Tag Archives: variety

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

Restaurant Review: Blowfish Restaurant will blow fishlovers away!

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.

Blowfish Restaurant, Dolphin Beach Hotel, 1 Marine Drive, Blouberg.   Tel (021) 556-5464 www.blowfishrestaurant.co.za  Twitter: @BlowfishCTN  Nikki Dumas’ website is www.winestyle.biz

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