing green Leaf-branded T-shirts, and a massive ghetto-blaster out on the deck, with too-loud music.  The hardest thing about going to Leaf will be to choose what to eat, its choice of dishes being so vast.  In general, the prices are very reasonable, and the portions generous, offering excellent value for money.  Anyone looking for the two previous restaurants and their cuisine should stay away.

The opening of the restaurant was delayed due to a problem in getting the credit card machine installed. The restaurant had opened just more than a week before I visited it, and I went back on the following day, as I did not have much time on my first visit.    I sat outside on the deck for my Saturday lunch, and almost choked on my calamari when I saw the massive ghetto-blaster, which had been set up on the deck, on a table with a table cloth.  I asked if they were going to have a party, but it was meant to create atmosphere outside, to attract a younger crowd, said the Manager Ambrose.  Fortunately the music was switched off when I sat outside, it being unbearably loud.  The deck looks fuller in having more chairs and tables than in the past, and each outside chair has a red blanket, a clash with the green theme.    A hand-written blackboard welcomes one on arrival, advertising a most amazing sushi special offer – 51 % (no, not a typing error) off all a la carte sushi from 11h00 – 19h00 daily, and all-day on Sundays.

Owner James Ye (Chinese for ‘leaf’) bought the restaurant from Keane, and took over all fixtures and fittings.   Manager Ambrose, with ‘cheffing skills’, he said, when he prepared my calamari for the first lunch, worked at the Cape Town Fish Market for the past twelve years, leaving as Executive Head Chef responsible for menu development and costing.  Ye came from China to be a sushi chef at the V&A Waterfront branch of the Cape Town Fish Market, and left to open The Empire on Main Road in Sea Point, and also opened Saki in the Sable Centre in Montague Gardens.  He is also a frozen seafood supplier.  A number of staff at Leaf have worked at the Waterfront branch of the Cape Town Fish Market, and this made me nervous about my first meal there.   I was pleasantly surprised when my calamari was served – a massive plate with a very large portion of Patagonian calamari tubes, egg rice, tartar sauce made with Japanese mayonnaise, and the most wonderful steamed carrots and beans, an absolute steal at R79.  I was the only guest in the restaurant on this first visit.

I returned for Sunday lunch, now sitting inside, and having two more tables for company.  The ghetto-blaster had been moved under the outside table, but the table cloth which was meant to hide it was not long enough to do so.  The table cloths and serviettes look badly ironed, if at all, and we questioned the side-plates being on the right – Ambrose said he wants Leaf to be different!   Some knives had their serrated edges to the outside, rather than facing inside the setting, little signs of how new the staff are.   Staff stretch in front of one when clearing items away, or in bringing additional cutlery, a pet hate.  Any ex-regular would cringe if they saw the rose patterned cushions that are placed over the definitive ghost chairs of the restaurant.  We were served a very tasty onion focaccia bread with a crispy cheese crust, with a milk jug each of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.   It is clear that things are less pretty and more functional at Leaf, and I missed a woman’s hand in the management.

We were offered a complimentary cocktail, and I chose the ‘virgin’ “Peach Tree Mosquito”, a refreshing mix of fresh mint, lime juice, cane sugar, peach juice, soda and crushed ice.   Two champagnes are on the winelist, Veuve Cliquot and Pommery Brut Royale, at R999 and R1100, respectively.  MCC sparkling wines offered are Simonsig (R29/R175), Beyerskloof Brut Rose (R24/R145) and Pierre Jourdan Belle Rose (R265).  An innovative touch is the choice one has of ordering wine by the glass in 175 ml and 250 ml quantities, as well as by the bottle, allowing one to have different wines with each course or dish one eats.  The Sauvignon Blancs, for example, start at R 19 (175ml), R27 (250ml) and R79 (bottle) for the Du Toits Kloof brand, Zevenwacht 360 being the most expensive (R40/R60/R170).   For Shiraz lovers the entry level is Robertson (R20/R29/R87), and Diemersdal (R14/R62/R185) the most expensive.   A good selection of wines is offered per varietal.

