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May 2, 2006 12:33 PM

Restaurants in and around Capetown, reviews

  • j

So I went to South Africa with the wife and a friend and hit some of the following places, good times all in all, delicious food everywhere and despite the tanking dollar, still a great value. I’d like to give a Chowhound shout out to Ilana for her great tips.

Den Anker, Cape Town, waterfront

A Belgian place in the very touristy waterfront area of Capetown. Though I don’t think touristy necessarily equals bad food as much here as elsewhere in the world (though certainly it still equals more expensive). Despite their list of Belgian beers I opted for a very good glass of the Jordan Syrah and the Soupe de Poisson Normande to start, I was thinking it’d be a white chowder-ish soup as it was described as being made with a roux with some cheese, but it was a tomato-y red with strong hints of anchovy, it was a puree so I wasn’t able to tell what kind of fish they used. For entrée I got the Kingclip Beurre Blanc. Apparently Kingclip is from the eel family (and arguably not a fish), but very flavorful and without any bones. It’s firmer than most whitefish, closer to monkfish than a flakey white. It was served under a well-made crust with a very tasty Beurre Blanc sauce. It was sort of chilly out so this really hit the spot.

Oh, the mozzarella here is bad. Very odd tasting and lacking in flavor. Wife had the mozzarella tomato appetizer and we were surprised at this. We split the crème brulee for dessert and it was very good as well.

Wang Thai, Cape Town, Green Point

Eh. Thai food was nothing special. Pad Kee Mao noodles were cooked in beef broth and not the wide flat noodles we’re accustomed to. Nothing special really. The chicken/coconut milk soup was too overpowered with fish sauce. Here we discovered that, “prawns” means shrimp in Cape Town. Interesting. Kind of a waste of a meal.

Piccata, Franchhoek, wine country north of Cape Town

We’d been drinking wine all day in Stellenbosch (I’ll post about the wine trip separately) and needed to sober up and eat some hearty fare. Little else is heartier than an immense lamb shank on top of a stew of lentils with a glass of a good red, the Porcupine Cabernet Sauvignon from Franchhoek (good but not great, we’d been spoiled by this point). Lamb was wonderful, tender, flavorful and exactly what I wanted. Again, weird mozzarella here.

Theo’s, Cape Town, not sure if this is considered Waterfront though it’s across from the water (maybe Sea Point?), near the Radisson.

This stop was to appease my repeated demand on my fellow travelers for, “a steak the size of my face.” I started with the Roquefort salad which was a big mushy blob of Roquefort that was perhaps more dip-like than salad like, but delicious all the same. Friend got the calamari, which was also very good, lightly fried and good texture. The African steak terminology confused me and I think “fillet” might be an unusually thick strip, and I’ve got no idea what a “rump” is. The server said that a fillet isn’t too flavorful but is tender so I thought it was filet mignon, which is clearly wasn’t when served. Also, they recommend sauces on all the fillets and my Nebraska blood curdles at the thought of saucing a good cut of meat. The fillet was very tasty, very thick, though perhaps underdone (I ordered medium rare and it arrived closer to rare, dining companion ordered same and hers was correct). Tried some of the blue cheese sauce and though it wasn’t bad, it was just extraneous.

For the record I hated Merlot before it was cool to hate it. I think once I read it described in GQ by Alan Richman as, “an insipid wine,” I agreed immediately. In my efforts to be diplomatic I ordered a bottle of the KWV Merlot 03 and it was too young with too much alcohol, it needed to hang out for another year or more to soften up. For dessert I tried the toffee pudding (cake) and it was tasty though my dining companions weren’t wild about it. Fine. More for me.

Though we weren’t in Camps Bay, there must be more than one, because this is definitely the same menu and such…

Bukhara, Cape Town, City Centre? 33 Church Street I believe

Again, virtual high-fives to Ilana. Probably the best Indian I’ve ever had and I’ve even been to Indian weddings though not yet to India. Garlic Naan was a hymn in my mouth. Lamb Vindaloo was quite literally as spicy as it could be at the utter threshold of where spice loses complexity. The wife’s dish might have put this place over the top, some sort of vegetarian dish in a creamy yogurt sauce that made us want to literally ‘gobble’. For dessert we had the soft bread pudding with lots of raisins and nuts. Oh, I got a glass of Amarula – a Bailey’s-like liqueur made from the Amarula fruit of Africa. To calm the spice we shared a bottle of the Simonsig Gewurtztraminer that we’d tasted at their vineyard earlier in the week and it was the perfect fire hydrant for our mouths. Man, what a meal.

