Category Archives: Seapoint

mr chan sign

Mr. Chan Review

photo by stvOh, dear, I keep forgetting to write this review. Not, I hasten to add, because it was a bad experience, but because I’m busy and disorganised, and possibly because a surfeit of duck is detrimental to the will. My choice was Mr. Chan in Sea Point, which was recommended to us by friends, who also waved under my nose the seductive possibility of crispy duck with pancakes, one of my favourite things in the multiverse. It would, I thought, also be an interesting comparison to Jewel Tavern, which is our favourite Chinese hang-out. In the event, Jewel Tavern still has it in the “favourite Chinese food” stakes, but I also don’t think it was an entirely fair comparison.

Mr. Chan has an air and ambience that just nicely balances on the edge of clean/plastic/cheery and warm/idiosyncratic/comfortable. It’s open and light, and some of the notes in the decor – the glittery Eastern-style cherubs on the walls, for example – are amusing. It’s also clearly more successful than Jewel Tavern simply in terms of number of tables filled – not all by a long chalk, it’s a big restaurant, but enough to be reassuring. As we arrived a giant drove of Chinese people were leaving, which suggests that it also passes the test of good ethnic cuisine, i.e. actual people of that culture eat there.

We did the usual thing with starters, which is for everyone to order one which we subsequently share, necessitating a certain amount of bargain and negotiation. Lots of crispy and seafood-flavoured things on the menu; the spring rolls were good, not exceptional – a bit pedestrian, perhaps; the prawn rolls were excellent, the chilli squid and crispy ribs were likewise delectable. A good batch of starters, all in all. But no dim sum buns or dumplings on the menu. Woe. I am fast developing an inelegant fondness for same.

photo by stvThe reason I don’t think we enabled a fair comparison with Jewel Tavern is because I’d pre-ordered the whole crispy duck with pancakes, which is in itself a giant meal and which precluded us trying a wider range of dishes. The duck was wonderful; they bring the whole thing out and dismember it for you, and in a most civilised fashion give you a plate of shredded meat and another plate of bones and bits that Jo and Eckie and I waded into while Stv, who doesn’t like to get his fingers greasy, laughed at us. It was rich and tasty and the skin was properly crispy; they’re very generous with their giant piles of pancakes, and the usual trimmings (spring onion and cucumber shreds, plum sauce) were plentiful and good. We ended up extremely full.

It was a good meal; it wasn’t, though, to my mind an exceptional meal. My overall feeling was that Jewel Tavern’s flavours were more interesting, although, as I say, we didn’t have a chance to compare main courses outside the duck experience. I am also now able to say with authority that I prefer Jewel Tavern’s szechuan crispy duck, which has the breading on the outside, to the non-breaded version. It was, however, a good meal and a pleasant evening, and I would not be at all averse to returning for a non-duck run at their main courses.

On the Jo scale:

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La Boheme Review

Gah. Our visit to La Boheme is receding in the rear-view mirror, with no review to show for it. Bad Salty-Crackerer, no biscuit.

I chose La Boheme because I was looking for that Bistro vibe – friendly, bustling, tasty, generous. La Boheme is all that, and, should I forget to actually say that, heartily recommended: Go There. Eat Things. It will Be Good.

The long time that’s passed in some ways helps bring into focus what stood out the most: the staff. Service with an attitude, a big mouth, a sense of humour and a firm set of opinions. Service with enough chutzpah to keep us with the rowdy cracker bunch, and give us a run for our money. This does not mean it was perfect – I vaguely recall moments when we would have liked to get the waitress to our table but could not find her – but given the large personality and great investment in our meal that we got the rest of the time, this was totally forgiveable.

Another stand out was the wine – it’s a wine bar, so after some deliberation we left our own wines in the car (wine-bars sometimes get a bit huffy about bringing your own). I remember the wine list being large but navigable, and struck on the Satyricon from La Vierge on the grounds that it sounded cool. It’s an extremely lovely blend of strange foreign grapes with a naughty label, and when we got home we phoned our local wine store and bought a case of it, that’s how good it was. It’s drinking extremely well right now, and now, and again just now.

The food is a mixture of tapas, starters and mains, and I believe there was some sort of special combo deal that we probably ignored as usual. The menu is chalkboard and apparently changes often; here is a snap of what we were faced with:

We had the tapas for starters: the chorizo in red wine, the white anchovies, gnocci with roasted tomatos and the honey-glazed little ribs. All absolutely mouth-wateringly good, with the white anchovies (milder than the little black ones, and bigger, lovely flavour) and the gnocci the stand outs. Everything was fresh, rich, and beautifully balanced, excellent start to the meal.

We followed up with mains – unfortunately, these came from a third blackboard (yes, there were more blackboards!) which we got no pic of and which, curse the passage of time and the death of little braincells, I do not remember very much of. I know I had the duck: done in an Asian vibe, with fine noodles and a sweet sauce. It was nice, but I do recall being terribly jealous of everyone else’s food, so there it is: everything else was BETTER than Asian duck. Nums. The portions were extremely generous, it must be noted, and we really felt that we got excellent value for money.

