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.

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Roots Restaurant at Forum Homini, Cradle of Humankind – Restaurant Review – 4th November 2012

With summer has come longer days, hotter sun and better reasons to drive off into the countryside for leisurely lunches.  Although country restaurants in Gauteng are a-dime-a-dozen, I feel that top class spots, serving fine cuisine, are few and far between.  I had eaten at Roots numerous times, and it was high time to go and get reacquainted with this spectacular place.

Sprawling sedately alongside a large lake, Roots sits at the epicentre of Forum Homini, a boutique hotel which embraces the remarkable heritage of the Cradle of Humankind.  A subtle structure with grassed rooftops, Forum Homini blends into its natural surroundings.  Warm-hued woods pick out gorgeous vistas across the lake, and vast glass doors circulate light and veld-scented breeze.  Roots exudes understated chic; luxurious materials, simple cutlery and fine-cut glassware lend to the feel of country oasis.  Happily seated at one of the prime tables on the wooden deck, overlooking the glittering lake, we ordered G & T’s and got down to the menu.

Roots offers a uniform tasting menu which changes daily, depending on seasonality and ingredients.  They are very accommodating of dietary requirements and preferences, which will be noted when you book.  Sunday lunch is generally 6 courses.  The restaurant boasts a well-stocked cellar and there is the option of having “wine teasers” with your meal.  This is really worthwhile, giving one the chance to have a specially selected wine with each course.

We started off with roast pear and chestnut soup, prawn toast, orange puree and cauliflower.  It was cleverly presented, with all the components beautifully arranged in a large bowl, the soup poured over these at the table.  The dish was paired with a Weltevrede “Vanilla” Chardonnay, 2011.  I was quite taken with this wine – it had a rich, vanilla taste which complemented the fruity undertones of the soup.  The second course was roast monkfish and octopus, served with pea and mint, grilled cucumber, braised fennel, broad beans, liquorice and lime confit.  This was paired with a Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer 2011 and was a light and appetising course.

Roast monkfish and octopus, served with pea and mint, grilled cucumber, braised fennel, broad beans, liquorice and lime confit

One of my favourite dishes was up next: A medley of quail, crayfish and pork belly with squid-ink jellies, verjus and roast parsnip, served in a smoked tomato and prawn broth.  The gamey-salty quail, sweet, tender crayfish and soft, buttery pork belly made for a luxurious combination.  The dish was gorgeous, a tantalising tease for the senses.  The accompaniments brought the individual elements of the dish together.  Squid-ink jellies were a particular touch of genius – black cubes adding colour and texture, their unique flavour serving to offset the richness of the other components.  With the quail we enjoyed a Thunderchild Red Blend, 2008.  Many probably haven’t heard of it – a well-made wine with a good cause.  Originating from the Robertson region, Thunderchild is the product of a community project established to raise funds for a local orphanage.  These orphans are the “Thunderchildren”, many of whom come from stormy backgrounds.

The ultimate was the meat course: Duo of springbok with red cabbage puree, capers and anchovy, parsley potato and mushroom mille-feuille and sauce charcuterie.  This dish was exquisite in every way, beautifully presented and utterly mouth-watering.  The springbok was perfectly pink and juicy, with the tastiest crust of capers and anchovy.  Vegetable components were prepared with skill, the flavour balance wonderful.  Topping off this succulence was a heavenly sauce – rich, meaty and with a real depth of flavour.  This is game at its best, a brilliant combination.

Duo of springbok with red cabbage puree, capers and anchovy, parsley potato and mushroom mille-feuille and sauce charcuterie.

The main course was proceeded by a tasting of goats cheese, served on brioche rounds with salted caramel, grapes and rose.  Salted caramel is high-fashion food at the moment, and it was interesting to taste it with cheese.  I found the combination a bit sweet but my fellow diner thought it was delicious.  The cheese was expertly paired with a De Krans Cape Ruby Port, the sweetness of the port balancing out the caramel and adding another dimension to the dish.  Desert was a Roots Chocolate Plate consisting of chocolate delice, white chocolate sorbet, mint, passion fruit, coffee, pomegranate and brandy snaps.  Once again, the presentation was immaculate and the dish a success, the brandy snaps a welcome textural contrast from the softer chocolate components.

