Johannesburg Restaurant Week 2017 is in full swing, running until 5th November and AtholPlace Hotel and Villa are on the list of participating establishments. This year sees Restaurant Week celebrating their five year anniversary which is a triumph in itself , as is the inventive menu created by Executive Chef, Willie Malherbe.
We caught with Malherbe and quizzed him about influences that came into play when he was conceptualising the menu.
“I’ve been fortunate that during the early part of my career I travelled extensively. Experiencing different countries, cultures and ingredients is invaluable to me when sitting down and planning a menu. You will see a lot of global influences in my cooking but the execution is with locally sourced produce wherever possible.”
Your lunch starter really showcases the best of South African produce with traditional beef biltong and locally sourced avocado but with an interesting twist in that the you have added a chilli caramel dressing. How did you come up with this combination?
“I don’t have a magic formula for coming up with flavor combinations. I’m motivated by what appeals to me and by what I’ve tasted, for example at food markets or from street vendors.
Also now that we are all so interconnected and live in in one global village reading and researching on-line can ignite one’s imagination. With this specific starter we were looking for something with a South African influence and the chilli caramel dressing was bought in to offset the saltiness of the biltong. The contrast really works well and I must say it is delicious.”
There are some very interesting ingredients included on the Restaurant Week menu – take us through what KIMCHI and CHIPOTLE are?
“Kimchi – is basically salted and fermented cabbage combined with various ingredients such as chilli powder, garlic and ginger. Its prominent in Korean cuisine and adds great depth of flavor and funk to dishes.
Chipotle – Is one of my favorite ingredients at the moment and is primarily used in Mexican cuisine. It’s a smoked-dried jalapeño and can be quite spicy so use it moderately if you’re not used to spicy food. It lends a lovely smokey kick to food.”
Are guests looking to experience new and exciting tastes?
“Yes I believe so . I find Johannesburg’s food scene really exciting at the moment with some great chefs creating amazing food. This challenges diners to experiment and in turn this pushes chefs to be more creative.”
Layering of flavours is a theme on your menu – how do you build the taste portfolio of a dish – talk us through the roasted kingklip on the dinner menu.
“Experimenting, tasting and discussing amongst the kitchen team would probably be the best answer. For the fish dish we were looking for something light with bold fresh flavors. We had the notion of infusing the coconut milk with lemongrass, lime leaf, garlic, ginger, chilli etc and then baking/roasting the Kingklip in the broth…almost like a green curry but using different cooking techniques.”
The greens and garlic soup with kimchi sounds like a very healthy option…what green vegetable will you be using and will you concentrate on local and seasonal availability?
“We select local and seasonal ingredients wherever possible. For the soup we use a combination of kale, spinach, courgettes, herbs and some asparagus. The garlic is slow roasted whole and lends a subtle garlic flavor to the soup.”
Everyone loves dessert … both sweet options look complex yet refreshing. Do you have a sweet tooth? Talk us through some of the key skills required as a pastry chef or pâtissier?
“Yes I probably have a sweet tooth. But then again I like to eat anything as long as it tastes good! I would not say that the desserts are complex ,but rather focused on flavor and a fun way to end the evening with something sweet. A pastry chef is a VERY important part of any kitchen team, they need to be passionate about their craft as well as possessing a lot of patience and precision…They are like the brain surgeons of the team.”
Nothing complements a beautifully designed menu like a special glass of wine. What would you suggest drinking with the kingklip and the pork. Both express many flavors so the wine selection needs to be spot on.
“Wine is a very personal thing…it’s like whisky. Some whisky drinkers LOVE peaty malts and others don’t. If I had to recommend something I would suggest a bottle of Lismore Age of Grace Viognier with the kingklip and with the pork…I would select a bottle (or two) of Creation Pinot Noir seeing that it’s a lunch dish.”