Last note on the atmosphere: La Boheme and Bruxia have essentially merged into what is quite a large restaurant, and on a Friday it hustles and bustles and can get a tad loud. Let’s say the cracker team in full guaffing swing was not stared at by other diners trying to have a quiet meal – quite the reverse, at times. The concensus around the table was “loudish, but not in a bad way” as I recall.

OK, drum roll:

Xiang Yuan Review

Most of my ongoing missions in life involve food. This pleases me.
One of them is to find good Dim Sum places in Cape Town.
My current winner is U-Seng in Table View (which is another story in itself), but Xiang Yuan provides a good local alternative.

The decor inside is that classic “basic but clean” look. Slightly skanky lookin’, to be honest. I have a particular penchant for places that have good food but very simple decor (such as Jewel Tavern when it was in the docks). The other Crackernauts tend to err more of the side of posh, which only encourages me to bring the skank back in. It enhances that “hidden gem” feeling for me.

We often like to get recommendations, and the staff at Xiang Yuan were friendly, helpful, and made excellent suggestions. Alas, it has been a few weeks since we were there, and my memory of individual dishes has faded. We had a mix of Dim Sum from their big and varied menu, and added the much-loved duck and pancakes combo to the table. Everything was excellent, and the prices were good (and very reasonable compared to big names like Simply Asia or Tong Lok).

Atmosphere: 4 / 10 (Not great. TV on in an unavoidable place. Lights kinda bright.)
Staff: 7 / 10 (Friendly, slightly surprised, very helpful with the recommendations.)
Service: 6 / 10 (Good, but not great. Solid, but not shining.)
Food: 7 / 10 (Good Dim Sum (wide selection, all tasty), excellent duck.)
Value for money: 8 / 10 (Competitively priced)

La Mouette

This was not our first time at La Mouette (well, not for all of us), but it was first time with Salty Cracker. We had discovered it last year just after they opened, and have been there before. Basically, extremely highly recommended place: excellent food, excellent value for money. Double excellent in May: they are running a two for one special that gives you 6 courses, normally a very reasonable R240 per person, at R240 for two people. You can’t get better than that, and the portions are very generous to boot.

I will digress briefly and slightly contradict myself. Latest discovery about self: despite years of training and hard work, a tasting menu is too much for me. I must face facts. We have had a number of opportunities to test this recently and it’s all coming together. Last month at Overture, we tried the tasting menu (8 courses, tiny). Then, for a hen party, the 6 course menu at Myoga (excellent range of options, really good value). And now 6 courses at La Mouette. In all cases, I am experiencing two problems:

1. It’s too much food to be able to enjoy all the flavours. Towards the end, I’m saturated.

2. I miss out on reading the menu properly and thinking about the flavours and combinations. In two of the above (La Mouette and Overture), the tasting menu is fixed – no choices. That’s not a problem in terms of variety or getting something you don’t like – it’s all good – but it does mean I don’t look at the menu with a serious and discerning eye. I think that removes some of the fun of anticipation and appreciation of the more trace ingredients.

So anyway, I think I’ll be sticking to a la carte for the foreseeable future. But back to La Mouette, because despite the rant above, that was a fine dining experience. The restaurant is set in a wonderful old house in Sea Point (right at the end of Main Road, near Shoprite). The decor is rich and baroque, and there was a roaring log fire that meant I went from toasty to I-need-to-go-outside-to-get-some-air (I was really close to the fire).

The staff is friendly, they bring tap water without any hassle (this seems to be the norm now, bottled water be damned), and generally looked after us very well. I had a half a victory: the set desert was the warm chocolate profiterole, but I hinted that I would have liked to try their gin-and-tonic desert, and they said no problem! When it came to desert, they brought me the profiterole though, and I was too full and tired to object. It was, in any case, magnificent (the almond icecream was nougaty and devine), so I squeezed it in, at which point the waiter apologised and wanted to bring me the ginantonic, and I had to say no. Self preservation. Anyway, mistake gracefully handled.

Ok, the set menu is here. Particular stand outs are their croquettes (they are famous for these things, wonderful cheesy little lovebites); the roast fish and risotto – brilliant, warm flavours, well combined; and the desert was just heavenly. The warm pimms-themed first course is more like a tiny palate cleanser, but all other five courses are full sized, armed and dangerous. The pork belly is perfectly done and rich, and the onion soup is creamy and cheesy. There is no getting off easy.

Oh, one final word of warning – skip the wine pairing. It’s relatively pricey (R180), the wines are nice but not brilliant, the portions are sufficient but not large. All of the pairings are white except for the pork belly’s match. I’d recommend a nice bottle of chardonnay for the meal and perhaps a glass of Merlot for the pork, it will be fine.

Scores:

Atmosphere: 8/10 (did I mention the table of blondes? It’s probably not a permanent feature, but the big function room table just in front of us was taken up by impossible number of impossible leggy blondes. Very distracting. Very mysterious. This does not affect the rating though. )

Staff: 8/10 (helpful, friendly, mistake made but fixed)

Service: 8/10

Food: 8/10 (brilliant but heavy going – proper winter food)

Value for money: 11/10. I’m not kidding.

