Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Eating at Keenwa

The restaurant is lovely at night with pale blue walls and a couple which are chocolate brown, but with candlelight on the tables it has a very romantic atmosphere and all the customers, us included, were having a lot of fun.


Talk about eating outside of our experience! We had no idea what to expect when we were invited to try this Peruvian restaurant at 50 Waterkant Street in town. Lynne has cooked Quinoa once and obviously did not get it right, because we really didn’t like the rather crunchy grain that resulted. Now we know how, we can try again. What do we know about this country on the other side of South America? That it has a huge range of climates (23 of the worlds 24) and topography which starts at the sea, crosses a dry desert and ends in the Andes, an ancient history of Mayan culture. We did know that many of the foods we love to eat, like potatoes, sweet corn, peppers, avocado and squash originate there. We had been told by someone that this is not authentic Peruvian food but the owner German de la Melena, assured us that it is. It is not haut cuisine, just humble food which the locals love to eat out and at home. He has a couple of recipes his mum makes and they were delicious. This charming man is a widely travelled international model who lived in Europe for several years before settling in what he calls Paradise - Cape Town. (We agree.) His chef Fabricio Durand is from Cuzco in Peru and he certainly can cook. We started with two Pisco sours – Pisco is their local firewater made from grapes and German imports it for his restaurant. We absolutely loved these, enough to try to make a local version the next evening at home, but without the Pisco. They are expensive as cocktails go at R50 each, but are really worth trying, and we are not normally cocktail drinkers.
Not knowing what food to order, we placed ourselves completely in German’s hands and said “bring us what you think we should try”. And boy, did they! We had six starters and five main courses before we admitted defeat at the final fall with one dessert. Luckily these were small portions of the food and we shared them all.
The first dish was a fire seared piece of fillet on a skewer, tender and full of flavour, served with boiled new potatoes, a corn and pepper salsa and a creamy spicy sauce – worth returning for, all on it’s own.
Then a platter with four different starters: a cubed tuna ceviche, a Tiradito sliced fish in lime juice topped with crisp deep fried sweet potato chips; quinoa topped with cheese and a salad; sweet potato and baby corn salad.
Then a Trio de Causas (three salads on one platter) consisting of beetroot & tomato; tuna and egg in a spinach sauce; and chicken mayonnaise with turmeric. Most of these dishes were lovely and fresh covered in shredded vegetable and sweet potato and there are good vegetarian options. Nothing is searingly hot.
Our main courses were mashed potato with limes and avocado, shredded chicken and mayonnaise, Sliced rare beef with a gooseberry sauce;
rather dry ostrich fillets with fried banana,
huge unpeeled prawns on potato & butternut mash

and a rather strange speciality: a Chinese stir fry with beef in soy accompanied by chips and rice!
 We were told this is what the locals like to eat as there is a strong background of Asian food from its large Asian population – ergo Nobuyuki 'Nobu' Matsuhisa and their former President, Mr Fujimori.German twisted our arm with his favourite dessert and it was wonderful. Crisp yeast batter fritters,deep fried containing pieces of sweet potato and butternut, accompanied by a really dark delicious cane sugar syrup. You are not allowed to use cutlery, you push the crisp batter down into the syrup and then eat messily with your fingers.

We must mention our very special waiter, Cristian Patarroyo Buitrago from Colombia who is here for a short stay after university, where he graduated as a chemical engineer. He was absolutely wonderful, helpful and great entertainment.

Go, try them.

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