King of Zing at The Test Kitchen

July 12th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

I love freshness. In everything. Wine, food, people. The opposite of stodgy and staid and stuck in a rut. With food, it’s about more than the newness of the produce. That elusive fresh element has to do with a balance of flavours and a certain zing most commonly defined as acidity. Don’t let the word put you off. It’s when food hits your tongue and your mouth waters for more.

Chef supreme Luke Dale-Roberts talks about umami. That elusive fifth taste that fuses flavour to create a mouthfeel greater than the sum of its parts. It’s like a natural MSG that leads to unbridled plate scraping. And my meal at The Test Kitchen in Woodstock’s Biscuit Mill was laced with it. In The Test Kitchen, Luke has created the perfect playground for his imaginative East-meets-West flavour combinations to shine.


Keeping it tight - LDR and his team


I’m a sucker for cheese and tomato combos. From the humble braaibroodjie to this: home dried tomato, pickled tomato, miso cream cheese, wood fired aubergine dressing and jalapeno and apple puree…


Did I mention the parmesan crispy thingies?


It was incredible. Saliva inducing flavour bursts, with every item distinct yet in perfect harmony. You just want more. Conceived to make fine dining more accessible, The Test Kitchen is small, informal and very trendy. Beautiful hand-stitched chairs by Casamento next to metal-topped tables with felt lamps overhead. The lunch menu is compact with starters in the Asian flavour range and mains leaning towards Euro cuisine. I opted for the wood fired pork belly, coco bean and bay leaf jus, TK kim chi and pak choi.


Pork belly with asian greens


I noticed a neighbour’s perfect vegetables popping with colour. All done sous-vide at 85 degrees for 50 minutes, thereby retaining just-plucked colour and texture.


Bags of goodness, sous-viding away


Confession time – my lunch made one thing very clear. I have to return for the 11 course gourmand tasting menu – The Fantastic Eben, Adi and Luke Show – served evenings only. Luke goes all out to knock your flavour socks off, with wines by Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst of Swartland fame. Like the foie gras, red cabbage and fig ‘mi-cuit’ (semi cooked), rabbit ham, braised chestnuts and gently pickled quince paired with Sequillo White Port 2010. Eben Sadie has been called the Baby Jesus of the wine industry (he can do no wrong) and Adi as the Elvis Presley (cause he rocks) and together with the King of Zing, this is probably the most profound food experience to be had in this country. And it belongs on every foodie’s bucket list.


The Fantastic Eben, Adi and Luke Show


Time magazine agrees. Read about it here. Or visit The Test Kitchen’s website for full menus and images. Or catch my review on SABC3 Expresso Show tomorrow morning at about 7.40am’ish, give or take a few minutes.

I daresay, I think I’m back in the fine-dining saddle… thanks Luke. I needed to be reminded. And I’ll be back for the big show.