Sloppy Sam

I wanted a comfy, homey, snuggly vibe, with no sign of pretentiousness and giant portions. Check. Sloppy Sam’s is all those things, delivered with a mediterranean flair and plenty of lamb. Lamb, lamb, wonderful lamb, rolled with garlic on kebab sticks (Jess and Stv), slowly braised into melting goodness (EL), its ribs crisped with garlic and lemon (next time, next time) or in an iraqui abgusht stew with dried limes (yet another visit needed).  Defiantly, I had calamari, which were lemony-sour, garlicky and awesome.

Food is simple, large and tasty, with beautiful flavours and the minimum of fuss. For starters, it was various culturally-appropriate things, which were very good: tsatsiki (nice but not outstanding), pickled calamari (not nearly as rubbery as all that but still kind of rubbery), deep fried crispy sardines (I have a deep fried fondness for deep fried sardines, they are wonderful), and a tomato, red onion and anchovy salad that was tasty but a little too simple for the price.

Service was friendly, casual but attentive, very good.

The venue is lovely and belies the name – nothing sloppy about this creatively decorated space. Lots of food paraphernalia (tins, bottles, vegetables, things) strung out all over the place, backed by warm paint tones and an open kitchen. Only complaint: we were seated in the window and the curtain of fairy lights made it hot hot hot. Bonus on window seating: the building across the road has really awesome coloured lights which we spent most of the night figuring out.

Overall: great place, great experience. Yay! Also, chalk up 1 to me for restraint, of alcoholic* kind, and actually driving to salty cracker for a change. Jo: 1, Stv: 37. She edges in. She’s getting there.

Atmosphere: 8 / 10 (target: mediterranean relaxation. Mission: accomplished.)
Staff: 8 / 10 (friendly, relaxed, attentive)
Service: 8 / 10 (see: atmosphere)
Food: 7 / 10 (simple but hits the spot)
Value for money: 9 / 10. (that means good, i.e. cheap :))

*Full disclosure: Drinking copiously at lunch and being unable to face much more alcohol may have had something to do with it.

Fujiyama review

Or,

A Tale Of Two Restaurants

It was the best of Crack, it was the worst of Crack.
No, wait.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a Salty Cracker.
Uh… no.

This is not a review of Kubo’s Little Japan on Riebeek St in town, even though that was my choice for June Crackage.
Jo’s eagle eyes spotted it tucked away near the corner of Buitengracht and Riebeek street, and we hung a U-turn to park smartly right by the front door. It looked kind of quiet (and dark), but we ventured in anyways. Turns out Kubo’s is shut for the next few months, as the kind gentleman in the Boom Boom Shakalak bar on the floor above informed us.

Walking briskly back to the car, we shot off for my back up plan: Fujiyama (conveniently located under Cedar Cafe). Also looked kind of quiet (and dark), and had a “To Let” sign in the window. Twas not boding well.
However, they were open – huzzah! And tasty – hazzuh!
We were the only people in the front room all night, which was kind of strange, but kind of entertaining too. Noticed right at the end of the night that there were three other rooms there, including a traditional shoes-off, low-down-table one. Squee!

We got a little bowl of some marinated nummy, soy saucey, slighty sweety tuna for an appetiser, then dove into a table-shared two big plates of veggie and fishy tempura and a plate of chicken katsu. Nom!
The chicken was good, but the tempura was ace. Very light and crispy.

Main course action was: beef soba (soup w/ thin noodles) for Jo; beef udon (soup w/ fat noodles) for me; chicken nabe (brothy soup w/ noodles) for Jess; fillet teppanyaki for Eckhard.
My soup was very, very, tasty and had a nice, thinly sliced, chunk of meat and a few crunchy veggies in.
Eck’s fillet cubes were medium-rared to perfection.

The wine list was also reasonably priced. It is, of course, marked up from farm price, but not by a nosebleed-inducing amount (unlike someplaces *cough* myoga *cough*. Well, to be fair, most restaurants.).

The bad news is they’re closing, sort of, in the next few days. Actually, they’re moving to two spots on Long Street. One on Long, opposite the Purple Turtle, for take-aways, and one around the corner for sit-downs (the head waiter gentlemen kindly informed us on our way out).

All in all, a successful Crackage, despite the initial impending doom feeling when 1st choice was closed.
I look forward to trying their new place. Japanese food FTW!

Buzbey Grill

It seem highly unlikely the Eckhard will write his own review, so the other Crackers will do mini review jobbies of our own, sort of on his behalf.
It has been suggested that we write a review where he can fill in the blanks. We shall see.

Starters:

  • Crumbed Mushrooms (Jess)
  • Angels on Horseback (Jo)
  • Fried Camembert (Eck)
  • Char-Grilled Sardines (Steve)

Mains:

  • Pepper Steak (Jess)
  • Hollandse Biefstuk (Jo)
  • Spare Ribs (Eck)
  • Rump Steak w/ Pepper Sauce (Steve)