Cape Town foodie escapades: Raya Kitchen Review

Let’s keep this simple from the start: Raya Kitchen does its duty as a contributor to world-renowned fine dining experiences.

What follows that summation, will pretty much be me assessing my dining experience through the fine haze of foodie contentment, and sleepiness.

It likely comes as a surprise to most – unfamiliar with South Africa – that Cape Town boasts such a medley of juxtaposing dining experiences. Amid the ever-growing distance between socioeconomic groups, which somehow has less unnerving implications here – due to the laissez-faire attitude adopted by many of the cosmopolitan city’s inhabitants – Cape Town has welcomed as many restaurants, bistros and cafe’s, as it has (r)ejected. Raya Kitchen is one of the newer finds; Resting their food attraction on the reputation of famed Kitima Restaurants‘ award-winning fine Asian Cuisine.

Raya Kitchen is all about bringing “creative new ideas and old-school sophistication” to the fore. That motivation manifests in the cocktails me and my friends downed with heady exuberance, the oriental interior design that tempers any commercialized thematic tackiness, but especially within the Thai food.

I’m remiss to say that the notes I had meticulously typed out on my phone throughout the fine dining experience, were accidentally deleted; and with that, some of the key ingredients for the delicious Amuse Bouche morsel I got to munch on to start. I do recall coriander. Before you get snippy with me – all you need to know is that it amused my taste buds most yummily (yep! That’s a word.)

My friend ordered me an Amaretto Sour ( priced at R69), which contains Amaretto, Lemon Juice, Orange Juice, and Sugar. I’m a lover of Amaretto Sour now! My dining party are deeper foodies and drinkies than I – and having been in the Cape Town premium hospitality and service industry for the last couple of years – they now swear by the drinks made at Raya Kitchen. Clearly, we now have a new haunt for lazy drinking days (which is all of the days).

My dining party and I chased the Amuse Bouche with the Raya Starter Platter (priced at R160) and some Tom Yum. Picture in your head – if you will – 2 Chor Muang, 2 Prawn Cakes, 2 Chicken Satay, 2 Vegetable Spring Rolls, with a hot & sour prawn Thai soup consisted of: aromatic prawn broth with coconut milk, mushrooms, galangal, lemongrass and lime leaf, garnished with fresh coriander (priced at R69).

I liked the mellow tastes of everything; Each piece of Dim Sum standing apart with the very fact that nothing was overdone and under-spiced. Each gourmet bite brought comfortable awareness of the everyday types of food we eat, having their production, preparation and presentation elevated by Raya’s master chef, in order to better grasp why fine dining is a necessary distinction in social experiences globally.

The Soup. Was. A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

Sorry I didn’t use a series of big descriptive words to better articulate the extent of this dish’s tastiness, but I am still savoring the memory of its rich and spicy flavor on my tongue, and reevaluating why I ever thought soups couldn’t possibly make a filling meal.

Hmmmmm you guys! That soup was so good, my friend low-key wanted to lick the bowl.

“All vegetable dishes are prepared and cooked in a strictly vegetarian manner, excluding ingredients such as fish and oyster sauce. These ingredients are substituted by soy sauce, which helps to season the dishes with the authentic Thai taste that we intend to offer.” – Raya Kitchen

Being a lifestyle blogger with elementary foodie knowledge, has been an ofttimes embarrassing and enlightening experience. My dining party was shocked when I’d told them I had never had duck for dinner before (maybe I harbor a subconscious childhood protective streak for Donald Duck affiliates), and so Crispy Duck (priced at R185) for a main meal it was!

Let me tell you: that de-boned and sliced crispy duck, with homemade (whose home?) duck sauce, and pancakes  with cucumber, carrots and julienne spring onions, was a divine education. Tender; succulent; with just enough seasoning to make things interesting. I am likely to be a hazard to ducks in Central Park when I visit New York one day, for I shall maybe chase them to sate the welcomed craving I now sport for the dish, made so well by Raya Kitchen.

What else was on the menu?

Phad Prik Gaeng Phe (priced at R110), and made up of a beef stir fry with red curry paste, green beans and holy basil. Due to the Tapas-like way my dining party were eating, I do think it contributed to why we didn’t favor this dish over the rest. I do believe I would have enjoyed it rather well had it been the singular main, but alas…Leftovers are always good, right?!

The stir fried noodles dish, with prawn and chicken accompanied by thinly sliced red and green peppers, carrots and spring onions (priced at R105) was a nice – but ultimately characterless dish – as was the plain egg noodles (priced at R26). Raya Kitchen chose not to make the dish blandly just because of its stereotypically basic ingredients.

Dessert was my trusty Crème brûlée…and that is where the first and only stumble, by Raya Kitchen, occurred – well, besides the plating of food, which leaves much to be desired.

No Crème brûlée should ever be served cold. A minimum room temp or higher, is needed to enjoy Crème brûlée…or else you’re savoring cold custard with a hard top, missing the caramelized loveliness that renders every Crème brûlée consumer, a virtual addict within the first satisfying crunch of sugar, and inconspicuous spoon lick.

Only a Cappuccino, with a little chocolate, could complete the dining experience I had just undergone, and stayed gone into a food coma.

All restaurants operating with the utmost quality levels, often have staff bearing the oh-so-punishing brunt of operating within a demanding sector. The pains of working in such environments, often leads to their suffering being passed on to the customer…unless you’re gifted with a good day at a place like Raya Kitchen. The service of their manager, hostess, waiters, and kitchen staff, is absolutely lovely. So good is their service, that the diligent attentiveness may, in fact, unnerve many…but I’m an attention-seeker so I soaked up all of it 🙂

Raya Kitchen is the gem at the center of a gorgeous setting. I consider restaurant dining as singular experiences, which I endeavor to critique for how successfully they execute what they’re trying to do; and succeeding that with assessing whether that aspiration is, in fact, relevant. Raya tries to execute fine Asian cuisine in a city centre that largely embraces cultural and dining inclusion, exploration and evolution. They succeed in delivering their aspiration, in fine form – not boasting about their excellence, but humbly bragging in every tender bite, polite inquiry, tasteful recommendation, and in the relaxing but refined decadent ambiance.

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