The dessert bar concept has recently taken off in other top foodie destinations around the world, so it was only a matter of time before it headed to South African shores. But if you’re picturing a buffet of sweets, you’re way off track. Coco Safar’s executive chef Carmen Rueda, head beverage curator Marshall Siavash and their team have carefully curated the Dessert Bar Experience (DBE) Culinary Voyage based on their own travels. It consists of 10 courses that combine sweet and savoury elements from Paris, Istanbul and Shanghai. But first we depart from the Mother City with a delightful fynbos yoghurt-and-buchu ice cream as an amuse-bouche.
The next two courses take place in Paris. While all the food is delicious, it’s the first course inspired by the City of Love that still has me swooning. A smoked cheese and brie cheesecake on a blue-cheese biscuit base is accompanied by the best liver pâté and tomato jam I’ve ever tasted. The jam alone takes around five hours to make, chef Carmen informs us. It takes only five minutes for me to devour it. The second Parisian-inspired course is a mango-and-passion-fruit coulis served in an oyster shell, with a glass of sparkling wine.
The subtle change in music indicates that we’ve moved to Istanbul. Here, I’m introduced to the second highlight of my night: what’s called an orange, pistachio and spice delicacy. It translates into an authentic light brown (not green!) pistachio ice cream served with a white-chocolate mousse log, orange gel and spiced phyllo pastry. While chef Carmen and her team are hard at work plating up, my eyes follow mixologist Marshall, who looks like a sorcerer surrounded by billowing smoke. The result is an intoxicating vodka-based concoction that has heady aromas of Turkish delight and spice. This, together with chef Carmen’s flavours, will convince you that a trip to Istanbul is definitely in order.
Another shift in music and the appearance of bamboo steamers behind chef Carmen lets us know that we’ve reached our main stop: Shanghai. Before we begin, Marshall presents us with a light, fresh tea to cleanse our palates. Then chef Carmen plates up the lightest spring roll I’ve ever encountered, which is filled with a green tea mousse. Rice done three ways, called a rice pudding, follows it. For most of the dozen people around the table (only 12 seats are available per night), this is the winning dish of the night. But my favourite is still to come. First, chef Carmen unveils the bamboo steamers, which hold a steamed sponge filled with peanut-butter ice cream – delicious and unique, but it’s nothing compared to what’s next. My preferred dish of the night is miso ice cream with white-chocolate mousse and a small piece of bamboo that has been cooked in soy sauce and sesame oil. The combination of sweet and saltiness will blow your mind – and I’m ready to throw soy sauce on all my meals from now on.
Finally, it’s back to Cape Town, with a ‘chocolate landing’, which is just basically chocolate in all its forms. As I watch chef Carmen at work, I can’t help but admire her skill and passion. I also can’t help the twinge of guilt that comes with knowing I’m about to demolish her masterpiece – although she says she doesn’t mind!
The Dessert Bar Experience Culinary Voyage is available Wednesdays to Saturdays from 7pm, for R985 per person.
Lauren Goldman writes in her personal capacity and was hosted as a guest of Coco Safar. Read an official Coco Safar review from an Eat Out critic, who visited anonymously and paid for the meal in full, here.