Food: Bistro, Fusion.
Wine: Extensive list but pricey.
Service: Less than Average.
Ambiance: Modern, lacks Coziness and Vibe.
In a Nutshell: Highly overrated. The restaurant is OK, but the food and service do not come close to meeting the expectations one would have of a restaurant rated the top 5 in South Africa and to which an outing can turn out pretty pricey.
City: Johannesburg, South Africa
Address: Dunkeld Shopping Centre, Cnr Jan Smuts Ave and Bompas St. Dunkeld, Sandton.
Tel: 011 341 0663
The minute I read my Eat Out Magazine 1000 top restaurants in SA 2010 and realised that 2 Restaurants in the Johannesburg area had made it to the Top 10, I naturally became curious and eager to try them. On our second attempt to make a booking we landed a table at DW eleven 13 (DW 11-13) and thought we were heading for the stars. Being such food lovers as we are, we looked forward to trying the Chef's, Marthinus Ferreira, expertise, deriving from his experience at kitchens like that of The Fat Duck and the Boxwood Cafe, both in the UK.
The restaurant is very centrally located in the back alley of a small and old shopping centre in the Dunkeld area, but don't get me wrong, they have done the facade nicely and so it takes on a bit of a secretive and retro feel. we ordered some water and looked at the Menu for our food choices first, so we could then choose just the perfect wine to go with. As I tend to do, when I go to a restaurant of this nature I figure the Chef must have wine pairing recommendations, so I enquired about the suggestion of wine for our meals but was answered with an empty smile. I tried by taking on another approach and explaining to the waiter that we were having the Lamb and Pork for mains and we weren't sure which wine would go best, so I even asked which varietal was a safer choice, again the waiter smiled and completely dodged the question. I gave up on his understanding of the subject and went on to order a Paradyskloof Pinot Noir, which I thought would be soft enough for our starter, yet with enough body to take on our mains.
We were greeted with a small appetizer compliments of the house, a crostini topped with a nice dullop of Duck Liver Pate, which to me seemed like a great start to our food experience at DW eleven 13. Hence we begun our journey choices, for Starter we chose to share the scallops, since I'm a fan and hadn't had them for such a long time. Also, the waiter mentioned that it was a signature dish of the restaurant. I also ordered one of the signature dishes for main, the Duo of Lamb, and my husband went for the Marinated Pork. The Menu is not extensive, but a short menu in a restaurant with a fame to live up to, usually means that everything in the menu is a specialty, hence we were comfortable with our choices, thinking we couldn't go wrong.
While waiting for our order, we were offered a choice of bread between Olive, Halloumi and Plain. We went for the Halloumi and the Olive respectively, but when we gave each other a try I was so blown away by the Olive loaf I had to ask for a piece for myself! Then our wine came, and upon tasting it, I realized it would probably do well with the starter, but might then be crashed by the mains as it was very young and lacked body and complexity in flavor. I regretted the waiter's lack of advise and hoped for the best.
The Scallops were beautifully presented, and came with a complex mix of flavors, served with Horseradish cream, Porcini mushrooms and some other concoctions. The Scallops themselves were cooked to perfection with a tender fleshy centre, but then we found the sauce completely overpowered the delicate texture and taste of the Scallops. So much for the first Signature dish!
Time passed a bit slowly as our mains took a while to come out, but the excitement, now slightly reduced but still persistent, kept us eager to try some more. Finally the mains arrived, looking rather dashing. However once we started digging in, the strength of the mix of flavors hit us with full force. My Duo of Lamb consisted of extremely tender braised lamb shoulder and Lamb rack on a bed of mashed minted peas, cubed potatoes and drizzled with gravy. Both lamb preparations were cooked beautifully, but each carried a strong flavor of its own, which matched with the minty bite of the peas and the saltiness of the gravy, built with each bite a bit of palate resistance. The dish as a whole, however, was good enough, but did not blow me away for being a signature dish.
My husband, as you may recall, ordered the Marinated Pork, but to his huge regret, it was nothing like what he expected. He carries the belief that Pork meat is underrated and hence, tries to prove his point by giving it a chance from time to time, usually bearing positive outcomes. He also often ends up ordering the nicer meal of the two of us, since my adventurous palate chooses to go for risky options time and time again. This time around though, it wasn't his lucky night. The pork's marinade was certainly overbearing, killing any chance of giving the pork's meat a chance to shine by itself. Full of lemon and salt, the marinade tasted more like salad dressing. Additionally, The pork chop was topped by a huge pile of Borlotti Beans which took full control of the meal, making it excessively earthy flavored. My husband usually does not complain much about his food, but this time, he disliked it so much he stopped eating, and since I wasn't completely unhappy about the flavor, we switched meals. Normally, when we're not happy simply return it, but in an effort to keep our cool, we opted to let it go. We really cannot recall the last time we had to switch meals because one of us hated the food we were served so much! I mean, my husband even said something like "just because they're trying to pull off an earthy flavor, does not mean the meal should literally taste like earth!" The funniest part of it all is that the waiter asked how our meals were, I told him we weren't happy and he just smiled and turned away! More importantly though, we were determined not let the restaurant's performance ruin our evening and still had a good time.
We were there celebrating my husband's birthday and it was really quite disappointing that the DW eleven 13 restaurant, together with its food and its staff, did not live up to its fame, nor to it's prices, and left us feeling like we should not even risk dessert!
Please feel free to share your experience at this restaurant, comments are welcome!