Culinary Quest: GINJA Restaurant

Despite the multitude of eateries that dot around the Cape, figuring out which places offer value-for-money alfresco-style dining experiences, is a lesson in patience.

My kin and I lean on a balance of ambience and passable grub at restaurants and cafes here, and never favouring only style over literal sustenance substance.

It must make sense to the wallet and the senses.

Now, take the forever bustling Waterfront: more than capable of catering to both high-brow diners, as well as having easy fast food – not to be knocked, as they are cheap and somewhat flavoursome cuts offered up with consistent styling.

If one is diligent in their search for a decent eatery around these parts, which tend to be overwrought with tourists during peak seasons and thus prices are adjusted accordingly, there are a literal handful of gems in these parts, starting with: GINJA Restaurant.

GINJA is an all-day dining restaurant I became acquainted with even before I reviewed the hotel it calls home.

It sits waterside along a walkway that faces some stellar visuals of Cape Town, from the infamous Table Mountain, right to the harbour waters that snake luxury marina’s, malls, and sees multitudes of foot traffic in the business towers nearby too.

The place is always well-shaded, welcoming, and usually has at least one table you can scoop up if you’re lucky.

The decor is modern rustic, and restrained – choosing warm woods, contemporary lighting fixtures, highly textured earth tone textiles, generous light paint, and an abundance of windows, to open up the place to be even more inviting, to purposeful visitors as well as passersby’s.

The Food?

Worth every cent.

The Small Plate offerings are both interesting, apropos for the locale, and pretty tasty; From the Carpaccio complete with Horseradish, pickled veg, rocket, and Parmesan, to the Vegan Tear & Share involving Chickpea hummus, coriander, cumin, nuts, seeds & flatbread, there’s a selection that can appeal while you contemplate heartier (and even meat-free) Mains!

My recommendation is to check out their specials – they’ve always got something good!

On one visit they’d whipped out their Prawns & Wine Special, which is favoured by locals abound.

The platter is designed for two, at R550, and includes chips and a bottle of wine.

The establishments chosen wine to match the meal: the IONA 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, which is crisp and perfect for a seafood dish...but is almost too refreshingly crisp for the casual drinking I get up to.

GINJA doesn’t skim on the drink options though, should you be parched for something less alcoholic, or looking for something different. There are cocktails, beers, soft drinks, hot beverages, and so much more available.

Their prettily designed menu even includes Tasting Notes and Regional detailing.

If you’re really keen on a bev’ journey, ask about the local Gin’s!

Think nothing more can be done with a Green Salad?

GINJA takes a try with their Side Salad: Greek in name, with Fennel fronds on top of a Leaf salad with edamame beans, peas, avo, sesame seed basil aioli & soy dressing.

The fennel overwhelms the overall flavour of the salad, but everything crunches and won’t leave the diner shaking in fury or bemusement. A pretty good start, no?

When the prawns arrive as your main, prepare for abundance.

Every other prawn may look a little dishevelled and sized millimetres differently, but they are pleasant to dine on – most especially because the fresh garlic is sensed in the aftermath of a bite into the prawn, rather than taking things over from the very first whiff.

The Prawn Special is one that couples and groups like returning to GINJA to enjoy – despite the fact that it’s pretty straightforward as far as meals go.

If I ever had the audacity to make a recommendation to the chef, it would only be that perhaps a dusting of Umami (miso?) wouldn’t be remiss.

In need of something that’s not seafood?

Eat to your heart’s content from the plant-based menu masterfully brought to life by Chef Ash and their team, which includes well-thought-out options like their lentil “loaf”, pastas, gnocchi, or dig into GINJA‘s new veggie burger, made with lentils, artichokes, carrots, celery, leeks, chickpeas and mushrooms.

There’s something commendable about the richness of the steak on offer here though (which you can pair very well with the full-bodied 2017 wooded Grenache Blanc).

This is the kind of steak that doesn’t actually need a sauce.

Have the steak with a rather generous portion of salty Pommes Frites and an earthy vegetable salad to complete the meal if you wish, or double down with another dish.

The Parmesan Risotto is not something to sniff at, but the way.

This rendition does justice to grains, the versatility of risotto, and just pleases the tastebuds and tummy with its softer texture and flavours comparative to most other dishes on the menu.

Now, I’m a sweet-toothed hellion when it comes to dessert, and will gladly find space for this last course.

Try the Creme Brulee should you make it to GINJA.

Its accompanying chocolate ganache, berry gelato and biscotti, will leave you contemplating booking yourself a room at Victoria & Alfred Hotel for a nap afterwards.

Considering I’ve dined there several times, I can attest that while the restaurant remains consistent in experience, it strives to take its diners to new places with taste.

*HOT TIP*

Pop into the V&A Hotel’s in-house cafe, Native Coffee Roasters, on the same floor as GINJA, if you feel like grabbing a quick, quality caffeine fix or some delectable pastries.

GINJA RESTAURANT

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