The service at Roots was generally good.  Staff were attentive and accommodating, the wine stewards particularly interesting and knowledgeable.  I was a bit disappointed that some of the dishes were not explained to us as they were served – always preferable when there are several, artful components to any given course.

There are few things more pleasant than enjoying a good meal, delicious wine and great company.  Add to this fantastic, hot weather and a vista of raw, African veld.  One can almost see the heat swirling outside, yet Roots is cool, comfortable and inviting.  This is a most sublime environment in which to savour some wonders of country cuisine just outside Johannesburg.

2 aperitifs, 2 tasting menus, 2 wine teasers, 2 glasses of wine and 1 espresso came to R 1150.00 including tip.

You can contact Roots on +27 (0)11 668 7000.

This review was sent to the restaurant on 28th November 2012.

Coobs, Parkhurst – Restaurant Review – 18th November 2012

“‘It is a triumph,’ said Mr. Banks, laying his knife down for a moment. He had eaten attentively. It was rich; it was tender. It was perfectly cooked.” – Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse.

Another Sunday, another opportunity to try one of the new restaurants in Parkhurst.  This time we opted for Coobs, located in the new centre towards the end of 4th Avenue.

The interior of Coobs is double-volume, face brick, light and airy with bright prints giving a splash of colour. The fittings, tables and chairs are contemporary and sophisticated yet create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere.  The outside area is also fabulous, offering any combination of sunshine and shade one might desire.  It was buzzing when we arrived and we were lucky to get a great table on the terrace.

The wine list at Coobs is exciting and changes regularly.  Keep your eyes open for the fine European wines imported and distributed by Great Domaines, these are trés elegants and refined.  They also have a fantastic list of lesser-known South African wines which are well worth a try.

The menu, simply printed on bond paper and bound between two wooden slats, is relatively short but offers a beautifully balanced array of dishes.  Everything was tempting, with well-chosen starters, interesting salads, some mouth-watering pasta, a good assortment of mains and unusual desserts.  The idea here is to let the ingredients, which are exquisite, locally sourced and of finest quality, speak for themselves.  Owner and chef, James Diack, has a farm in the Magaliesberg from which some of the ingredients are sourced.  Most notable is the wild boar which is rarely seen on South African menus and was a joy to behold on this one.  It is such a pleasure to know where one’s food is coming from, to be able to trace it to its roots and that Coobs cares about this so deeply.

For starters, two of us ordered the goats cheese and confit tomato tartlet with micro-basil salad.  The dish consists of three, crisp sheets of phylo pastry (rather than more conventional short-crust pastry), filled with salty-soft creamy goatsmilk cheese and sweet, punchy cherry tomatoes.  It was simple and beautifully presented, with the ingredients taking centre stage.  Another in our party had the steamed asparagus served with soft poached egg, black pepper and parmesan shavings.  This classic French combination is always a winner, and the asparagus at Coobs was utterly delicious.  Vivid-green, just the right amount of crunch, and really flavoursome, with the perfectly soft, yellow poached egg and the salty parmesan, this dish was a hit.

Goats cheese and confit tomato tartlet with micro-basil salad

For mains, the boys couldn’t resist millerighe with slow-braised wild boar ragu (think decadent ‘spag bol’) straight from the farm.  Millerighe is like an extra-large penne.  This dish was out of this world.  The boar had been slow-cooked, the meat rich, dark, soft and falling apart.  It was wonderfully flavourful, and delicious with the pasta – which was cooked perfectly aldente.  I had the linguine with scallops, spring onion, chilli and garlic for my main course.  This is an inspired lunch dish.  Like the rest of the Coobs food, it was simple and exquisite.  Scallops perfectly cooked, their delicate, mild-sweet flavour paired with just the right amount of chilli and spring onion.  The linguine was also prepared impeccably.  Really, my only criticism is that I would have loved a second helping!

