Dario de Angeli made Cube Tasting Room a fantastic culinary success for South Africans. The restaurant has now been reimagined and relocated to one of the best developments in Maboneng, The Cosmopolitan. Because Dario is in the kitchen of The Bar at The Cosmopolitan, the new executive chef is Darren O’Donovan. He had been at the original Cube for many years, working shoulder to shoulder with Dario de Angeli to produce these outstanding, progressive, theatrical meals. While the food before was wonderful, it’s now unequalled for this culinary style, says Eat Out critic Marie-Lais Emond.
The serious new energy – and resulting fun – is evident from the very first of 10 courses. The thing about a progressive dinner, as opposed to a degustation presentation, is that there is science to the art. The meal should build, not only in expectation, but also in flavour developments for each course, without clashes, the flavours expertly leading from one to the next.
The breads and butters are served on dark tiles, featuring fantastically good pao de queijo (tapioca-flour cheese bread), tomato mini focaccia and still-warm rosemary-and-garlic flatbread. Tomatoes feature in two more ways: a reconstructed feta jelly with a dense tomato bite, and beurre roselle containing tomato and hibiscus. There’s an earthy sauce of wild mushrooms and caviar of black olives, plus a fluff of potato-garlic air. What a beginning.
The presentation is exquisite, too. The next plate might be glass, seemingly floating, with fresh peas shoots trembling alongside smooth, smoky-tasting sirloin carpaccio, a neat shape of mustard mayonnaise, pea-mint mousse, potato gnocchi that’s crisped outside like tiny roast spuds, and a salad of snap peas, balsamic carrots, and beans with cauliflower-cheese tastes from a creamy reduction, served on parmesan grains.
After booking, an idea of the menu is emailed to you, so you know what to expect and can plan what to bring to drink. Vegetarians and pescetarians are also catered for this way.
There’s too much detail to go into for this review – each plate has so many nuances – so just know that you will be delighted by the taste details and explanations given to you with each plate. You might receive a pink, golden and cream dream with Thai tom yum flavours; a stunningly beautiful palate refresher of different tropical textures topped with a tiny fennel flower; elements of a Durban chicken curry; or Mexican-inspired beef with whopping taste surprises in accompanying bursts.
One of the desserts is more beautiful than anything in Turkey, with a whirl of fig, brie, butterscotch, praline, strands of pastry, spun sugar and more. Afterwards comes a not-gin-and-tonic: spoonfuls of rooibos-and-juniper infusion in different textures with orange and strawberry flavours. So different; so sublime. The next sweet surprise can only be described as having the textures of bubble tea in a kind of crème brûlée with ginger biscuit, honey and cream.
The desserts just don’t stop: bursting snow globes, amaretto gel and custard to dig into, coffee truffles on a bed of salted chocolate, shards of chilli-chocolate, candyfloss trees, strawberry-and-black-pepper Turkish delight, beetroot and white-choc gum drops, and more…
Although Cube is fully licenced, Darren and Dario decided it would be great for people to bring their own drinks if they liked, as in the old Cube days. Bring along a bubbly and then visit the cellar to see how Dario has made a hobby of looking for exceptional South African wines. You can order in port – or anything, really – from the bar next door at The Cosmopolitan.
The staff have been trained in just about anything culinary. If you’ve brought your own wine, it’s whisked away to be re-presented at the table. If not, you’ll be accompanied to the cellar or given advice about what from the bar would work with the courses. Everyone takes the time to give you a full description of the dishes and answer questions. It’s fantastic. Darren might also make an appearance towards the end of the evening, looking flushed but happy.
The best way to enter is through the garden at twilight. The kitchen is raised, so guests can see the culinary art in progress. At this new Cube, everyone starts their meals at different times, and it feels so much more relaxed and personal. The napery is lovely good linen, and serving ware is matched to each dish for drama or even humour. Huge, low windows are wonderful in this part of the city.
This new Cube is a culinary phenomenon; truly the find of the moment.
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