This was a signature dinner held at the private room of Jiko on October 19. The cost per person was $150, including tax & gratuity. Guests were Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick Estates & Zelma Long of Vilafonte, two South African vineyards. Zelma Long actually said that she was the winemaker for Simi, which interested us, since we’re big fans of California wines. The format of this dinner was that each Jiko chef was showcased by designing one course. They then came out & explained their chosen course, after which the wine representatives told us a bit about the wine paired with that particular course.
The event began with a reception on Asante Terrace. We’re pescatarians so couldn’t eat the first of the 3 hors d’oeuvres passed around, the Kenyan coffee barbequed short rib with collard greens.
The other two hors d’oeuvres were delicious. The quattro formaggio arancini with harissa sour cream was crisp on the outside and soft and smooth on the inside. Very delicious. The smoked bay scallops with roasted red pepper and curried cream really stood out. The smoky flavor paired well with the rather mild curry cream, and it was a novelty for us to have smoked scallops. I’m not a huge fan of curry, but it wasn’t overwhelming here. The wine for this course was Warwick Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Professor Black, Stellenbosch 05.
After the reception, we moved inside to the private room at Jiko. Our first course was a shrimp skewer with fresh porcini and porcini cream, paired with a Warwick Estate Pinotage “Old Bush Vines,” Stellenbosch 04. I loved the porcinis here. They were so flavorful, and the porcini cream worked very well with the grilled shrimp. My husband remarked how much he liked the black pepper with the shrimp. The shrimp themselves were beautifully done, just barely cooked, so they were tender and delicious. The nose on this wine was excellent, very aromatic and enjoyable.
Our next course was a pan-seared arctic char with roasted potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, tomato, edamame, arugula, sherry vinaigrette, and berbere aioli. This course was one of their two flubbed ones – they included bacon on our dishes, though we’d made our dietary preferences known previously. We ended up picking around the bacon, because due to the nature of the dinner, to have sent it back would have upset the flow of others’ meals. I enjoyed this fish. It was similar to a salmon in color, but not nearly as fishy tasting, and much leaner. It was actually a bit dry. The wine with this was the Vilafonte Series M, Paarl, 03, which was my husband’s favorite wine. He enjoyed the vanilla & oak on the nose.
The next course was the roasted carrot soup with toasted fennel sour cream & pumpkin seeds. This was their second & last flub, as the chef came out & announced that this soup was made with a chicken stock base. Yes, “carrot soup” sounds vegetarian. No, it’s actually not. Again, we ate this one, so as not to disturb the flow of the meal. This soup was okay; we actually prefer the creaminess of a cream-based soup, and the stock base meant that it was a bit thinner than we would have preferred. The big surprise for me was how well the pumpkin seeds worked with this dish. The crunchy texture married beautifully with the soup. Mike Ratcliffe kept commenting on how unusual it was to pair the wine, Warwick Three Cape Ladies, Simonsberg 02, with a carrot soup, but somehow it worked.
The next course was one about which everyone raved. I was the designated driver, so was afraid to eat too much of this; I wasn’t sure how the spiced rum would affect me, especially considering that I planned on tasting each wine. It was a gingered plum sorbet with spiced rum, and was very light and refreshing. The rum brought an added kick to the sorbet and jazzed it up.
(Didn’t photograph so well)
Next was the seared Pacific halibut with sweet potato spaetzli, slivered brussel sprouts, and tomato beurre blanc. It was paired with a Vilafonte Series C, Paarl, 03, which was MY favorite wine of the evening. I’m always on the lookout for unusual wines, and this fit the bill. We didn’t make tasting notes, so I can’t go into more detail than to say that this wine was definitely out of the ordinary way, and was a blend that was heavy on the Cabernet. My husband enjoyed the sweet potato spaetzli, though I felt they were a bit too rich and overpowering for me, especially near the end of the dinner. I liked the brussel sprouts, which were crisp and flavorful. The halibut was, again, just barely cooked, which was perfect. It was flaky without being dry.
The cheese course consisted of a super aged gouda with honeycomb, a maytag blue with spicy shiraz reduction, and a vanilla-scented mascarpone filled date with zucchini bread. The super aged gouda was way, way too strong for us. It actually burnt the inside of my mouth, and my husband said that it blew out his tastebuds. In texture, it was more like a parmesan than a gouda, but, oh, man, was it ever STRONG. The maytag blue was a standard maytag blue, but the real surprise for me was the mascarpone filled date. It was so light, smooth, and creamy. The taste was very subtle, but sweet and fruity. In a word: yum.
The wine with this course was the Warwick Estate Cabernet Franc, Stellenbosch 02. This wine had never been served in a restaurant in the US before, so it was quite a coup for Jiko to obtain it. They said that they had several bottles remaining that they planned on making available to the diners in the main restaurant, but that once it was gone, they probably wouldn’t be able to get any more.
Last, but not least, was the coconut flan with Eros tea infused autumn fruits and caramel sauce. It was served with a cup of Eros “T”. The coconut flan was light and creamy, and was a wonderful way to end the meal. The toasted coconut on the top of the flan added a nice kick to it.