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  1. n
    Nick Lambert

    Went to Den Anker and Wang Thai in Capetown 6 weeks ago and had a mixed experience. Had gone back to Den Anker as I had eaten really good marrow bones back in 2000 at the same restaurant. This time they gave me 48 hours worth of food poisioning with some very dodgy mussles - nice! although the marrow bones were still as good. Also washed my nosebag down with the Jordan which I love and have stocked in my restaurant for quite a while.
    Wang Thai was fine, but just standard Thai. I went to the one in my hotel in Milnertown just out of the City. Would say it is a good safe bet but that's all.

    Enjoyed the Restaurant at Simonsig winery, Morghehof winery and the aerial tables at Spier.
    Went to a Waterfront restaurant on my last day called Belthazar just to kill the time before our flight - absolutely superb. Had a fantastic Niel Ellis Sauv Blanc by the glass (totally restored my very tested faith in RSA SB's) and had a wonderful Wilderbeest steak washed down by a great glass of punchy Pinotage that has eluded me. Bethazar is obviously a chain, but bring them on because the service and the food were the best I had in SA and I was eating out in some highly recommended places that paled into insignificance compared to this.
    Camp's Bay was disappointing - was going to stay for dinner at the 12 Apostles but the bar experience was so ordinary we went to Blues in Camp's Bay proper instead - this was very average and the staff were rude and very thick.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Nick Lambert

      Thank you for the chow props joypirate (I am a former Philly chowhound now living in Jo'burg but a frequent guest of Cape Town)!

      I have NEVER thought about the quality of mozzarella in South Africa, but now that you mention it, a great observation. It is all slimy and bland. South African halloumi cheese rocks and I mooched some tasty parmesean tidbits (from the South African chain Mastrantonio) at a corporate wine and cheese tonight. Perhaps South Africans are aware of the poor mozzarella in general and refrain from serving it or ordering it much---- however, if you are craving it, Woolworths serves some tasty mozzarella balls in brine. Also, if in Jo'burg, the Rosebank craft market on the weekends has a great independent cheese stall with lots of good options.

      Bukhara is amazing (also in Jo'burg although in a less cool urban environment- in the Sandton City shopping mall). Haiku (the sister restaurant of Bukhara) in Cape Town has amazing Thai-inspired dishes and beats Wang Thai.

      Some new South African food discoveries: cream soda that is green, Peartiser (a sparkling pear juice delight), Pierre Jourdan sparkling wine, and Black Cat peanut butter bars.

      1. re: Nick Lambert

        Yeah, Balthasar was recommended to us by someone when we were scoping out good 'sundowner' locations. Also, 12 Apostles was mentioned as well. Word is Balthasar has a ridiculous amount of wines by the glass, which seemed cool. We also did a sundowner at the Cape Grace hotel and though the view isn't great, the vibe is nice and the Scotch selection is vast. Though I couldn't bring myself to have Scotch in Africa (why isn't there more local brandy made with all the great wine?) I tried the Three Ships 10yr whiskey, which was good but not amazing.

      2. Hello, Joypirate

        In case you go back (hope you do!) and for others thinking of going:

        South African meat in restaurants is less cooked than in America (or perhaps the inverse; meat is MORE cooked in America)

        Fillet is the leanest, most tender of steak; usually the most expensive, too. Sirloin in the next down on the list, and rump steak is toughter, but considered tastier. No one uses the term 'filet mignon', they say fillet (the t pronounced). Ugly word, but there you go

        Shrimp are tiny; prawns are big. I think it's the same in the UK, too.

        Kingklip is a type of eel, but its texture is like a firm white fish, with big flakes. God, the taste of home... crumbed and fried...mmm...

        Thanks for posting.