Tag Archives: Nigiri

Corona Virus: Lockdown Journey Journal, Day 67 of Level 1, 6 May 2021

 

Thursday 6 May 2021, Day 67 of Level 1 ūüė∑

Corona Gratitude ūüôŹ

#Grateful for a successful day; for getting up early to finish all my work so that I could squeeze in a power walk up 100 Houghton Steps, and coming down my secret Bakoven lanes with a total of 100 steps, being protected against the very strong Southeaster, receiving 300 Discovery points; for my Dinkel poppyseed rolls being ready for me; for an interesting meeting at Origin Roasting, drinking a lovely Nigiro Earl Grey Bloom tea; for a good Utopia Status meeting with Dilmah Earl Grey tea, crowned by a rainbow; for a quick pop in at Grand Pavilion, but the owner wasn‚Äôt there; for a cosy soup-in-bed evening; for Kfm playing great music to finish my steps for today; and for being happy, healthy and free. ūüôŹūüíô Continue reading →

Okamai Japanese Restaurant: Umami in the Japanese food and GlenWood wines!

One of the most unique restaurant experiences was the opening of the new Okamai (meaning ‘home-brewed hospitality’) Japanese Restaurant at GlenWood wine estate in Franschhoek on Thursday evening. ¬†It is a unique marriage of the Umami in the delectable Japanese food created by Sensei (meaning teacher) Deon de Jongh, and the special GlenWood wines created by winemaker DP Burger.

PR consultant Erica Liebenberg and DP welcomed us at the GlenWood reception with a glass of Morena Rose Brut. ¬†The Japanese touch was immediately evident, with Sensei Deon’s wife Rayne wearing a kimono. ¬†We moved through to the tasting room with a welcome fireplace on a still chilly Spring evening, from which we only saw the branding on the ‘noren’ , or hanging cloth, which was the first lesson we learnt in Japanese culture, in that there are no closed doors, denoting the sacred space between the different sections of the restaurant and kitchen. The writing on the entrance noren, replicated on the serviette, was the greeting: ‘We bid you welcome’. Between the kitchen and the scullery and pantry there is another noren, visible in the photograph of Sensei Deon. I slipped into the restaurant while the others were still tasting the wines, and noticed the bonsai on a side table, a collection of ornamental swords, a decorative holder for the swords, and a picture of a Samurai ‘Grand Master long passed’, with decorative lettering written by the Emperor’s calligrapher, with wording ‘The fighting spirit through harmony and respect’, Sensei explained. ¬†He was dressed in a black chef’s outfit, but with Japanese touches. ¬†He has the most charming smile, looking at peace and in harmony, and reminded me of Chef Reuben Riffel. The word ‘humility’ was used a number of times at our table to describe the Sensei.

Sensei Deon studied 16th century samurai swordmanship in Japan, and lived in that country for 27 years. ¬†Once one has passed the highest level of swordmanship, ‘they entrust you to cook’. Sensei studied the Japanese and western style of sushi creation for 15 years. ¬†Erica told me that the Sensei has written Japanese novellas, being collections of stories related to him while he lived there. ¬†He has also founded and run a school of martial arts in New York, is a motivational speaker and life coach, and was awarded a Nelson Mandela Momento for his contribution to social upliftment and better relations, the website states.

Alistair Wood is the owner of GlenWood, which he bought 28 years ago, and DP has been his winemaker and General Manager for 22 years. They share the same long term vision and focus. ¬†Alistair told us that DP is a fourth generation Franschhoeker, and his great-grandfather saw the last elephant leave the Franschhoek valley in 1856. Alistair and his partner Nikki de Havilland were regular customers of the Japanese restaurant which Sensei had opened on the Franschhoek main road, and invited Sensei Deon to open his restaurant on their wine estate when he closed the village restaurant. ¬†They were excited about the good pairing between Sensei Deon’s food and their wines, a good marriage of the umami in both, and ‘between Japanese boutique cuisine on a boutique winery‘, said Nikki. ¬†The word ‘umami’ was mentioned a number of times, and it is the fifth sense, with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, an element discovered by a Chinese scientist 1200 years ago, we were told. ¬†Umami was found to be an ‘indescribable’ taste in seaweed, and described as being¬†‘addictive’.

The restaurant can only seat 16 customers at a time, because the Sensei prepares everything fresh, and therefore booking is recommended. However, the kitchen is open from 12h00 until closing time, so one is not restricted to only eating there at traditional lunch and dinner times. ¬†While GlenWood wines are served, one can also order Japanese beer and sake. ¬†‘Oshibori’ is ‘to clean the hands for the meal one is about to receive’, and a cloth was brought to each guest, and after we returned it to a hostess, we were told that the correct way of doing so would be to roll it up as we had received it: ‘By the way it is received you will return it’, we were told. ¬†Nikki invited us to be ‘adventurous’ in our eating.

Before the meal, Sensei spoke an appreciation ‘of the journey of the food before me’, and ‘I honour your journey and my journey for being here’, acknowledging the uniqueness of the Sensei and customer connecting at that time and space. ¬†He also told us that the Japanese customer would meet the chef before committing to the table, to ‘get a feel of his intentions’ which could harm one if the chef has negative energy or is in a bad space. Should the customers pick up negativity in the chef, they would leave.

