Tag Archives: grain-fed

Rare Grill is a master at steaks in its Steak Master Class!

 

I was invited by Award-winning Rare Grill steak house owner Greg Bax to attend a Steak Master Class in a venue above his Kenilworth-based steak house on Monday evening. Not being sure of what to expect, other than excellent steaks which I had experienced after it was named the Best Steakhouse by Eat Out two years running, it turned out to be a fun, informal and educational evening, being taught how to buy the correct steak, how to age it, how to grill it, and which sauces to serve with it, paired with a selection of Quoin Rock wines.

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Restaurant Review: La Pentola brings international cuisine with local flavours to Hermanus!

A Hermanus restaurant space with one of the most beautiful views must be the new La Pentola (The Saucepan), previously the home of Mediterrea and Grilleria, on Marine Drive close to the Marine Hotel. Lunch yesterday, to celebrate the 16th anniversary of Whale Cottage Hermanus with our Manager Carole, was made all the more special with a school of dolphins escorting whales across the majestic Walker Bay, which La Pentola looks on to.

Carole had been to the restaurant before, having met Chef Shane Sauvage when he was at La Vierge restaurant on the Hermanus Wine Route. La Pentola opened a few months ago when Grilleria vacated the premises. Chef Shane also owns a restaurant with the same name in Pretoria, which he opened in 1995 and is now run by his sister.  Chef Shane told us that his father is of French origin and his mother came from Seychelles, yet he does not speak French.  He worked at Italian restaurants before opening his own restaurant, and this inspired the love for Italian cooking, and hence the Italian name of his restaurant.  Chef Shane impressed by being on the floor regularly, chatting to his clients, and hugging those he knows. He is proud that he started as a ‘bus boy’, fetching plates, to being the owner of two restaurants today.  He talks about the ‘fusion cuisine’ which his restaurants prepare, being French, Italian and Mediterranean dishes made with South African produce.  The website emphasises that Chef Shane uses real butter, cream and fresh herbs, as well as olive oil, and that no MSG and artificial flavourings are used in their cooking!  Only grain-fed beef, duck, and chicken is sourced.  The dietary requirements of lactose intolerant and diabetic clients are catered for.

Chef Shane has already published two cookbooks: ‘The Edge of Fusion’, and ‘InFusion’, the latter book winning him a Gourmand World Cook Book Award in 2009. He proudly brought his books to the table to show us, and they are are available for sale in the restaurant.   ‘InFusion’ focused on the ‘infusion of South African produce, liquor and lifestyle’, says its introduction, and contains Forewords written by Good Food & Wine Show owner Christine Cashmore and restaurant reviewer Victor Strugo, with beautiful food photography by Sarie Pretorius.  Chef Shane is described by Strugo to stand for FRESH: Fruit, Real, Emotions, Seasons, Herbs.  Alcohol is used in the preparation of most dishes.

The restaurant has wooden tables without tablecloths, and the chairs are covered in tan mock leather, the walls are painted in yellow/gold and tan, covered with an odd collection of paintings. The windows can open and are stack-able, allowing one to enjoy a superb unobstructed sea view over the bay, an ideal location for photography of the visiting whales.  A new lounge-style seating area has been added in one corner of the restaurant. The tables have material serviettes, but an ordinary salt cellar and a cheap black pepper grinder.  The menu and winelist are covered in black plastic, and both disappointed in their presentation, the menu just being a typed list of items with a hand-correction, and the winelist containing diagrams of the wine districts and regions, and of the Aroma Wheel, which probably were copied from coloured sources, but lose their impact in black and white.

