NOTHING floats my boat more than having my expectations exceeded and that was the case this week when hubby Salvelio and I made a spur-of-the- moment decision to try out a new Eastern food franchise in Port Elizabeth.
Simply Asia opened at Moffett on Main at the end of September last year and though we initially picked up one or two mixed reviews from fellow foodies, we had since heard only good things about the place.
It being a Monday night when many restaurants are closed it was promising to see Simply Asia not only open, but just about packed.
Indeed, every time I’ve driven past there this holiday it has seemed well supported by the public.
Hubby and I chose a balcony table which did not have the most inspiring view (over a traffic circle) but we favoured it because it really was a sweltering night.
Service by our waitress Priscilla was fast and friendly and she seemed clued up on everything on the menu.
The dishes are mainly Asian themed, especially Thai, and there is also a sushi selection which we would be tempted to try another time.
What struck us was that the prices were rather reasonable when compared to similar restaurants – our dinner for two included starters, mains and desserts for each, plus two glasses of sparkling water each (we were as thirsty as desert-dwellers) and all this came to R326 excluding a tip.
Since Simply Asia is a franchise we were fully expecting watered-down, even bland, flavours tailored for South Africans; the kind of scenario where after a few courses everything starts to taste the same.
But this wasn’t the case and, though I confess, neither one of us is a fundi on Asian food by any stretch of the imagination, we found our dishes to be fresh, attractively plated and full of punchy flavours.
We started with a combo platter of chicken and vegetarian springrolls (R42) for Salvelio and duck springrolls (R30) for me.
His were smaller but he did get four springrolls (plus two sweetcorn clusters served with both sticky plum and sweet chilli sauces) while I got two larger duck springrolls. All the springrolls were crispy and light and with scarcely a trace of oil; mine were packed with duck.
The sweetcorn cakes were unusual but deliciously chewy and we would order it again. For mains Salvelio had ba-mee ped lon – tender marinated, roasted duck in peanut butter sauce served on yellow noodles and topped with spring onion, pickled ginger and cucumber (R98).
I chose the tom yum prawn linguine (R72) and thoroughly enjoyed the flavours and textures of the prawns that were stir-fried with mushrooms, spring onions, onions, garlic and tomato in roasted chilli and tom yum pastes.
Both dishes were very well balanced – the most important criterium for Asian food – and I enjoyed the hit of chilli and the fresh, fragrant lemongrass in mine.
Pud-wise I found myself pinching chocolate springrolls (R32) off Salvelio’s plate as they really were that good – again the springrolls weren’t greasy and the melted chocolate combined with the crunchy pastry was a perfect combo.
Less sublime was my choice of warm coconut cake (R28) as it was a little too dense and dry for my liking.
Owner Alice Bonadei moved to Port Elizabeth from Cape Town after her parents retired here and says she decided to open the Eastern Cape’s first Simply Asia franchise as she used to love the one in Seapoint.
We liked what we saw and will certainly be back to try more dishes on the menu – Simply Asia’s loyalty card system is bound to come in handy.
Simply Asia is on (041)368-5689. This review visit was unannounced and the meal paid for in full.