We started with a Miso soup (R20), and Sensei Deon taught us how to hold the bowl on the tips of our fingers, and drink from it by slurping, this being how soup is drunk by the Japanese. The Miso soup is a traditional start to the meal, keeping the Japanese healthy, and is made with Dashi stock and has chunks of tofu, and was paired with the GlenWood Sauvignon Blanc 2011. ¬†Miso soup is a good preparation for the meal to come, and an excellent way to counter a hangover, we were told. Thereafter we were served a black Bento Box (meaning ‘lunch box’ ) with a red edging, looking very smart, and with compartments inside for the different foods. ¬†The Bento Box contained the following:

* ¬† ‘Edo Unadon‘, eel meal, paired with the GlenWood Unwooded Chardonnay 2011 – there is no such thing as a ‘California Roll’, Sensei said. This dish costs R62.

* ¬† Sashimi, cut and seared salmon, which was paired with GlenWood’s flagship wooded Vigneron’s Selection Chardonnay 2011

*   The Tempura prawn was described as being high in umami, and was paired with the GlenWood Semillon 2010 (4 prawns cost R34)

*   Chicken dumplings were paired with the GlenWood Merlot 2009 (4 chicken dumplings cost R32)

*   Salmon Roses were paired with the GlenWood Shiraz 2009 Рthis should be made from the tail of the salmon, which contains the sweetest part, Sensei said.

Rice should be prepared a day in advance, we were told. Wasabi only has a three hour life span, and should never be bought in a tube, we were advised. ¬†Wasabi should never be mixed with soy sauce, as it loses its health benefits. ¬†A leaf of ginger should be eaten in-between courses to clear the palate. ¬†Kewpie mayonnaise should be Japanese and not Chinese, being more healthy. ¬†Sushi means ‘finger food’. The meal as we had it, with the Miso soup and Bento Box, costs R170. One can also order Temaki handrolls at R38 – R53; 6-piece Makimono at R33 – R47; 8-piece Uramaki ‘inside-out rolls’ at R55 – R68; 2-piece Nigiri at R31 – R43; 2-piece Inari R 33 – R45; salads from R40 – R48; 4-piece sashimi R50; two salmon roses at R45; and 4-piece fashion sandwiches at R43 – R55.

The dinner was concluded with a Japanese crepe containing thinly sliced strawberry and banana, and cream. We were told to close the Bento Box when we finished eating, and return it to the hostess, to prevent her from having to lean over the guest to clear the table. Traditionally, hostesses were used to ‘eavesdrop’, to obtain secrets from guests eating by overhearing their conversation, information which was used competitively in warfare. ¬†The best time to eat Japanese food is from 13h00 – 17h00, when the digestion and metabolism are at their optimum, Sensei said. ¬†We were advised to eat only 80% of the meal, and then take a breather before finishing the meal.

Alistair and I talked about the new wine range that will be launched, and without giving away any secrets, he shared that he is excited about an idea which came to him while travelling through France for three months in our winter, being that Franschhoek is well-suited to make a Sauternes noble rot ‘sweet wine’ in the style of Chateau d’Yquem. ¬†Watch this GlenWood space!

Okamai is an educational experience. ¬†It serves ‘cuisine based on ‘Wakon-yosai, an ideal of adopting and applying western learning and knowledge in confirming the native cultural traditions, creating a familiar & authentic blend of known and traditional dishes’, the Okamai website relates. ¬†Sensei Deon is most charming, and he makes eating at Okamai a fascinating experience, given the personal attention that he can pay to his 16 guests at a time.

Disclosure: We received a bottle of GlenWood Merlot 2009 with the media kit.

POSTSCRIPT 25/1: Sensei Deon sent an e-mail this evening, announcing that he left Okamai at Glenwood on 20 January: “I trust you all are doing well and had a good festive season. I am emailing to let you know I am no longer at Okamai…I resigned January 1st 2013…and Sunday January 20th was my last day…for many reasons not known to many..and such It need remain to preserve the integrity of others and the code of samurai conduct that mandate my discreetness and reasons :-). The Very Best Regards & Care. Whereto from here?…I do not know…but shall keep you posted..at GlenWood it is business as usual as they have indicated with the employ of a new sushi cook. Thank you Deeply for your past association and support. Kiyomasu Deon Sensei. 076.997.3786”

Okamai Japanese Restaurant, GlenWood wine estate, Robertsvlei Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-2044. www.glenwoodvineyards.co.za www.okamaijapan.com Tuesday РSunday, from 12h00 Р21h00.  Booking advisable.

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

Restaurant Review: Leaf Restaurant and Bar still very green, but good value!

It is a strange feeling to enter the newly opened Asian Leaf Restaurant and Bar in what was the location of two favourite restaurants РThe Showroom and Portofino Рin that the restaurant interior is exactly as it was when Cormac Keane closed Portofino in April, with a few changes Рgrass 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 Р51 % (no, not a typing error) off all a la carte sushi from 11h00 Р19h00 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 Рthe 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 РR58.   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 РR48, 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