Touring the tastes of Japan, Peru and home-grown

SHIO 

Cheyne Morrisby has done it again, this time in The Grey Hotel in De Waterkant in an intimate, simple space. Here he enlightens the diner with his modern take on Japanese cuisine. Full to overflowing on a week night, with hardy Capetonians braving the cold under heaters outside. Be sure to start with a cocktail – the Saigon Smash with gin, lime, raspberries and basil or the Fire Monkey of whisky, pineapple, lime, ginger, lemongrass. You could also kick off with their recommendation of Kaishi which is hot or cold sake, pickles and nori toast for two. Then head into Umi (ocean), Tochi (land) Chikyuu (earth) and finally Amai (sweet). Let the knowledgeable, attentive staff guide you if you are flummoxed. They will probably suggest that you order three dishes each. Of Umi we loved the Lucky Pizza, Tempura scallops and the Forbidden Black Rice Risotto. For Tochi we went for the Teriyaki Lamb Gyoza and the BBQ Duck breast. We ignored Chikyuu and headed straight for Amai. Simple yet a perfect end to our meal was the banana cream pie with miso butterscotch and peanut butter ice cream.

I was asked by our waiter which had been my favourite dish. “Like children”, I said, “you cannot choose –  love them all, equally, but differently.”

CHARANGO 

This Peruvian-inspired restaurant in Bree Street is a must-visit. Rugged exposed stone walls, leather seating along one side and more basic metal and wooden chairs in the middle, you can sit inside or spill out into Bree Street. Whatever you choose, make sure you start your adventure with a traditional Pisco sour. Here there are big, strong flavours rather than intricate layers, appealing more to the everyday diner than someone seeking fine dining. Cape Town locals have lapped chef Kieran Whyte’s bold move after seven years at the elbow of Peter Tempelhoff at The Greenhouse. Kieran worked with the team from planning to opening, and makes a statement without being contrived. His favourite ingredient is tuna, “We get such good quality tuna here”, and it is therefore no surprise that his signature dish is the seared tuna. Mine was the dessert tacos, a delicious blend of a wafer biscuit filled with Peruvian-style Valrhona chocolate and a raspberry jus. Having visited Peru last year and immersed myself in the cuisine after doing a local cookery course, I would happily give this a tick. Whilst Kieran himself has not been there, one would never know. He gathers ongoing inspiration from eating out at all the favourite fine dining spots in Cape Town – Faber, Camphors, Beau Constantia and Chef’s Warehouse to name but a few, and for something more casual recommends Hallelujah.

CAMPHORS AT VERGELEGEN 

A blustery, cold winter’s Saturday was perfect for ensconcing ourselves in front of the fire in Camphors on the Vergelegen Estate. Chef Michael Cooke is truly talented, and his ‘tour’ menu illustrates this perfectly. The spectrum of dishes are aligned from light and delicate flavours to fuller, richer flavours, perfectly paired with the estate wines. Staff are knowledgeable and equally passionate, making sure that movements between front-of-house and the kitchen are seamless, added to in charm by the fact that Mike makes a point of meeting all guests. Without giving any secrets away, allow me to say that each course, from the Camphors snacks of ‘cheese and wine’ to the cigar box, are innovative. It tells the story of how produce is nurtured on the estate, scouted by the chefs, harvested and transformed into a world-class gourmet experience. I love the fact that they make their own vinegars, pine needle oil and a variety of other components of the dishes to ensure that the flavours are truly unique. The first duck dish, served in two parts as Chef believes that all parts of the animal need to be used, was the lightest I have tasted. Well worth the drive through from Cape Town.