A taxing few days’ Oriental dining were accompanied by some Sauvignon Blanc wines, and I am happy to report that I appear to have lived to tell the tale. Like the culinary offerings of the East, Sauvignon Blanc is never-ever going to be truly great, but as the dining sessions showed, it is a wine that does provide fleeting, brisk sustenance of the vinous kind.
The first venue was Pon’s Asian Kitchen in the Gardens. Various sources whisper the succinct name in revered tones, yet until March this year I had yet to ascend to partaking in the lofty culinary heights Pon’s is said to provide.
Like many of these places, the entrance is underwhelming. A cavernous arena with scattered tables, a bar area and a couple of tattooed Caucasian females handing out worn red menus. What happened to geisha’s, kimonos and opium pipes?
In any event, unassuming places sometimes get the food right as that is of greater concern than ambiance, atmosphere or aesthetics.
I ordered a plate of mixed Asian starters for diversity and to get a hang of the joint. And a bottle of Eikendal Sauvignon Blanc 2014, nicely chilled.
The mixed starter plate took about 10 seconds to arrive and contained chicken and beef satay, fried calamari, spring rolls and prawn toast. According to the menu, that is. The display was as confusing and blurred as a Steve Hofmeyr political debate, just messier. A few flat things on sticks, a couple of doughy tubes, strange squares and flat fishy things. In the middle of the plate sat a bowl bearing sauce of dubious texture, incomprehensible aroma and odious colour. It remained untouched.
The flat fishy things were the best and turned out to be calamari, calamari being the one foodstuff not even a rip-off Asian joint can mess up. The doughy tubes, aka Spring Rolls, were crunchy to the bite, but once bitten, twice shy as the interior revealed stringy old roots and bits of flesh that could have been chicken. As tasteless as a BBC executive on an anti-Jeremy Clarkson Crusade.
But the Eikendal Sauvignon Blanc. What joy! What fresh, life-affirming fruitiness with a layer of wet stone and cut grass. On the one hand, I am glad this wine does not portray the sabre-like acidity of most Sauvignon Blancs, but on the other hand more acid would have killed any potential bacterial remnants that had just been digested.
Sucker for punishment, a fried beef with black-bean sauce was ordered along with some Peking duck. The beef was surprisingly tender, probably pummelled to softness by a 10 year old illegal child-labourer, but the black bean sauce was insipid and bland as recycled mouthwash.
The duck provided some satisfying crispness until the gelatinous yellow fat spread a murky, stale flavour throughout the palate which not even the excellent Eikendal Sauvignon Blanc could save.
Once a Pon a time this joint may have been passable, but it’s time to call immigration to check the work permits.
A few nights later it was the East – again – and Sauvignon Blanc – again. This time, Kyoto Garden Sushi, a Japanese inspired place I had some joy at, but in days before that corner of Tamboerskloof became the happy hunting ground of One Direction music, craft beer and bearded hipsters and their mates.
Kyoto was busier than I remembered it. But would it still be good? As Yogi Berra once said of a New York Eatery: “Ever since that place became so popular no-one goes there anymore.”
It is good. It is very, very good. Bowls of noodles, thick and creamy, float in a dense broth bearing clams or duck. The flavours and textures are intense, and the joy of sucking one of those worm-like noodles and feeling it slide into the mouth puts me in the mood for some Pet Shop Boys music. And then, with the noodles fellated, take the bowl and drink the remaining broth, thirstily.
This time the Sauvignon Blanc was Black Oyster Catcher. It was sharper, grippier than the Eikendal. Salty notes of kelp and clam shell, with a solid hit of fresh white asparagus and a clean, steely finish. Bottles were drunk.
Noodles were followed with sushi, fluffy hand-made morsels of rice topped with tuna and salmon and some white fish. Tuna sashimi so fresh the silky, wild fish-blood is to be tasted and relished.
And the previous week’s kamikaze experience became a distant memory. As the sun sets on one, it rises on the other… ah-so.
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