Millerighe with slow-braised wild boar ragu

For pudding, the boys shared Churros covered in a cinnamon icing-sugar served with hot-chocolate dipping sauce.  Churros, sometimes referred to as “Spanish Doughnuts” are slim, deep fried choux pastry snacks.  Coobs churros were piping hot and wonderfully crispy, the pastry light and fluffy inside.  The cinnamon sprinkle and chocolate sauce brought the dish together – it was quite scrumptious.  I had the Almond crusted Japanese cheesecake with pistachio ice-cream and orange blossom crème.  I thought it was a triumph.  Not a conventional cheesecake, this version was more like a featherlight, orangey sponge with a subtle almond crisp.  The pistachio ice-cream was a superb accompaniment, and different sprinkles added texture to the dish.  It was rounded off beautifully with the orange blossom crème.

We were all very impressed by the service at Coobs.  The manageress was so graceful and accommodating – nothing was too much trouble.  Our comfort was obviously paramount – and we felt really well taken care of.  The waiters were pleasant, good humoured and engaging.  They also had an extensive knowledge of the menu and the ingredients, an accomplishment for a new restaurant.  This kind of service, which has real substance and grace, is something which South Africa sometimes lacks, and I raise a glass to Coobs for pulling it off.

As far as the new set of restaurants in Parkhurst go, Coobs is sure to become one of my favourites.  It’s fantastically stylish, yet easy and unassuming.  The emphasis on fresh, local produce and environmental sustainability is refreshing.  It is a welcome sign of the burgeoning interest in the source of the food we eat, and its journey from pasture to plate.

3 starters, 3 mains, 3 desserts and 2 coffees came to R 620.00 including tip.

You can contact Coobs on + (27) 082 057 0328 (Coobs contact number).

This review was sent to the restaurant on 20th November 2012.

Rocket, Parkhurst – Restaurant Review – 11th November 2012

At the moment 4th Avenue, Parkhurst, is booming with life.  Rocket touched-down a few weeks ago, in that prime spot which played host to “The Attic” for several years.  We decided to try it out for Sunday lunch, hoping for more of a starburst than a damp squib.

Rocket is the second in a restaurant chain, the first being in Rivonia.  It is sharply decorated, simple and light inside, with a large outside terrace.  The pleather chairs and plastic tablecloths are not all that chic, but I suppose they lend themselves to frequent use.  And frequently used they certainly will be, Rocket was nearly full when we arrived, really buzzing with life and happiness on a hot Sunday afternoon.

We ordered some drinks off the short, but interesting, wine list.  Some wine options include Cederberg Bukettraube and Thelema Sutherland Pinot Noir.  There is also a nice selection of champagne and MCC, and an interesting cocktail list.  The selection of Craft Beers is particularly appealing, with the likes of Jack Black Premium Lager, Darling Slow Lager and Mitchells Milk and Honey all served on tap.  It was a sweltering afternoon, so we decided to stick to cool, refreshing beverages.  I had a glass of Villiera Tradition MCC Brut Rosé and we also really enjoyed an icy-cold bottle of Delaire Cabernet Franc Rosé, a popular favorite and with good reason.

The menu is diverse, and rather like an upmarket take on Espressos – which is directly across the road – with a range of café food and a pop of Asian for good measure.  There are some tempting starters like oysters as well as some interesting main dishes.  Expect to come across red and green curries, yummy-sounding burgers, salads, fillets and pastas.  The food focal point is definitely the gourmet pizzas – which sounded too good to pass up.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Hungry Goat pizza.  A thin and really flavorsome crust, topped with a delicious tomato base, smothered in mozzarella and topped off with goats milk cheese, chicken, grilled aubergines, sundried tomatoes, rocket (surely a requisite) and rosemary.  I think this combination really is a winner.  The saltiness of the cheese and sweet sundried tomato are a perfect match, and the addition of rosemary added depth and a meatiness to the flavor.  It was absolutely scrumptious.

The Hungry Goat

My fellow diner had the Benefica Pizza, topped with goats milk cheese, fresh, bright-green avo, sundried tomato and chorizo. I was assured that it was as delicious as mine.

