Simply Asia, Parkhurst – Restaurant Review – 13th December 2012

Simple yet scrumptious.  And a steal into the bargain.

As the Parkhurst restaurant boom continues booming, Simply Asia ups the number of oriental eateries on 4th Avenue to 3 (Ruby Sushi and Yu Me being the other two).  So, when considering these establishments, one finds oneself wondering how they are going to remain original, and provide variety for the eager eater.  Simply Asia is a chain restaurant (yes, another) which serves exclusively Thai food.  We went for a quick dinner a few weeks after it opened its doors.

Simply Asia is certainly simply decorated.  The interior is quite generic, and there appear to be few original or interesting touches.  The open kitchen – where one can see the Thai chefs at work – is a redeeming feature, but you have to be seated inside to enjoy this experience.  The outer terrace is a great place to eat during summer months.

Simply Asia, like many of the other new restaurants in Parkhurst, is having some regulatory teething problems.  The restaurant is still awaiting its long-anticipated liquor license.  So, for the mean time, remember to bring your own wine or other beverage.  There is no corkage charge.

The menu at Simply Asia is funky and brightly coloured, peppered with interesting facts about Thailand and Thai cuisine.  There is a really wide and interesting range of authentic Thai food on offer.  This includes a vegetarian section.  There is also the option to pick the heat of your dishes, and you may come across some Thai specialties which you have never heard of before.  Having all the food prepared by genuine Thai chefs serves to enhance the authenticity of the food.

For starters, I ordered duck springrolls (Po-Pia Ped) which were served with a sweet chilli sauce.  The fragrant roasted duck filling, scented with a touch of star anise, was delicious.  Unfortunately the pastry casing was thick and undercooked.  It wasn’t golden and crispy, but rather doughy and chewy.  I think I could do better on my stove at home.  My dining companion ordered a Khong Waang Raum Mitr, a 6 piece combo platter consisting of springrolls and some “chewy sweetcorn cakes.”  These springrolls were better than the ones I ordered, and the sweetcorn cakes were exactly as you’d expect them to be given the name….. Chewy.  Happily, the mains were much better than the starters.  I ordered an old favourite, Prawn Pad Thai (Phad Thai Goong).  It was really a treat, deliciously nutty and the prawns were cooked beautifully.  I simply love Asian noodle dishes, and this was comforting, filing and satisfying.  Nothing complex, just what I had expected.  My fellow diner ordered roasted chilli paste and cashew nut noodle with chicken (Ba-Mee Prik-Phao).  It really packed a punch, but was very enjoyable.

The service at Simply Asia was simply ordinary.  Not immaculate or particularly attentive and gracious, but fine nonetheless.  Food arrived quickly and we were given ample time to finish it, but we had to keep asking for things:  chopsticks and soy sauce, for instance.  This may just be a matter of inexperienced waiters, and I’m sure it will improve with practice.  Our waitress was generally pleasant and the service did not detract from the meal.

The great thing about a restaurant like Simply Asia is this:  What you see is what you get, and what you get is what you expect.  The Thai food is tasty, spicy, a feast for the senses.  It is interesting and unfussy.  You could pop in and have two courses within the hour, or you could have a casual yet festive dinner with friends.  Simply Asia offers something for everyone, and it is sure to become a popular local spot for a pleasant, simple and tasty meal.

2 starters and 2 mains cost R 200.00 including tip – this is real value for money!

You can contact Simply Asia Parkhurst on + 27 (0) 11 447 3037.

The review was sent to the restaurant on 24th January 2013.

 

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Parea, Illovo – Restaurant Review – Monday 5th December 2012

A service shocker…..

After months of phone calls, a friend eventually managed to secure us a table at this popular Greek Taverna restaurant.  A large group gathered, looking forward to an evening of authentic Greek food and pre-Christmas catch up. 

Parea is modeled on a traditional Greek taverna.  The interior is simple and unassuming, with a few touches of Greko-South African interior décor and an impressive grapevine creeping the exterior.  It has a following in Johannesburg, known for festive dinners, ouzo shots and of course the Friday night belly dancers.

We sat down to a few glasses of wine, selected from the wide range on offer, and considered the menu.  It is typically Greek, featuring the likes of veg and meat meze, a wide selection of dips, authentic main courses, salads and desserts.  Amongst our favourite starters was the selection of 6 dips served with warm pita bread.  These were full of flavor, and the portions were generous.  When it came to mains, the quality of the food varied greatly.  Most disappointing was the dried-up lamb souvlakia, which was a bit like eating cardboard.  I had the deep fried calamari, which was average, nothing to write home about.  Another diner had the T-Bone, which was very disappointing as it “turned out to be a Sirloin with a big bone in it” – no sign of the fillet portion of the cut.  By far the most appetizing main course was the slow-braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes.  It was delectable, the meat really soft, falling off the bone.  Fortunately the portions were huge, and those who ordered it were kind enough to share theirs with the poor dears who ordered souvlakia.

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The haloumi salad

According to their menu, the word “Parea” is generally thought to refer to a “group of people who derive great pleasure simply being together.”  This may be true of the diners, but it does not appear to be the case with the waitering staff.  We were all dismayed by the disinterested, bolshy service.  So much so, that I have asked some of my dining companions to give me their views of the meal:

Chris says: “I am still waiting for my rice”

Jess says: “Service in terms of drinks and serving was good – all the drinks and food came out together and within a reasonable time frame. Having the manager greet people as they arrived was nice, but in terms of the waitering staff, they let themselves down. Our waitress lacked basic etiquette – she was disinterested and unfriendly from the onset and it seemed to get worse as the evening progressed: banging glasses and dishes down in front of people in a “drop and run” attitude, questions were answered abruptly and in as few words as possible, reaching across people whilst they are trying to have a conversation and forcing them to move out of the way to avoid being hit in the face and just generally acting as if serving us was asking a bit much of her. Perhaps she was having a bad night, but overall the service wasn’t very pleasant”

Claire says:  “The lamb was amazing, the service was appalling, so sadly my overall experience was average”

Victoria says: “The Calamari was good, service terrible but the vibe was good”

I suppose it is important to remember that Parea is not a fine dining restaurant, so one cannot expect too much from the service.  However, a good measure of public-spiritedness is a job requirement for waiting staff.  And the staff at Parea just did not deliver.  The service tainted our evening, leaving us feeling dissatisfied and irritable, ready to smash plates!

If you want to try Parea, it probably best to go on a weekend night.  Though I can’t vouch for the service, the ouzo will hopefully lend a beneficial rose-tint to the experience, and you may have a better time than we did.

The meal was reasonably priced, with starters, mains and a few glasses of wine costing about R 200.00 per person.  We were not inclined to leave a tip.

You can contact Parea on 00 (27) 11 788 8777.

This review has been sent to the restaurant on 9th January 2013.