Our first World Cup meal together was dinner on opening day, and we decided to try South African cuisine for the first time. We went to the South African restaurant in our neighborhood, Braai. A had been to their sister wine bar, Xai Xai, before, but only for drinks. We were excited to try it, especially to sample the flavors - which are a mix between indigenous cultures and influences from Portugal, France, Germany, Holland, India and Malaysia, among others, and dinner did not disappoint!
When we got there, the restaurant was packed and noisy, and there were a lot of large groups. People had clearly been partying all day for the World Cup and were ready to kick off the weekend. We started with some drinks. There was a giant jar of sangria on the bar, so M started with that, while A went for a pinot noir. The sangria was nice and refreshing. A had the pinot noir when he went to Xai Xai and remembered it being good.
The meal started with an amuse - a mini samosa. It was the perfect bite-size snack. We hadn't ordered the samosas (even though we wanted to try them) so we were happy we got to try it!
We shared two appetizers: the Braai salad ("Die Braai Slaai") and the chicken sosatie. We wanted to try the sliders, but they were out of everything other than lamb, and by the end of our dinner, they had even run out of lamb! Next time.
The Braai salad was composed of "seasonal oranges, goat cheese and roasted garlic over rocket salad complimented by a rooibos herb dressing" (according to the menu). It was light and the dressing was an interesting flavor that we had never had before. Although good, we might not get this again next time, but that's mostly because the sosatie was delicious and we want to try more of those.
Sosaties are skewers. The chicken sosatie was "dukkah crusted chicken with pineapple in an Indian curry yogurt." The chicken also came with sambals (fruit chutney, mint jelly, banana-coconut, cucumber-yogurt dill, mango-coriander salsa). This might have been M's favorite thing all night. It was full of complex flavors and we wanted more!
For the main courses, M got the "prawns peri-peri", which according to the menu were "grilled Mozambican prawns marinated in a peri-peri sauce and served with basmati-saffron rice." A got one of the specials (so we don't have a detailed description) but it was rack of lamb with spinach and pap.
The server told M that the prawns were going to be very spicy, but M found them to be more flavorful than spicy. She also hadn't heard the server when he said they came with the shells on, so the dish turned out to be messier than planned, but it was still very good. M would probably get something else next time, since there are so many options on the menu (like the chicken bobotie, which the table next to us got, and which looked delicious).
A really liked the lamb special. Excellently spiced and perfectly cooked, the balance between spice and flavor worked very well. Paired with the spinach and pap, it made for a very hearty and flavorful meal. A would definitely like to try this again, but being a special, that may not happen. M enjoyed the spinach and pap as well, and A was happy to share his spinach and pap in return for the heads from the prawns on M's dish.
We ended the meal with 2 desserts: the melktert for A and the koeksisters for M. The melktert was a "firm milk custard tart dusted with cinnamon and sweet spice over a biscuit tart crust." The koeksisters was "sweetly spiced dough pastry in orange yogurt mousse and rooibos ginger honey sauce with tropical fruit sorbet." A nice light end to the meal.
M's favorite dish all night was probably the chicken sosatie. A's was also the chicken sosatie, but the lamb entree was a very close second. It was a good meal for our first South African adventure, and it was a great way to kick off our World Cup eating extravaganza. There are so many other things we want to try so we will definitely be back!
Braai is located on 51st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.