My aunt used to say that eating too much is a sin and in that case I committed a great sin on Friday afternoon, after I had a marathon food experience at Cape Town's newest food joint, Charango Peruvian Grill and Bar.
I call it a marathon because I generally do not eat a lot and when I do, my "food killer" sister would cheer "you are growing" with so much glee.
The weather gods had also favoured the Mother City as the day was bright and sunny, which already set a positive mood and eagerness to indulge in fine cuisine, cocktails and wine.
I was fortunate to have a partner joining me, because I find it awkward to sit alone at a restaurant and munch away. When we walked in, we were amazed by the simple yet sophisticated and modern set up before us. The restaurant is dressed in a classic design with raw concrete, mosaic flooring, pendant lighting and colourful South African contemporary art adding the final touches. With the music playing in the background, the place oozed of nothing but great ambiance.
Charango is a concept borne from a love of travel and a love of food. The menu is dedicated to Peruvian-Japanese fusion and is designed for sharing, with most dishes served as finger food, in small dishes, which can only be described as Peruvian tapas.
Overseen by talented head chef Kieran Whyte, Charango serves an innovative menu focusing on textures and depth of flavour, incorporating native vegetables, fruit and fish with the aim of encouraging diners to discover interesting new taste combinations.
The moment we arrived, we were greeted with smiles and ushered to our table, which was in the corner. A corner is like the top of the mountain, you get the overall view of the place. We sat and immediately our friendly waiter gave us our menus and explained to us (in a French accent) what we could expect on the various menus - the Para Pica, Ceviche & Tiraditos, main course, dessert all the way to cocktails and wines. We waited about 15 minutes in between the meals with the waiter checking up on us to make sure our needs were met almost immediately.
We were presented with a full table of a Para Pica (while you wait), followed by another full table of starters, then the mains and dessert. My favourites were the Charango House Ceviche which contains fish, butternut, corn, chilli, coriander, aji limo leche de tigre (citrus based marinade), then the Dirt rubbed tuna taco, pork taco and the BBQ pork belly which even my partner couldn’t stop savouring.
Unfortunately my partner did not have the pleasure of tasting the mouth-watering toasted quinoa crème dessert which, to be honest, when I saw it on the menu, got the red card as I am not a fan of warm banana or any warm fruit for that matter. However, the burnt banana turned out to be the best taste when accompanied by the rum butterscotch sauce. It became what I’d call an unexpected mouth orgasm.
We ordered apple, ginger & ginseng ice tea virgin cocktails at first, the with flavours completely complimenting each other and resulting in me pleading for round two. I eventually crawled back into my comfort zone as I ordered my favourite glass of wine, a chardonnay with a hint of lemonade, to complete the taste experience. I set in motion my persuasion ability and convinced my partner (who doesn’t drink) to at least taste the awesomeness my mouth was experiencing and even though she entertained me for a few seconds, she settled on her virgin cocktail and appletizer.
The experience was topped off by a gift of a bottle of wine that I took home with me.
Charango was indeed an experience, one that can be shared with friends and family. The restaurant was really welcoming, with the staff really knowledgeable and obviously that is very helpful to someone who doesn't really know everything that is on the menu.
As for the food, it was well served and prepared but because we were trying new dishes we were slightly hesitant to let our palates really explore the menu. Charango, though, also has vegetarian dishes, so no one is left uncatered for.
Because we had that kind of experience we will be sure to go back and have our palates explore the menu more.
Charango is located in a buzzing Bree Street therefore you are sure to find it exhilarating.
Lunch is served between 12:00 - 15:00, dinner from 18:00 - 21:30, and the bar operates from 12:00 till late.
To book at Charango you can call (021) 422 0757.