Words: Kit Heathcock | Images: Supplied
Chef Michael Deg has been at Cavalli just over a year now and is revelling in the dedicated organic vegetable garden that supplies the majority of the restaurant’s fresh produce. It has inspired him to new levels of simplicity in his spring menu concept, entitled Raw.
“The produce we’re getting from our garden is so amazing, harvested each morning,” says Chef Michael. “We don’t want to do too much with it, so our raw menu is about showcasing the ingredients at their best. If you have amazing produce, doing as little as you can to it, really lets it shine.”
Invited to a raw workshop one September Saturday, we got a sense for how much work goes into even the simplest dishes. Among the orderly rows of raised beds, where vegetables and salad leaves are grown in succession, we tasted leaves, picked some of the last broad beans of the season, pulled colourful heirloom carrots and fennel bulbs. Back in the kitchen we podded the beans, blanched them, then painstakingly slipped the tender green beans from their tough outer skins.
Appealingly plated with homemade ricotta, lemon juice and olive oil, topped with a scattering of leaves and a nasturtium flower barely an hour from being harvested, the dish brimmed with spring energy and freshness. Having experienced the work that went into preparing the beans, we appreciated it all the more. Asparagus spears briefly blanched and still crunchy, with sauce gribiche, watercress and a piping hot goats cheese croquette made for another beautifully simple starter.
The raw concept is about flavours and freshness rather than dietary considerations, and you’ll find meat dishes both cooked and raw on the spring menu, as well as creative vegetarian and vegan dishes. Our beef carpaccio and tartare have their share of greens from the garden: dehydrated crispy kale leaves for the tartare with its smoked egg yolk, briefly grilled baby gem lettuce hearts for the carpaccio. Each dish is paired with one of the estate wines, from Cavalli Pink Pony with our Saldanha Bay oysters to the elegantly fruity Warlord 2016 Bordeaux blend with the spiced tartare.
Chef Michael Deg was one of just four illustrious South African chefs recently placed in the World Best Chef Awards 2018, and his spring tasting menu is not to be missed.
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