Clico Boutique Hotel – Restaurant Review – 16th February 2013

Boutique hotels and guesthouses are becoming ever more popular in Johannesburg, claiming to offer five star location, superior food and personalised service in a small, but beautiful and intimate setting.  Clico is one of the new kids on the block, and we went to try out their restaurant on Saturday night.

Clico certainly delivers on charm.  A gorgeous 1960’s Cape Dutch house in the heart of Rosebank, it’s all high ceilings, white marble floors and pops of interesting contrast and colour.  Our entrance was through the greenery of the front garden, and the views into the open house beyond were really inviting.  We were greeted with something bordering on enthusiasm – but not quite there yet – and ushered through to the small dining room (seating approximately 20 people at capacity).  Unfortunately this room rather disappointed me.  It was closed in by heavy curtains, and the televisions on the wall seemed an unnecessary eyesore – as if the room might double up as a sports bar.  I believe there is a fantastic courtyard garden outside, but we got no glimpse of that.  The soft candle light helped, and beautiful table settings with scented white lillies gave the room a romantic air.

The menu at Clico is short, and presumably the dishes are changed frequently.  The balance of meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian dishes ensures that there is something to please every type of palate.

We started off with glasses of Moreson MCC Rosé to go with our starters.  I had Mozambiquan oysters with a red onion vinaigrette.  The concentrated fresh-sea flavour that I love about oysters was there in abundance, and just a touch of sharp sauce complemented the dish very nicely indeed.  My fellow diner had the homemade butter and sage gnocchi.  This was a delightful dish.  The gnocchi were well made, light and fluffy, the butter rich and tasty.  Altogether flavoursome and generous.

For mains I ordered the T-Bone with vegetables and garlic polenta.  I am always a little hesitant about T-Bone.  It’s great in a steak house, but one needs to proceed with caution at a 5-Star establishment where there is a higher expectation of presentation and culinary execution.  My dish was as I expected but hoped against – an enormous slab of steak with barely enough space on the plate for the veggies and polenta.  I think it would have been better to prepare the steak and then remove it from the bone before serving – adding elegance and sophisticated presentation to an otherwise simple dish.  This notwithstanding, the meat was cooked perfectly, and it was very flavoursome.  My fellow diner had the duck breast.  Once again, I felt the presentation left something to be desired, requiring more finesse and technical skill.  Furthermore, the fat in the duck had not been rendered with sufficient care – making for a very fatty dish.  We had a Paul Cluver 2010 Pinot Noir with our main courses – the first time I had tried it, and it was rather good.

The pudding menu was also interesting and varied, with some creative dishes like the “chilled soufflé to share – keeping the Valentines spirit alive.”  We both opted for the chocolate fondant with crème fraiche.  The fondant was served in its ramekin, rather than turned out onto the plate.  The reason for this soon became clear.  This is one of the runniest chocolate fondants I have ever seen.  It was delicious though – not floury or eggy – just chocolatey and satisfying.

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Clico Chocolate Fondant

The service at Clico is friendly and smooth, with just one gripe.  The room is very small, and the waiters were talking to each other rather loudly – a bit distracting.  Apart from that, we felt well attended.

So, should you go and dine at Clico?  The food is good, and it will no doubt improve as the place starts to find its feet.  The same is likely true of the service.  The ambiance might be better during the day, and some access to the gardens would have added to this.  The problem is that it didn’t really have that *WOW* factor for me.  There wasn’t much history, much interest or much to make it stand out.  It was even a bit generic, almost that dime-a-dozen boutique hotel.  I’m sure there is a lot more to recommend Clico than I have mentioned in this review – these are my first impressions – and I intend to go back sometime to see if second sights change my first thoughts.

You can contact Clico on + (00) 27 11 252 3300

The review was sent to the restaurant on 19th February 2013

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Koi, Rosebank – Restaurant Review – 2nd September 2012

Asian jewel in the Rosebank Firs

The Japanese word Koi doesn’t refer only to those brightly coloured, but slightly fierce, pond fish.  It also connotes love, friendship and affection.  Koi restaurant in Rosebank is a super place to enjoy an Asian meal with friends and nurture these connections.

