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  1. Expert Review

    4.0 rating based on 1 rating
    Jan 2015 · Karen Elowitt

    I had a 7pm reservation for Cube Tasting Kitchen -- a booking I had made about eight weeks before. (This...

    I had a 7pm reservation for Cube Tasting Kitchen — a booking I had made about eight weeks before. (This place is one of THE hottest restaurants in town.) So after two months of anticipation, I was pleased that the show began very quickly after I sat down.

    I say “show,” because CTK offers dinner theater of a sort. Not the kind with cabaret singers, but the kind where the entertainment is on the plate, and in the narrative that accompanies it.

    12 courses unfold over the course of four hours, each supplied with a helpful table-side description by one of the sous chefs, who do their best to enumerate each cut of meat, garnish and sauce over the din of the other diners. Portions are artfully arranged on a dizzying array of dishware – a silver goblet one time, a granite block another time, and a wooden cutting board another time.

    No single dish is particularly satisfying in itself – each offers just a bite-size tease of complementary flavors and textures. The intent is to lead you on a culinary journey that progresses down a thematic path, but also offers intermittent diversions.

    I had pre-selected the lamb — diners must choose in advance from among three proteins or vegetarian — and was impressed with the number ways they managed to prepare and present it: Cured and sliced, biltong-style;  diced; braised; etc etc. Of course lamb was not included in every course – my first dish was a potato with a fennel sauce, there was a lovely purple soup around course four, and one of the intermezzos was a Parmesan ice cream with compressed strawberries.

    The “interactive” dessert (one of three) was the coup de grace: an inventive if slightly over-the-top “forest”-themed creation, which the pastry chef assembled at our table. She started with a large smear of creamy green-tinted marshmallow and piled it with layers of chocolate “soil,” fresh berries, coffee-meringue “twigs,” edible dehydrated flowers, dark chocolate Rice Krispie treat “rocks,” a caramel chocolate “log,” dehydrated chocolate meringue “bark” chunks, lemon “dew drops,” and fresh wheatgrass clippings. She then browned the edges of the marshmallow with a hand-held blow-torch, and added a tiny cup of dry ice to provide “mist.”

    I have to admit I rolled out of CTK with a sore derriere (did I mention it’s a four-hour experience?), and wondering whether the food was totally genius or totally pretentious. I’m still not sure, but regardless, I thought about my meal long after I left – I can’t say that about most Joburg eateries. So they must be doing something right.

    The staff are genuinely friendly and passionate about their jobs, though the dining room is nothing to write home about: 15 simple white-linen-clad tables are crammed into a narrow room, with an open-plan kitchen at the far end. The walls are also stark and white, punctuated only by three giant photo prints of desert scenes. At CTK, the food, not the décor, is meant to be the focus. Priced at R700 per person, it’s not cheap, but this is creative cuisine at its finest, so it’s well worth the expense, in my opinion.

    Tips: Bookings must be made several weeks in advance, and don’t over-dress – the small dining room is not very well ventilated and can get extremely warm on a summer night. They don’t have a liquor license, but BYO alcohol is permitted, and the restaurant provides pairing suggestions in advance so you know what to bring.

  2. Expert Review

    5.0 rating based on 1 rating
    Sep 2013 · Sarah Duff

    The tiny, minimalist interior of this all-white 30-seat restaurant belies the gastronomic experience that awaits you. The Cube Tasting Kitchen...

    The tiny, minimalist interior of this all-white 30-seat restaurant belies the gastronomic experience that awaits you. The Cube Tasting Kitchen serves a 10-course set menu, with each dish a surprise and delight of deconstruction and fusion food.

    It’s all about textures, foams, airs, emulsions and soils at the Cube, where the menu, which changes every few weeks, sits firmly in the realm of playful deconstruction. Chef Dario d’Angeli brings a sense of humour and element of surprise in things like “caviar”, which looks like the real deal but is actually made out of olives, and a yoghurt “egg” – a sphere of garlicky warm yoghurt that bursts with liquid flavour into your mouth. A “rice pudding” – evocative of childhood memories – is a risotto made to look like a bowl of sweet oats, with a glazed salmon mousse masquerading as a glazed cherry. You expect to take a mouthful of honeyed oats but instead get a completely unexpected savoury taste. It’s this unexpectedness that is the highlight of this eating experience. Unusual combinations of ingredients, such as the brown bread ice cream with hazelnut shortbread and truffle-infused meringue mean that each course is made up of tastes you’re unlikely to have experienced before.

    Waiters are attentive and unobtrusive, while one of the team of chefs explains each dish in detail (you’re not given a menu at the table), so you can work out what it is you’re eating. The restaurant is unlicensed, so you need to bring your own liquor – there’s no corkage fee. Ahead of the meal, you are e-mailed pairing suggestions, so you can bring the right beer, bubbly or wine for each course, which adds to the feeling of the Cube being more like a private dinner (albeit at the home of an extremely talented chef) than a restaurant.

    My only complaint is that 10 courses with wine is a huge amount of food. Next time I’ll go better prepared by not eating anything for a day before!

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