News was out that a new restaurant had opened on the Waterfront in Cape Town, a Lebanese restaurant and wine bar called Ranoushe, serving dinkum Lebanese food with a twist.
It was definitely a great surprise to find I could order a selection of small dishes (meza) paired with excellent wine and stretch out the evening to a marathon.
The restaurant reflects a contemporary expression of Middle Eastern cuisine in a stylish modern setting inspired by Middle Eastern design and created by award-winning designer Adam Court (ex-Stefan Antoni).
The story of Ranoushe can be traced back approximately 2 600 years to the time of Necho II of Egypt. According to the historian Herodotus, Necho employed and sent out a crew of Lebanese sailors (Phoenicians) from Egypt to sail clockwise around Africa to reconnoitre the continent and return through the straits of Gibraltar. The voyage took three years. The fleet docked at the Cape to repair the ships, at the foot of Table Mountain.
How could those sailors way back then ever have imagined that one day patrons would be seated at dining tables at Ranoushe approximately where their ships were docked at the time, eating the fare from their country, Lebanon – 2 600 years later!
And thus began the marathon of eating at Ranoushe, on Wednesday, 27 January 2016. The spicy wine and soup (shorba) were well chosen by food and wine specialist Marcel – lentil and sweet potato soup with the 2013 Saronsburg shiraz.
The Saronsberg Shiraz – deep dark purple colour – succulent ripe fruit flavours – scents of violet.
Some recipes use red lentils, but at Ranoushe it is green lentils with sweet potato added instead of flour. The lemony taste and the scent of violet from the wine gave it a sensational yet subtle taste, enjoyed with the home-made light Lebanese pita. For food lovers wanting a more alkaline-based diet, lentils (lens culinaris) are the way to go. People have been cultivating this nutritious food for 13 000 years.
Easy recipe for Lebanese lentil shoba
Chop half an onion and fry it in a pan in oil until nicely brown, then add chopped cloves of garlic (two) (remember to take out the little gland in the middle), one teaspoon of turmeric, a nice big pinch of Sumac and a spoon and a half of ground cumin. Add one and a half cups of green lentils and eight cups of home-made puréed vegetable stock. Stir so as not to allow the contents to stick to the bottom of the pot. Allow to simmer, and stir for approximately 40 minutes, then finally add in chopped parsley and the juice of half a lemon (no pips!).
Serves four, with lovely freshly made Lebanese pita.
Go-to http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/lebanese-pita.html for a recipe for the bread. Cookery and wine writer Fiona Beckett might recommend a chardonnay for a soup such as lentil soup; go to her article on pairing food and wine.
The soup course was followed by one of Lebanon’s most renowned dishes, falafel, served with tahini, an oily paste made from toasted sesame seeds used as a dip. The recommended paired wine was Nitida Cab. Another way to describe falafel might be to call it a “frikkadel” (but with chickpeas, not meat or fish), or patty, or fritter.
There’s no rush at Ranoushe, so it was great sitting back, sipping wine, enjoying the conversation in lime-coloured carvers with plenty of vibe, music and energy … and enjoying these food cookies. They are best eaten broken up and dipped in the delectable tahini. You can take nice and long over them, checking e-mails, writing up the experience, sipping away … the views at the Waterfront seem endless.
Nitida wines are handmade wines from Durbanville. Visit the wine shop.
The question they ask at Nitida is, “How does a small Durbanville property running a flock of 50 sheep, two cows and a sheepdog become one of South Africa's most successful small wine cellars?” Maybe write to them and see what they say.
The final course was a hard choice, between the classic smoky eggplant baba ghanouge and the other option, hummus. The latter was settled for, specially prepared by Chef Daniel from Beirut of passion and expertise.
The hummus (or houmous) was beautifully presented, the platter with hummus with chickpeas in the centre. It’s proof that some of the nicest dishes are from uncooked food, simple to make, and so tasty.
Food writer Leyla Kazim has the following to say about making hummus: “The hard and fast rule for flavouring houmous is that there are no rules, so it’s great for having fun with at home. Once you have mastered the basic recipe, you can flavour it with whatever takes your fancy. I quite like adding black olives (and therefore less salt), which get blitzed up with the rest of the mixture for a briney Mediterranean kick and a different colour.”
Leyla’s recipe for hummus can be found here.
At Ranoushe, just as it must have been when those first Lebanese sailors docked at the Cape 2 600 years ago, time is not a question … no rush. I quickly learnt that Lebanese food is so nice, characterized by smaller dishes, tasty and lemony, and you can eat lots of courses (meza) amidst lots of conversation over a long period of time to get the maximum enjoyment and fulfilment out of eating.
And what better than the Mediterranean recipes – no fat, no sugar, nice and light, with nice wine in a place and site unrivalled on the continent!
While I decided not to settle for desserts there is a choice of sweets.http://ranoushe.co.za/menu/sweets/
To entertain, there is a belly dancer who dances unobtrusively on the floor while patrons can enjoy the view, the sight, the experience …
On my return home I felt energised as I went down to the Waterfront to a real surprise of another great restaurant in Cape Town!
Daily operating times: 12:00–23:00. Booking advised.
Children policy: No children under the age of 6 for dinner.
Major credit cards accepted.
Dress code: Casual.
Shop 157, Victoria Wharf, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.
Telephone: 087 357 3465 or 021 421 4776/46.
GPS / 33 54′ 14" S, 18 25′ 16" E.