Leaf has three menus: Sushi, Hot Pot and Dim Sum, and a standard a la carte menu. None of the three menus are integrated design-wise, and some have photographs of some of the dishes, while others do not.  The a la carte menu is the most professional looking, and is dominated by leaves on the pages.  I started with a Hand roll of avo and prawn from the Sushi menu, which normally has salmon and caviar added, but which I declined – the normal price is R 39, but with the 51 %-off, it only costs R19.   I cannot eat a hand roll by hand, so I was brought a steak knife to cut it.  I love the prawn and avo hand roll at Fu.shi in Plettenberg Bay, and that is my benchmark.  That of Leaf came close, but the end bits were dry, with the mayonnaise too concentrated in the middle.   Sushi lovers will delight in the vast variety offered, including Sashimi platters (16 pieces for R138), Salmon platters and Tuna platters (21 pieces for R149), and eight combination choices of R99 Sushi platters.   The Sushi menu also offers Crab, Prawn, Vegetable, Seared Tuna and Japenese (sic) Seafood salads, ranging from R30 – R58.   Other options are smaller portions of Sashimi, Nigiri, Fashion Sandwich, Maki, Inside Out Roll and Edo Roll, as well as Tempura vegetables and prawns, and a selection of hand rolls.

The Dim Sum menu offers eighteen choices of steamed and pan-fried dumplings, deep fried wontons, and more, with prices ranging from R28 – R48, while the Hot Pot menu offers sixteen choices, ranging from R22 for Tofu to R150 for Crayfish.  I did not have anything off this menu, being overwhelmed by the menu options offered across the three menus.

The a la carte menu tries hard to get away from the “Chinese” label the restaurant has already earned prior to its opening, and Manager Ambrose asked me specifically to not refer to it as a Chinese restaurant.  The Starters include Oysters (R15 – R20), Harumaki (deep-fried spring rolls), Calamari, Mussels, Tuna Tartare, Tempura, and Dumplings, no item costing more than R59, and Crayfish Cocktail (R99).  The Tempura prawn starter had five Indian Tiger Prawns, served as the most wonderful deepfried crispy thick “Japanese style battered morsels of food”, with sweet chilli sauce, at R40.  The Chicken springrolls were delicious, with a different crispy batter, costing R25.  Soups are Eastern in style, including Tom Yum, at R48.  Salads range in price from R48 – R58.  Fish and chips cost R40. Three calamari dishes range from R59 – R79.  Crayfish is served grilled or steamed, at R249, or Thermidor, at R299 – no weight/size is specified.   Seafood platters, served with a choice of two sides, range from R99 for line fish to R499 for the Executive (crayfish, scallops, line fish, prawns, baby squid, calamari and mussels).   Steak options are Sirloin (200 g for R79, 300 g for R109), and fillet (250 g for R119), and one can also order lamb shank, lamb chops and oxtail.  Three chicken dishes range from R59 – R79, while two Duck options are available, Peking Duck at R149, and Marinated Duck at R119.  I chose the latter, and was disappointed with its taste and presentation – it was served on a bed of chopped lettuce, with a very rich dark sweet soy sauce, making the plate look very messy.  The duck was nowhere near my duck benchmark, being that of Haiku.  Sticky rice and steamed vegetables were well prepared.   I was surprised to not see any desserts on the menu, but I am sure that no one could manage to eat any, after the great selection of starters and main courses. Coffee is by LavAzza.

One leaves Leaf confused about whether one likes the restaurant or not, and one tends to think back of wonderful meals and chats one had with Bruce and Cormac, given the familiarity of the furnishings.   If one loves Eastern food, and seeks value for money, one can do no better than to eat at Leaf.  The staff need time and practice to get their service up to speed, but in general they are friendly and eager to please.  Food is served the whole day, and not in lunch and dinner time bands, as is so common, which means that one can pop in at any time if one is feeling peckish.  Given time, Leaf can blossom, and bring new life to this restaurant space.

Leaf Restaurant and Bar, Harbour Edge Building, Chiappini Street, Green Point, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 418-4500. www.leafrestaurant.co.za (The “webside” is still under construction).

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com