The Benefica Pizza

We were both full after the pizzas, so didn’t order desert.  The desert menu features only 5 options, but I’d think that all sweet tooths will find something that they fancy.

Unfortunately, the food rather eclipsed the service.  It all started off well.  We were warmly welcomed by the manager, and luckily snagged a prime table on the terrace.  Our waiter came over with the menus in a timely fashion, but he was rather curt and not very affable in his address and we found this a bit disconcerting.  Our food and drinks arrived in good time, but again there were some rookie errors which threatened the outcome of our mission.  Knives, forks and napkins were only brought to our table after we got our pizzas, the stem of my wine glass was rather sticky and a puddle of MCC – which had been spilt on our table while it was served – was not cleaned up.

Odder still, was the way our waiter seemed to turn into an attentive little comet whilst we were eating.  Naturally, when one is engaged in conversation, eating takes longer.  Occasionally, I would feel a little “tap, tap, tap” on my arm.  Surprised, and interrupted mid-sentence, I would whip around to find “mission control” had come to check whether I had finished my food yet.  This happened 3, maybe 4, times during the meal and it was rather frustrating.  The tapping was a bit unprofessional, and I felt hassled when it came to finishing my food.  My dining companion finished his pizza before me, and his plate was whipped off the table at break-neck speed – he barely had time to put his knife and fork down.  Following this, the service took a nose-dive, to such an extent that we had to ‘self-abort’ the mission – I went inside to seek out our waiter, ask for the bill, and then again to ask him for the card machine.  Of course, Rocket is a new restaurant, and the lacklustre waitering may be due to inexperience and those teething problems which invariably crop up during the first few months – let’s hope management can bring things back into orbit.

Rocket, like most of the other restaurants in Parkhurst, seems popular and is gaining a following.  It is as though the area can sustain ever more eateries – all so ‘in demand’ that they are seldom empty.  Some are worried that the appearance of several chain restaurants will blight the area, moving away from the ideal of small, local businesses.  It is possible that the Parkhurst restaurant bubble may burst, but for the moment it has a lot to offer, with Rocket being a definite must try.  It provides another option for meeting up with friends in a jovial and relaxed atmosphere, to people-watch and enjoy a long afternoon meal or a tasty dinner before you hit the local bars.

1 glass MCC, 1 beer, 1 bottle wine and two pizzas cost R 375.00 including tip.

You can contact Rocket on +27 (0) 11 880 6102 (Rocket Parkhurst telephone number).

Sean from Rocket responded and said:

Dear Harriet,

Firstly, thank-you for allowing a restaurant to respond to a review. It is fantastic that you have created a platform where the review can be interactive.

I appreciate all the comments you have made, both positive and negative. With regards to the food, we take the utmost pride in every meal that we send out. Everything is made fresh every day, with no corner cut on any ingredients, ensuring that our quality is of the highest standard. I am very happy that this was something that you experienced.

I must however say, that good food is nothing without good service. A waiter must have just the right amount of attentiveness. Too much or too little are equally aggravating. I don’t want to use the excuse that the poor standard you experienced can be attributed to teething problems as I feel that if a shop is not ready to open then it should not open. Our waiters are trained for months before they are put on the floor, and their training is continual. The fact that you had a waiter tapping your arm during your meal is mortifying, as is the fact that after your meal his attention went to other tables. I can assure you these issues will be addressed.

Thanks again for the feedback, and I hope to see you at Rocket Parkhurst, Rocket Rivonia, or Rocket Express in Sandton sometime soon!

Kind regards

Sean

Mishmash, Greenside – Restaurant Review – 11th October 2012

Getting *Mashed* in Greenside.

The main drag of Greenside has been a preferred destination of many Joburgers seeking a good night out for any number of years.  A group of us recently went to Mishmash, a casual restaurant and bar on Gleneagles Road.  It is very happily situated next to the bottle store, and we all know what that means…..  Really well priced wine!