South Africa boasts many shopping centers which host a multitude of restaurants.  More often than not, these spaces are a bit impersonal and cold.  Koi is fortunate in its location.  The square at The Firs is bordered by several restaurants, all of which open onto a large, fountain-y quad.  Koi has an extensive outside seating area.  There are sofas for those ‘chilling’ over a drink, as well as large tables for bigger parties.  It’s good during the day, but at night the allure of soft candlelight really beckons one in.  So, Koi can be quite romantic.

A comprehensive wine list awaits the eager diner.  There is a wide range of tempting cocktails, and an ample choice of wines to satisfy every palate and budget.  You could start off with a South African MCC, or enjoy a bottle of Dom Perignon.  Some of South Africa’s finest wines feature.  Oak Valley Pinot Noir (Platter 5 Star) and the Rust en Vrede Estate Blend are both showstoppers.  A whole page of the wine list is devoted to Sake, many different varieties and some food pairings recommended.  A good selection of non-alcoholic cocktails and herbal teas awaits designated drivers and other non-consumers.  This time round, we ordered a bottle of Dombeya Chardonnay, anticipating that a woody white would go well with the seafood-based dishes we were going to order.

The dim-sum at Koi are delicious.  I went for the more calorific options: steamed spinach and cream cheese as well as a portion of steamed salmon and cream cheese topped with caviar.  I especially enjoy this luxury dish, the caviar pops in your mouth and saltiness balances the velvety creaminess from the salmon.  There are fine dim-sum combo platters, with the starter platter of six proving a hit with my fellow diner.  Tasty filling combinations like prawn, green beans and edamame as well as butternut, spinach, mushroom and pine nuts are standard Koi fare.  Furthermore, they seem amenable to adjusting platter combinations if for some reason one of the options does not appeal – a real thumbs up in terms of flexibility.  Unfortunately, I am still compelled to rant on about serving dim-sum in steamers without the lids on.  As mentioned in my YuMe review, removing the lid of the steamer causes the dim-sum to cool down quickly, getting dry and sticky – ultimately an unappealing morsel.

There is also a variety of other starters.  I had the prawn, cheese and coriander spring rolls served with a mild chilli sauce.  These are quite fabulous and the unusual combination is first-rate.  Very hot, and golden-crispy, the melted cheese and prawn contrasts perfectly in texture to the crunchy pastry.  Coriander steps-up the flavor – really worth a try.  You can also sample the likes of oysters, tempura soft shell crab and firecracker shrimp with a spicy mayo dipping sauce.

We didn’t have mains this time, preferring to stick to a selection of the super-fresh sushi and sashimi for which Koi is well known.  If you are in the market for an Asian inspired main course, though, you won’t be disappointed.  A grand choice awaits; from salads for the health conscious to noodle and other dishes like sesame-crusted, seared tuna or salmon.  I can recommend that worldwide favourite, crispy Peking duck, without hesitation.

We have never been disappointed by the sushi at Koi.  It is always fresh, cut and presented beautifully and the dishes are adventurous and exciting.  If you’re lucky, you may go on a day when line-fish, like sea-bass or butterfish, is available.  We enjoyed the new style tuna sashimi with an Asian dressing and the Koi Rock ‘n Roll.  This is a spicy tuna and salmon California roll with avo, wrapped in salmon and tuna and topped off with sesame oil and seven spice.  Sushi regulars, like nigiri, fashion sandwiches and maki are also available.

The service at Koi is pretty good.  Staff are obliging and familiar with the menu, though they sometimes get distracted which can result in incorrect plates being delivered to table.  This may stem from that feat of cognitive recall to which most waiters seem partial – remembering a complex order for a large table without writing down a thing!  There can also be confusion as to when each dish should be served – be very clear about what you want, and when you want it, in your order.

For a fantastic Asian meal, with something for everyone and in a central location, Koi is right on the money.  Large spaces, many tables, large portions, gorgeous presentation and a festive time awaits.

When it comes to the money, though, it is relatively expensive in my opinion.  1 bottle wine, 2 portions dim-sum, 1 dim-sum platter, 1 portion spring roll, 1 sashimi dish and 1 sushi dish came to R 690.00 including tip.

You can contact Koi Rosebank on + 27 (0) 11 447 2440

The review was sent to the restaurant on 16th September 2012