Dinner with Graham Beck's Pieter Ferreira at Reuben's in the Cape

ReubenReuben Riffel (pictured here on the front of his new cookbook) is rapidly becoming the Wolfgang Puck of South Africa. He first won fame for the use of local ingredients, including wild game like springbok and warthog and fish like kingklip and snoek, at his original restaurant in Franschhoek. He then opened another small restaurant in the classy Robertson Small Hotel, which is where we met Pieter Ferreira for dinner last week. More recently, he opened a flashy new establishment in Cape Town’s One and Only Hotel located at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. His restaurant replaces the original one managed by Britain’s celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsey.

As shown by our notes below, Reuben is on top of his game. His dishes are original, sophisticated and make use of the fresh, local ingredient of the Cape. If South Africa is the Rainbow Nation, Reuben’s dishes are Rainbow Cuisine, an amalgamation of the diverse culinary origins—Malay, Indonesian, Dutch, English, Indian, and French—of the Western Cape.

Pieter FerreiraPieter, of course, is lead winemaker at Graham Beck Wines where he focuses on the production of South Africa’s most successful sparkling wines. We tasted several of them, in addition to some high end still wines, at the winery in Robertson prior to dining at Reuben’s. The wines we took to Reuben’s for food and wine pairing included the 2008 Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs, the 2009 Bowed Head Chenin Blanc, the 2007 Coffeestone Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2007 Ad Honorem Red Blend that is named in honor of Graham Beck, who passed away last year. Our earlier report on the wines of Graham Beck can be found here.

The Cuisine

For starters we shared two delectable dishes: Lightly smoked Franschhoek Trout Carpaccio served with red onion, avocado, orange, jalapeño and ponzu dressing and Chili Salted Squid with a sprout salad and lime mayonnaise. Both the Blanc de Blancs and the Chenin Blanc paired well these dishes. The rich and fruity Chenin Blanc was a good foil for the salty ponzu dressing, and the Blanc de Blancs livened up the delicate trout carpaccio. For main courses, we ordered three dishes to pair with Graham Beck’s two elegant reds. We couldn’t resisted Crisp Duck Confit with toasted cashew cream and soy braised roots with a spicy duck sauce. Also irresistible was Braised and Crisp Pork Belly served with chili ginger, caramel, potato crème and button mushrooms. Our third dish was a magnificent Curry of Lamb that was accompanied by steamed basmati, spicy pineapple and cucumber salsa. The reds were delicious and did not over power any of the dishes. A light crème brulée served with poached peaches was perfect for dessert.

The Wines

Graham Beck 2008 Brut Blanc de Blancs Robertson

The Blanc de Blanc spends three years on the lees, and 50 percent of the base wine is fermented in barrel. It shows bread dough on the nose and a creamy, rich palate revealing roasted nuts and flint.

Graham Beck 2009 Bowed Head Chenin Blanc

This wine is an excellent example of the heights the Chenin Blanc grape reaches in South Africa. It shows a highly aromatic nose of honeysuckle and fresh and dried apricot and peach that carry over to a richly concentrated, creamy and layered palate complemented by racy acidity. This wine is made from 40+ year old Paarl vines and is aged in 400lt oak barrels for 7 months.

Graham Beck 2007 Coffeestone Cabernet Sauvignon

The Coffeestone Cabernet Sauvignon shows pencil shavings, minerals, and black cassis on the nose. It has a fine, focused and elegant palate. Well-structured, this wine can easily improve for another decade.

Graham Beck 2007 Ad Honorem Stellenbosch

The Ad Honorem is one of South Africa’s elite red blends. It reveals a hugely aromatic nose of blackberry, dark chocolate, sandalwood and violets and a profound palate that is deep, layered, and ends with fine, ripe tannins. Made of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Syrah fruit from two Stellenbosch vineyards and aged in new oak for 27 months.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler

November 2011