The menu has ten starters, and Carole enjoyed her Mussels Provencal (R48), a hearty portion served with muffin-shaped rolls containing mushrooms, capers and oregano.  Every menu item is described in detail in terms of all of its ingredients, and how the dish is prepared, rarely seen on menus.  Outback Crocodile and Springbok Carpaccio are the two most expensive starters, at R60.  Other interesting sounding starters are Angel snails (‘Spanish snails wrapped in bacon, pan fried with red onion, black pepper, butter, steamed in chardonnay, bound with cream and flavoured with origanum‘, the menu describes), Basil and port livers, and Afro Parisian pastry (smoked salmon, apple, served with phyllo pastry parcel filled with brie and mango pickle). Chardonnay fig and honey and African mampoer sorbets cost R10 each, and can be ordered as palate cleansers.  The main courses range in price from R85 for Santorini Chicken to R 165 for seafood fillet (fillet steak with seafood, tawny port and basil and cream sauce) and Mozambican Prawns (served with a beer cream sauce).  I enjoyed the kingklip prepared with red onion and tomato, basted in butter, served with ‘cream rice’ dusted with parmesan cheese, carrots and beans (R120), less complex than many of the other dishes in its ingredient combination.  I was impressed that it came with a fish knife, seldom offered.  Other main courses include a fillet flamed with 10 year old KWV brandy and served with Dijon mustard and green Madagascan cream sauce (R145), and Crocodile pastry (crocodile tail in curry cream sauce wrapped in phyllo pastry, R125).  Pasta dishes are made from Overberg flour and Locke Stone farm organic eggs.  Impressive is that the children’s dishes are healthy steak, fish and chicken, served with potato croquettes and vegetables (R45 – R50).

Desserts are affordable, none exceeding R50 (Strawberry Flambé with Belgium chocolate ice cream).  Carole loved the Crème Brûlee, a deep rich yellow colour, served with a strawberry sorbet, while I had the chocolate terrine served with cream, with an excellent cappuccino. Chef Shane sent two glasses of coffee liqueur to the table, but I declined, having to drive back to Cape Town.

The winelist states that BYO costs R30, explains the Aroma Wheel, and identifies the wine districts and regions in South Africa. Most wines offered are from Hermanus.  Bollinger is offered at R1200, Van Loveren Christina NV costs R220, Goedverwacht Crane Rosé Brut R130, and Bonnievale NV R120. Few wines by the glass are offered, costing about R45.  Vintages span more than one year, to save on reprinting the winelist, one would suspect.  Three Shiraz wines are available: Reyneke Organic ‘2009/10’ (R140), Val de Vie ‘2008/9‘ (R360), and Porcupine Ridge ‘2011/2012‘ costs R135.

Chef Shane’s menu is interesting, most dishes unusual.  His willingness to connect with his clients on the floor is a strength few chefs bother with.  The presentation of the menu and winelist could be improved, to match the food, and the fantastic view offered in the restaurant.  Service was not perfect, but our waiter was friendly.  The website seems overwritten in its accolades.  The most impressive part of our visit was the understanding by Chef Shane when we had to rush back to the guest house to check in guests just after we had ordered our food.  Our order was placed on hold and our table was kept for us until we returned.

La Pentola, first floor, 87 Marine Drive, Hermanus.  Tel (028) 313-1685. www.lapentola.co.za. Tuesday – Sunday lunch and dinner.

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

Restaurant Review: Knife Restaurant serves good cuts of steak!

Knife Restaurant is an American smoke-house themed restaurant, known particularly for its very tasty BBQ-sauce marinated and smoked ribs, and is a sister restaurant to Fork, a tapas style restaurant in Long Street, described as a “plateful on a fork”.  Knife opened three months ago in the rather kitsch looking Crystal Towers Hotel in Century City, with its magenta lighting, odd furniture, and even odder fisherman ‘fishing’ in a water feature in the Reception. 
It is hard to define what Knife stands for from the décor.  It is dominated by a central bar counter, with a hodge podge of interior styles, and different seating areas around it, accommodating about 100 patrons. Two walls are wallpapered with images of children of the owner Ed Saunders, to reflect that children are welcome to eat there.  Another wall has depictions of beef and pig cuts.  The music was very loud, but was turned down.   The lighting was on an automatic dimmer switch for the whole restaurant, reducing down to a very low ‘dull day’ light setting at 20h00, for which the manager struggled to find the switch to turn the lighting up again.  Raw cement columns dominate the space, and look unfinished, and seem out of place with the rest of the décor.  The décor is in strong contrast to the rest of the hotel.   There are wooden tables and chairs, and massive red/white dishcloth-type serviettes.  We chose a table close to a sliding door leading to the parking area, with a cold inflow of air whenever the door opened on the cold rainy night, so we moved around the corner to stay warm.   
 

