Review: Reuben Invites

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Reuben-Riffel-Invites-Reuben-and-friendsIn a series of elegant evenings with exquisite food, Reuben Riffel ­ head chef of the eponymous restaurant at the One & Only Hotel and one of South Africa’s top celebrity chefs – is inviting top chefs from around Cape Town to collaborate in making a memorable meal. A simple plan that is guaranteed to produce delectable results.

Last night, Riffel’s guest was longtime executive chef Richard Carstens from renowned Tokara Restaurant in Stellenbosch. As canapés were quietly savoured by the 50 or so participants, Riffel and Carstens took time to dip into their evolution as chefs. It turns out that Richard Carstens was the first person to get Riffel to step into the kitchen after years as a waiter. The thought that such talent could have languished, unknown to the world, was chilling.

They also shared the thought process behind the meal we were about to be served. The ideas had flowed back and forth between the chefs until finally an Asian theme was settled upon, with a menu featuring dishes plucked from their long careers as chefs. Each dish was then worked on, being broken down and rebuilt and tweaked into shape until it achieved the required standard of excellence. Then wines had to be paired to each dish, with one anecdote revealing that Carstens’ attention to detail drove him to produce four fractionally different versions of the same recipe just to ensure that the pairing was perfect.

Needless to say, anticipation was sky high by this time. We had already been teased by canapés that included oysters with pineapple sorbet and chopped fennel – a bizarre combination that created a sweet sharp salty harmony that once tried was never to be forgotten.

As the four courses were paraded out to the individual tables, a treat to all the senses was revealed, a sonnet of textures served in perfect portions. The starter, Paternoster Cob with sushi rice (paired with Tokara Directors Reserve White 2012) was a gentle introduction to the stomach with a rounded sweetness from the roast lemon puree kicking the taste buds into action. The intermediate Broccoli with Gruyere Fondue (paired with Tokara Reserve Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2013) was well­balanced with yoghurt but it was the Teriyake brown butter that had diners reaching for more bread rolls to soak up the sauce.

The jolt to the system was the main course, a Braised Beef Cheek with Pot au Feu vegetables, Asian spiced jus and English mustard chantilly (paired with Tokara Reserve Syrah 2010). It was beautiful; a rich, slow­cooked dish that seduced the tastebuds. Yet it brought a new tone to a meal that had otherwise been a subtle, light sporting duel that delighted the mouth. This was a brawl, filled with passion and loud flavours.

The finale was Poached Pear with Ginger Mousse (paired with Tokara Kika 2013). I dreaded the mousse fearing it would overwhelm the rest of the dish, but its understated flavour heightened the pear and the sesame cake. What didn’t work for me was the sake yuzu sorbet, the cutting taste of which drowned out any other flavour, including the white chocolate.

Reuben’s Invites is a night out with a difference. Although drinks are pricey at this top end venue (R 75 to R 195 for a glass of the paired wine) the basic price of R 345 per person is pretty good value for money: pre-dinner wine, mouth watering canapés, innovative food, and an insight into the creation process from, as it were, the horse’s mouth.

Samantha Orange

WhatsoninCapeTown attended Reuben Invites on 31 July 2014. The series continues as a monthly event at Reuben’s at the One & Only Hotel. Rates are R 345 per person (incl. 4­course dinner, pre­dinner wine-tasting and canapés). Drinks, including paired wine, are extra.

To book, call 021 431 4511 or email restaurant.reservations@oneandonlycapetown.com

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