Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Not aKing, obviously. They should take their middle of the road Musica fodder elsewhere.

No, ladies and genteel persons, I am referring to the heavenly experience of Saturday night. The cuisine was straight from Heaven's own kitchen and the culture a slice of paradise that can only be found in the Stellenbosch Winelands.

For the sake of the readers outside of my own little sardonic circle, today she will be known as The Journo. A very good friend of mine, we travel around together a lot causing spontaneous rapture wherever we go and generally have the best time of anyone in the room. She invited me along as her "plus one" as she was set to review the Eastern Cuisine themed evening at the famous Simonsig Wine Estate restaurant, Cuvee. Well, to say the decor is a magical mixture of eclectic, modern minimalism, Top Billing Bling, traditional and antique, would probably verge on understatement. The entrance hall is a very typical wine tasting and palate whetting collection of wines and classic arch design (both of which I love). Then you walk into the swanky restaurant and turn into a chameleon. NOT in the sense of blending in as a defence mechanism, but because your eyes are forced to independently swivel to take in all the wondrous sights at once. Bleakly austere concrete roofing gives way to audaciously ornate chandeliers, hand accessorized to create ceiling centre-pieces that would make Jeannie D dither. Scattered around the space is a variety of old and authentic wooden furniture, startlingly juxtaposed to the garish steel lamps and mega-modern fittings.

There was even live music, a subtle Eastern fusion of percussion and traditional melodies that was the perfect fit for the evening and created a really authentic ambiance. And there was bubbly. I have long warbled on about the virtues of the bubbly from a rival wine estate in Constantia, but this stuff was just as other worldly. And interestingly, MCC was apparently pioneered on this very farm!

The menu was a set affair, a feast of Eastern delights to suit a themed evening. For starters, or "Amuse Bouche", we were served Pho (a classic Vietnamese noodle soup). I'm not a big fan of soup, but this was delicious. The highlight of the dish was the plate. It looked like a great big upside down porcelain sun hat. Everything on the night was paired with a wine meant to adequately compliment the dish. The white wine they decide to serve with the starter was - by all accounts, awesome - but met with no small amount of trepidation. The last time I drank white wine I ended up crawling into bed with my girlfriend's girlfriend, a famous pop singer at the time - it didn't end well...

The starter was followed by a starter. Trying not to expose my lack of class (I wore a button shirt AND brushed my hair...) I decided to let it go and rather try and find the answer on the menu. At first I was terrified that the flimsy strips of fish on the plate in front of me were the main course and that they had somehow contrived to mess up my order, but The Journo quickly explained it all to me. This course was the main starter!

It was something called Tataki of Seared Tuna with Avo, Yuzu Mayo and Ponzy dressing. I tucked in. I had what can only be described, and was, as a Meg Ryan moment. You know, the one where she fakes an orgasm at the table sitting opposite Wilson's buddy. Except I wasn't faking this foodgasm! And believe me when I tell you I was trying my damnedest to keep it together. For the sake of all the other patrons. Angels descended from heaven and broke into celestial chorus. I felt light headed and had a sudden craving for a cigarette. It was literally the most sublime taste experience of my life. I actually thought the chandeliers were shaking in some sort of apocalyptic sympathy, but it turns out it was just my eye twitching in post coital bliss...

Then the mains came. Teriyake Siew Yuk (turns out, not so yuk) with pan juice (interesting...) translates to Roasted Pork Belly. Paired with yet another white wine, a Chardonnay, I wasn't sure if I was quite ready for this. I frantically organised a red to help my nerves and supply me with the required fortitude. Let's just say that the Frans Malan 2008 from Simonsig is so good that I ended up buying a bottle to take home and proudly display in my burgeoning collection. The pork belly was equally exquisite, rendering me only slightly less capable of speech than the starter did. Muffled yelps of delight escaped between mouthfuls as I dined. In a place far, far from hell.

I'm not a dessert person. In fact, I never eat dessert. As a rule. I have the complete opposite of a sweet tooth and when I do make the ill advised decision to indulge in some (like the time I tried the Chef Buddy's creme brule because he made it especially for me, I was ill for hours) it usually ends in tears and copious amounts of whiskey. But given the ecclesiastic ecstasy inspired by the dishes leading up to this one I thought "what the heck". Potato sized balls of chocolate (satandagi - yes SatanDagi!) surrounded a lonely looking dollop of coconut sorbet and represented probably the biggest culinary challenge of my life, unless you count the time I attempted to make my first white sauce. Manfully, and gratefully armed with the signature estate Port, I dug in. My face immediately contorted to resemble that of Homer Simpson when he ate the world's sourest sourball. That's not to say that it wasn't wonderful. My endorsement stems from the fact that if I don't like a dessert, it MUST be heavenly.

Anyway, the meal was rounded off by a leisurely coffee, an even more leisurely stroll around the gardens and some snap shots for the magazine for which the review was being written...

...but not before the undoubted highlight of the evening!

The table next to us was apparently a mass gathering to honour someone celebrating their birthday and was a collection of family members of all shapes and sizes, the most entertaining of which was an impressively coiffed dame who kept on interfering with the couple adjacent to us.
Anyway, one of the sons, no doubt a treasure to his very culturally aware kin, was persuaded to stand and deliver. It started off like any other rather embarrassing family request, a young man approaching puberty and the corresponding bungee experience in the nethers got up and gave us a song. The restaurant fell into a reverential hush and politely applauded at the end. This was a mistake. The family, goaded on by the appreciation of the gathered masses, howled for more. What followed was a scene from War Of The Worlds. Cue mass panicked exodus as the central figure - curiously also short, slender and funny looking - shrieked out a rendition of what I can only guess was called "Apie".

 I hope The Journo remembers to add how awesome the service was. I hope The Journo includes in her review the effortless elegance of the entire evening. I trust The Journo will avoid the "Apie" Apocalypse.

Anyway, thanks to my great friend for a truly incredible experience and to the chef and staff of Cuvee, you'll see me again. Just let me save up for a while.

Neal Goldwyer will make his daily contribution later today...
Spread The Love. I Think Meg Ryan Said It Best...

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