The restaurant itself is set a little off the road, where the Spar used to be.  You have to walk through the dingy parking lot to reach it, but it gets a whole lot more charming when you get inside.  A large, greyish, cavernous space, with long tables and simple décor, it’s like walking into a sitting-room mid cocktail party.  A bar takes prominence and there are some unusual views into the fridges and freezers.  We arrived earlyish and it was already buzzing with a pretty hip crowd; most relaxing in this warm and inviting environment – some readying themselves to prop up the bar later in the evening.

Of course, our first order of business was to get the wine flowing.  The wine list is comprehensive; it boasts all your old favourites at retail prices – a fraction of those I have seen at any other restaurant.  We had some Diemersfontein Rosé which was selling for about R50.00 per bottle, and we sampled a large range of everything else on offer in terms of wine and beer.  All set with our value drinks, we set about deciding what to eat.

The menu at Mishmash features staple, wholesome cafe fare and the promise of fresh produce.  Nothing is particularly complex, and there aren’t that many options.  They have a range of pizzas, some pastas, salads, burgers, fish ‘n’ chips and steak dishes.  Whatever you order, you will surely be able to also get your hands on the perfect wine to accompany it.

The yummy burger

The most popular order at our table was the pizza.  These are crispy-crust thin with a rich, tomato base.  Toppings vary from bacon, feta, avo and rocket to prosciutto, peppers, mushrooms and olives.  The Meat Pizza, topped with a delectable slow-cooked beef was quite a hit.  Unfortunately some of the other pizzas were rather bland.

Bacon, avo and rocket pizza

Bacon, avo and rocket pizza

The fish and chips was also a top notch dish – it was served traditional-style, wrapped in newspaper.  The batter was really crispy and thin fries well cooked.  Another friend had the fillet.  A large portion in a rich sauce, it was cooked to perfection at a scrumptious medium-rare.  We were a bit disappointed in the potato wedges, though, which were quite soggy.

Fillet and chips

The service at Mishmash was friendly and the waiters knowledgeable about the menu.  However, our food didn’t all arrive at the same time, with fillet dishes getting to the table long after all the other food got cold.  It was a pity that this wait was so lengthy, and some of us had almost finished eating before others started.  Mishmash might be very chilled, but this kind of service really puts the “lax” into relaxation.  One redeeming feature of the service was that the Chef, Sean Ackerman did the rounds of the restaurant at the end of the evening.  This often only happens in fine-dining establishments, and it was encouraging that the food at Mishmash is considered as important as the vibe and the drink – so cheap alcohol is not all it’s about.

If you’re planning a party and want a great venue, which will not break the bank and promises to deliver all the festivity and fun you anticipate, Mishmash is a great option.  It has just the right mix of understated style and party vibe.

A main course and copious amounts of wine cost us R 150.00 per person including tip – a real steal.

You can contact Mishmash on + (27) 11 026 2915

So Yum, Hyde Park – Restaurant Review – 28th September 2012

Asian food seems to be flourishing in Johannesburg at the moment – with dim-sum, sushi and noodle bars popping up everywhere.  Thus far (and fortunately) these seem to be quite diverse, with different atmospheres and varying offerings on each menu.  We went to So Yum at the Hyde Park Corner shopping centre recently with friends from Botswana – in search of an elusive Asian favourite and hoping to satisfy a craving.

So Yum is in the Hyde Park Corner shopping centre – adjacent to well-liked sushi and seafood restaurant Willoughbys.  Although a lot of effort has been made with the décor, there is still no escaping the fact that you are sitting in a mall – albeit a pretty upmarket one.  There is a large ‘inside’ section, which is further from the crowds and affords diners a little more privacy.

As one would expect, the selection of wines and other drinks at So Yum is really good.  We had a few bottles of Springfield ‘Life from Stone’ Sauvignon Blanc and some Snow Mountain Pinot Noir which really was a treat.  There is also a range of cocktails and Asian drinks like Sake.

The menu is comprehensive and really offers a good variety of interesting Asian dishes.  A wide range of enticing dim-sum includes the likes of gau (a steamed, rice pastry dumpling), gyoza (a traditional Japanese steamed dumpling with a mouth-watering meat filling) and deep fried wonton.  For mains there is a selection of Asian-inspired soups and main dishes, as well as salads and some tasty curries.  You can also order sushi, and there are some pretty good specials depending on which day of the week you decide to go.

