I had the pleasure of being asked to review Umi restaurant in Camps bay last night, it was an evening of some very interesting surprises indeed. Although none of them as much of a surprise as the waiter got when he only realised at the end of the evening that we were there to review restaurant. I was very happy about that though because it meant that we had the chance to experience Umi as a normal customer rather than a special guest. That said, our waiter, Lucky, made us feel like special guests from the start.
The first thing that really impressed me was the view, although that is not something that the Kove Collection group can really take the credit for, it was however their choice to use such a prime location. On the other hand they can be given credit for the view inside. Umi’s decor is friendly, funky and adds to the creation of an overall chilled out ambiance. Even the bathrooms are worth writing about. Seldom have I been somewhere that the ambiance continues into the bathroom but it does here; the decor, the lighting, the music, and clean enough that you could have eaten in there. I wouldn’t, but you could, back to the table for me.
Looking through the menu there was certainly a good variety of options to cater for different tastes. I couldn’t help but notice a starter that I could only describe as bizarre.
Salmon Sashimi Tacos with Charred Tomato Salsa. I had to try this but didn’t expect it to work, thankfully to my surprise it was really tasty. The added coriander, chives and chili gave a burst of flavor and great kick for spicy food lovers.
My wife, the food photographer, went for the safer option of Lobster Rice Paper Rolls. It was a generous sized portion for a starter, so I thought it only gentlemanly of me to help her out with it.
From their “Something Crunchy” option my wife took the crayfish tempura. If I am completely honest it was okay but not something I would drive all the way back there for. The Teriyaki Fillet on the other hand was a completely different story. I normally stick to a hard and fast rule, eat fish in a fish restaurant (and only near the coast), eat steak in a steak house and eat Asian food in a place that at least 5 friends have previously eaten at and not got sick. So when I saw steak on the menu for a restaurant that is fast becoming well respected for its sushi and seafood, I was dubious about trying it. However I was there to put the Umi chefs to the test so I went for the underdog. All I can say is, oh my word, whoop flipperty wooh, where have you been all my life? That goes down as one of the best steaks I’ve had and if I wasn’t there to try out some of the other item from the menu that I would have order another two portions and taken a third home with me. Add to that the combination of Asparagus, Shimeji Mushrooms and Yuzu Truffle. It was wow, wow and wow again. Then let me give you a personal tip (order the Truffle infused Pak Choi side dish) Pak Choi is a from the cabbage family and taste like a mix of spinach and cabbage. Take a tender slither of the steak and wrap it up in the pak choi – delicious!
That dish was amazing, incredibly tasty and yet healthy at the same time. That my friends I will be driving back again to the other side of Cape Town for.
On to the sushi menu next, you really can’t go wrong with any of their sushi, and one of the few places that I have seen Eel on the menu. We decided to compare apples with apples, or more to the point prawn fashion sandwiches with prawn fashion sandwiches. It’s great to come across a sushi place that gets back to the heart of what sushi is meant for; bite sized food; emphasis on bite sized. Tasty little bundles that I can fit into my mouth in one go without making an utter pig of myself. Yet still enough portions to feel like I am getting what I am paying for. Note to some of the other sushi restaurants, we want smaller portions and more of them.
OK, just about enough space left for dessert, my wife went for the sorbets, what can I say, sorbet is sorbet. I on the other hand love my cheesecake, and is always my first choice on any dessert menu.
When a cheesecake lover sees words like Marble Yuzu Cheesecake then nothing else stands a chance. My wife on the other hand doesn’t like cheesecake at all, it’s the last thing she would choose, in fact if there was only cheesecake on a menu she would rather go without dessert. So why she felt she had to try my cheesecake I have no idea!!! And why she didn’t stop trying it was even more perplexing. I loved the piece I had, and I will be going back for my own one next time. This time however, I made do with the sorbet.
There’s one of two ways to finish an evening off like this. A shot of whisky or a coffee. I guess the Irish got it right with the best of both worlds. Now call me a wimp (I heard that) but I am just not a whisky drinker, I am on the other hand a coffee snob. Had I been a whisky drinker I think I would have stayed the night in Umi’s new whisky lounge which just opened this month.
One is completely spoiled for choice and the idea of sitting in that lounge sipping whisky and smoking cigars was almost enough to turn me into a whisky drinker. Whatever your brand they must have it there, and for those with really expensive tastes, there are some really expensive whisky. The star of the show is the Johnnie Walker King George V edition. As I tweeted Jeremy Clarkson “A start in an expensively price jar”.
Now back to the coffee, as mentioned I am a coffee snob. The problem with being a coffee snob is that there are few places that one can actually enjoy coffee; and the majority of restaurants, including a few of Cape Town’s top restaurants are a place that I can enjoy a good coffee. In fact about a year ago I took our office staff on a trek across Cape Town over a 3 month period with one of South Africa’s top Barista’s Mikhael Bou Rjeily (owner of Mischu and Coffee Initiative and a well respected Barista trainer). We went on the hunt for Cape Towns best coffee gems, and there were only a few that really impressed us. So when I say I am a coffee snob you must know I really am a coffee snob and I had no expectations of getting a good cappuccino to finish of a delightful evening whatsoever.
Dear Umi, thank you for completely surpassing my expectations. Yes folks, it really did taste as good as it looks.