I had invited my friend Sarah from Durban to join me for dinner, and our first reaction was one of uncertainty as to whether we would be happy there.  Everything changed when the charming then-Manager David Elsbury came to the table, and took personal care of us, entertaining us with his friendly and cheerful nature. He compared Knife to Carne and HQ as competitors in terms of the quality of their steaks.   David worked at Wakami previously, and helped set up the new bar for Knife.  He has left to move into a non-hospitality job, for the sake of better working hours to benefit his family.  JD Haasbroek is a partner with Saunders in the business, and compiled the winelist, making sure to add boutique wine farm brands.  The chef Jonathan Japha moved over from Fork.

David told us that the Knife at Century City is the first of a number of franchised steak and rib Knife restaurants planned, next ones to be in Johannesburg and Durban.  A Spoon restaurant may also be considered, concentrating on soups and desserts, which seemed an attractive concept, we felt.    

The menu is equally “mish mash”, reflecting the interior.  It offers starters, salads, burgers, fish and shellfish, steaks and ribs, and platters.  A selection of sauces, including creole mayo, wholegrain mustard, blue cheese, cumin and cream, and green peppercorn and bourbon sauce, costs R25 each.   Extra sides of salads and vegetables can also be ordered at R 25 each. 

A 400g portion of “smoked sticky BBQ baby back ribs” costs R 80, and a 600g portion R110.  The ribs are oak-smoked and marinated for 24 hours in a special BBQ marinade.   Steaks are cut from Chalmar beef that has been aged for 28 days before serving.  David explained that Chalmar beef is grain-fed, and has no added hormones. Sirloin and rump steak choices are offered, at an acceptable price of R95/R115 for 200g/300g rump, and R110/130 for 200g/300g sirloin.  Fillet costs R 135, but the portion size is not specified.  Both meat types are served with French fries and corn on the cob (for the American touch!), as well as a sauce of one’s choice.  David organised that my steak came with a boiled potato.  The rump steak was excellent, cooked medium rare perfectly, as ordered, and the taste of the marinade came through.  Sarah ordered the vegetarian sticky sweet potato stack with mozzarella and tomato relish (R40), and felt that there was too little vegetable and too much sauce, overpowering the sweet potato.  She indulged in a Rocky Road dessert (R50), finding the marshmallows quite hard, making them difficult to chew, whilst the rest of the dessert was soft, “melt-in-the-mouth”, in her words.

Starter options range from R 40 – R65, and include a  variety of choices, including Creole mussel curry and Cajun lamb ribs.  The Caesar salad costs R50, while a Nicoise salad made from seared game fish costs R70.  Burger choices included one made from chickpea (R55), and a bacon and cheese burger (R65).  On the seafood side one can order Creole fishcakes (R65), sole and line fish (R90), king prawn gumbo (R110), and crayfish tails at R180.   A Meat platter costs R220 for two persons, and contains a selection of ribs, chicken wings, rump steak, lamb chops and a sauce.  A Seafood platter for two persons costs R240.

The winelist has 16 wines-by-the-glass, and I chose a wonderful 2004 Stony Croft Shiraz from Stellenbosch, a Platter 4 1/2 star wine, according to David, which I had not previously heard of, and which was excellent value at R32.  The list is simply divided into “White” and “Red”, and then sub-divided by variety, and the vintage and region is specified, but there is no description of the wine.  Champagne Henri Giraud Espirit de Giraud NV costs R500, Krone Borealis R 40/R180, and Colmant NV R240.  Sauvignon Blancs offered are Badsberg (R23/R92), Reyneke Organic Reserve White the most expensive at R270.  Boekenhoutskloof Shiraz 2007 costs R400.

We paid R280 for a steak, a starter, a dessert, a cappuccino and a glass of red wine.  As Knife is too far away from where I live, I will only go back when next I go on a shopping trip to Canal Walk.  The steak is well worth a visit, and according to David, the ribs are too.

Knife restaurant, Crystal Towers Hotel, corner Century Boulevard and Rialto Road, Century City, Cape Town.  Tel (021) 551-5000 www.knife-restaurants.co.za . The website is functional, informative, has various menus – Christmas specials, kiddies menu, main menu, brunch menu, etc., lists all the reviews, and has a small gallery – more photographs would be welcome.  Monday – Sunday 11h00 – 23h00.  Weekend brunch 10h00 – 15h00.

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