Between the six of us at our table, we ordered a range of dishes.  For the most part we were impressed with the food.  The dish which our Botswana friends had so long been seeking, steamed buns, lived up to its expectations:  You can choose from a filling of either pork, duck or veg, slathered in a honey-barbeque sauce and steamed in fluffy white pastry – rather like white bread.  And how good are they?  Well, our friends were delighted with the results – craving sorted.   One of my real So Yum favourites is the Hong Kong Pears, a substantial dim-sum starter which is not only technically interesting but also quite delicious.  These attractive potato-based dumplings are stuffed with duck, prawn and chicken, then shaped and deep fried, into delightful golden pears.  The only starter which did not really live up to my expectations was the prawn toasts – these were dry and the portion size quite mean.  They almost seemed reconstituted, not the delicious, buttery, whole-prawn and toast which you might be expecting.

In terms of mains, there were two dishes which were definite hits.  The first was the Peking Duck served with mandarin pancakes, cucumber, carrot, spring onion and hoisin sauce.  It’s hard to get Peking Duck wrong, but this one is really a cut above many of the others.  I always feel a tinge of food-envy, even if I have ordered something equally delicious.  It comes in at R 165.00 – also making it one of the most expensive dishes on the menu.  The other favourite was the Phad Thai.  Silky, stir-fried wheat noodles with prawn, tofu, nuts, egg and bean sprouts.  This dish has hints of smokiness and sweetness which really make it a flavourful treat.  I had a Duck Ramen noodle dish – whole, roasted duck breast with Ramen noodles, bean sprouts and spring onion in a clear soup.  The dish was really tasty, but the tiny bones in the duck breast meant that I had to be careful when eating it.

We didn’t have dessert, but there are some fusion temptations on the menu.  You might enjoy the cheesecake with an Asian twist or the chocolate sesame rolls – deep-fried chocolatey deliciousness rolled in sesame seeds.  They also have a sorbet selection – great as a lighter end to the meal.

The service at So Yum has improved over the years.  Staff have always been friendly and interested, but nowadays they are much more familiar with the menu.  The food arrived quickly and was served appropriately – except for the steamed dim-sum.  And here I go again, banging on about how dim-sum must be served with the lid of the steamer left on.  Apart from that, the service was good, enhancing our experience – which is exactly what it should do.

So Yum has its plus points, and its downsides.  The food really is pretty good – and you won’t find some of the unique delicacies on the menu anywhere else.  It’s also a great place to eat before heading off to a movie or browsing the Exclusive Books sale.  But it’s not really all that festive – probably something to do with the shopping mall vibe – and it is quite expensive.  Go if you are with the in-laws and looking for a good-but-sedate Asian meal in the area.  If you are planning a rowdy evening with lots of drink and festivities it might be better to pick something in a more appropriate setting.

You can contact So Yum on + 27 (0) 11 325 5138

The review was sent to the restaurant on 31st October 2012

How to be a *WINNER* at WineX (In the social sense of the word)

Joburgers of all shapes and sizes are looking forward to WineX, taking place from 24th to 26th October 2012 at the Sandton Convention Centre.  But whether you’re a serious buyer, a casual drinker or simply going to get spotted gallivanting with the ‘it’ crowd, there are some important things about wine tasting etiquette we all should know.

Tips from insiders:

1.  Avoid wearing perfume.  It is a bit bad mannered to douse yourself in a scent so strong that nobody around you can appreciate the aroma of the wine they are tasting.

2.  Try to hold your glass by the bottom or the stem – greasy finger-marks on the bulb of the glass is not a good look.

3.  If, for whatever reason, you are planning on using a spittoon, take your time and aim carefully.  Few people can make spitting look glamorous, but it is much less so when you miss the spittoon completely and the rest of us are left with soggy biscuits.

4.  And this brings me on to food – take care of your stomach.  It’s difficult to keep track of how much one is drinking when there is so much to taste.  Don’t be ‘that person’ who is carried out by rather irritated but obliging friends.

