By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 19 june 2019)
It was an evening billed as ‘Eat Art’ at Radisson Blu Hotel, featuring the artworks of Rosemary Karuga, Sane Wadu and Charles Sekano.
But the radiant artist of the night was the Hotel’s Executive Chef Wissem Abdellatif. He’s the one, together with his army of kitchen staff, who cooked for guests specially invited by Circle Art and the Hotel to enjoy a sumptuous five-course meal complete with a different wine served with every course.
Even the grand finale of the night, a surprise dessert, choreographed and performed by Wissem and Sane Wadu accompanied by several of the swift-footed kitchen crew, was paired with a first-class South African wine provided by Viva Global Ltd.
Being a teetotaler, I couldn’t say whether the pairing was perfect. But as I sat with two wine connoisseurs, I was assured that all the wines, be they white, red or rose were outstanding, having come from one of the most exclusive wineries, Boschendal, situated just near Cape Town.
But even though I didn’t imbibe the wine, I delighted in the attentive service provided as the staff played an integral role in the evening’s performance. So did Chef Wissem who came around often to see if we were enjoying the dishes he’d especially prepared for the night. Those included the Mombasa red snapper, glazed duck breast, Medallion of lobster tail, Molo lamb ‘coated in 100% dark chocolate, cashew nut and chili essence’ and ‘21-day aged Josper fired beef fillet’!
The menu itself was a feast to read as Chef Wissem was confident enough in his culinary skills to disclose key ingredients used in the preparation of the meat in every course. He was also mindful of the vegetarians who’d come to dine since he had alternative dishes for every course which were just as exquisitely presented and delicious as the carnivores’.
But again, it was the presentation as much as the amazing food that troops from the kitchen brought in timely style that kept every table in the Chophouse dining room in constant awe.
Honestly, each dish was dazzling. For instance, the beetroot risotto that was made to gracefully encircle the glazed duck breast was sprinkled with green raw mango spaghetti (of all things!). Then the vinaigrette dressing was laced with sake, that potent Japanese liqueur sure to knock you off your feet but for its being diluted by ‘black ink’. And even the gelato (Italian ice cream) was spiked with tequila. But again, Chef Wissem was mindful of the teetotalers who didn’t want to get tipsy. He had a separate gelato and different dressing for those who preferred no alcohol.
In any case, no spirit or hard drink was meant to deflect attention from the wines which the waiters regularly served together with elegant glass goblets which were consistently filled and topped up.
But while we were all literally eating our art, there were paintings on hand strategically placed just behind the serving area and ‘stage’ where Chef Wissem and Sane were getting set to perform the grand finale of the night. Everyone had an opportunity to make the rounds in the dining room to see Rosemary’s lovely paper collages as well as Sane’s and Sekano’s portraits of everyday rural life. But frankly each table was reserved so we needed time to find our prescribed seats, all of which were extremely cozy, comfortable and compatible with a leisurely night out.
For me, the most memorable serving (practically tied with the lobster tail and red snapper) was the Molo lamb unbelievably coated in dark chocolate which had been blended with chili essence and cashew chips. Chef Wissem passed our table just as the lamb was being served and we asked him what to expect? He told us, “First the chocolate will melt and then you will feel the heat come after that.” And he was correct. Initially, the hot chili was undetected but after a few moments, wham! The kick hit the back of your throat. It wasn’t painful by any means, just startling and enhancing the memory of the evening.
But without doubt, it was Wissem’s and Sane’s improvised performance as they dashed up and down a long serving table that capped off the night with a super-sweet spectacle. Everything from chocolate sauce and raspberry jam to macaroon cakes and chocolate mousse got splashed and swirled around that long table as the guests gawked, amazed that they were meant to now eat this masterful work of food art.