REVIEW | Otak-Otak in Mount Pleasant

Deliciously light and spicy south-east Asian flavours at new PE restaurant

There is a refreshingly different new restaurant in Mount Pleasant called Otak-Otak serving deliciously light yet spicy food.
The shopping centre next to Emerald Square in Buffelsfontein Road is becoming a foodie node as it already houses Raak 2 – the warmly recommended big sister of Raak in Newton Park, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with flair – a burger outlet, roast chicken takeaway and pizzeria.
Now there is a oriental twist with Otak-Otak where chef-cum-owner Brian Hall is offering a subtle yet imaginative take on the flavours of south-east Asia.
The restaurant had been open for several months before we tried it out – and loved it.
An order of Firecrackers – a Thai dish of prawns marinated in red curry paste and fish sauce, wrapped in wonton pastry and then deep fried, served with a Filipino vinegar-lime dipping sauce, was hit No 1.
The second hit was our first banh mi, a French-Vietnamese baguette with braised pork belly, chicken liver pate, aioli, picked carrots, cucumber, coriander and a dash of chilli.
It sounds odd to a western diner but tasted stunning, thanks as much to the freshness of the baguette as the exotic filling.
A repeat visit in January called for a few more dishes from the small but carefully chosen menu and on Brian’s recommendation I tried the pork belly ramen bowl.
It looked as good as it tasted and there are several broth-based bowls, as well as one or two vegetarian (and even vegan) options.
You may have seen Brian at food truck markets where dishes such as his pork sisig with black rice and tropical pickle have been popular and this particular item is also on the restaurant menu.
If you enjoy black rice, it’s also served generously with chicken, finished with a glaze of honey, lime, soy and toasted sesame seed.
On the tiny dessert menu, our favourite was the coconut shake which was icy, creamy and super-yum.
So far, we’ve had nothing with so much chilli as to blow our tongues out of our mouths – for hot stuff in PE, we head to Natti’s or Royal Delhi but will gladly return to Otak-Otak for its gentler oriental delights.
Free-range and local
It’s also great to support a local eatery rather than a national franchise and Hall tries to source free-range pork, poultry and eggs and use mineral-rich and GMO-free condiments.
His honey, for example, is from Sardinia Bay and “we also strive to make use of organically grown produce,” he says.
The wine list is, like the menu, brief but apt with unusual choices such as Villiera Jasmine White and Reyneke organic sauvignon blanc semillon, which he has chosen to complement his food flavours.
You also can enjoy Thai Singha beer, the Bay’s own Benn Koppen draught beer and Da Rocca pink gin and tonic, and a few cocktails.
Otak-Otak is fairly priced: Starters range between R30 and R60, mains are between R85 and R140, and desserts from R30 to R45. The decor is light and simple, and no wine is more than R140, with corkage R35.
Food and wine pairing
Otak-Otak is hosting Bosman Family Vineyard at a food and wine pairing at the restaurant on Tuesday February 12.
Bosman produces Fairtrade wine which visitors may taste in its 260-year-old cellar on the Hexberg Road in Wellington, or on its newer farm in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus.
“I am getting feedback from Bosman about why SA wines pair well with Asian flavours,” Hall says and, after running his menu for more than six months, “I was taken by surprise [but] I can tell you, South African wines work!”
Rich flavours
“The rich flavours of coriander, soy, ginger, the fermented fish sauce, lots of lime juice, subtle chilli, the smoothness and comfort of coconut cream, all these things have a perfect South African mate.
“Now, keep in mind, Asian cuisine, more specifically, Southeast Asian cuisine, is a diverse and rich food culture, basically unrepresented in SA, bar the popular Thai curries that one can find in most places now.
“But Asian styles of cooking rich rice dishes, such as black rice pilafs or nasi liwet, Indonesian grilled chicken, Malaysian grilled or steamed fish, Filipino pork belly magic, all these things are absent in SA, but surely will still come, as is the case in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.”
The February 12 pairing is at 6.30 for 7pm and tickets are R250. Otak-Otak is on the corner of Buffelsfontein and Salisbury, Mount Pleasant,and open from 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, and for lunch on Saturday. Inquiries: 078-459-4881.

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