5.  Don’t ever drink and drive.

6.  Don’t steal bottles at the end of the show.  If an exhibitor offers you an open bottle, you should take it (and make sure it has a sticker or you won’t be allowed to take it out).  Don’t go around swiping bottles off unattended tables – it just isn’t the right thing to do.

7.  Generosity of spirit is a good ally in a crowded room where people are jostling for position all around you.

A plan for the evening

To make the most of your evening(s) at WineX, having a semblance of a plan is essential.  This is especially applicable to serious tasters and buyers, though it can really help anyone who is not enamoured with large crowds and pushy people.

1.  Book your tickets from Computicket in advance.  Fail to do so, and you may have to wait in a really long and frustrating queue – not worth it in my opinion.

2.  If you can, arrive early, as the show starts.  It will be relatively empty for the first hour or so, giving you some breathing space.

3.  Use your breathing space to taste those wines which are insanely popular (Galpin Peak, Vin De Constance, Ernie Els).  This is much better done at the beginning of the evening before it fills up – later on, the crowds around these tables may be so dense that fighting through them could become an unattractive proposition.

4.  Be random, but not too random.  You may decide to try all the MCCs on offer.  This doesn’t mean you can’t try anything else, it just directs your evening as you will deliberately seek out the producers who have MCC for tasting.  You never know what other gems you might find along the way.  You may have pre-selected 20 or 30 “Must Try” wines or you might be doing whites on the first night and reds on the second.  Some of the wealthier people I know love to taste seriously and buy an enormous quantity of wine on the first night – freeing up the second for a more relaxed tasting evening with friends.  Whatever your goal – have a vague plan – even if your plan is to just arb around.

5.  Book your favourite nearby restaurant for a post-Winex dinner with your friends.  By that time you will all need some solid sustenance and Sandton has a lot to offer.  It’s essential to book – because everyone is ravenous by then.  Book for 21h00 as the show ends at that time.

6. Last, but certainly not least, call Good Fellas or other car service to pick you up.  This year WineX has teamed up with Corporate Cabs.  To book a Corporate Cab for your evening either log onto the Corporate Cabs website (www.corporatecabs.co.za) and follow the WineX link, or phone the call centre on 0800 800 800.  This is another one which you should book in advance if you can.

My Must Try list

Here is a list of the 25 wines which I am planning on tasting this year (amongst many others).  It is a balance of old favourites and wines from some lesser known estates, but I am a bit partial to chardonnay, pinot and fizz as these are my absolute favourites!  Enjoy the festivities everyone!

      Champagne and MCC

Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier NV  (Available at the Reciprocal Wines stand)

Simonsig, Simonsig Cuvée Royale 2007

Solms-Delta, Cape Jazz Shiraz N/V (Sparkling wine)

      Whites

The Bernard Series, Bernard Series Handpicked Viognier 2011

Cape Point Vineyards, Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2011

Chamonix Wine Farm, Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve 2011

Delaire Graff, Delaire Coastal Cuvée 2011 (Sauvignon Blanc)

Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2011

Ken Forrester The FMC (Chenin) 2010

Strandveld Wines, Strandveld Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Tokara, Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2011

      Rosé and Blanc de Noir

De Grendel, De Grendel Rosé 2012

Peter Falke Wines, PF Blanc de Noir 2012

      Reds

Ashbourne, Ashbourne 2007

Cape Chamonix Wine Farm, Chamonix Pinot Noir Reserve 2011

Idiom Wines, Sangiovese 2008

KWV, KWV Shiraz Reserve 2009

La Vierge, La Vierge Noir 2010

Louis Latour Valmoissine Pinot Noir 2010 (Available at the Reciprocal Wines stand)

Meinert, Meinert Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Rijk’s Private Cellar, Rijk’s Estate ‘The Master’ 2007

Southern Right, Southern Right Pinotage 2010

      Ports and Dessert Wines

Vergenoegd Wine Estate, Vergenoegd Old Cape Colony Cape Vintage Port 2005

Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance 2007

Mulderbosch, Mulderbosch Noble Late Harvest 2008