Asoka (Gardens)

So me and my scale are officially no longer friends. No matter how hard I try to please her, she doesn’t want to know, and she’s so unhelpful and unaccommodating. I had fully committed to the discipline she dictates when out of the blue, Cliff sends me an invite to join him at Asoka because they have a restaurant week special. I’m dedicated to my craft. I had to say yes.

So last night off we went, accompanied by a beautifully pastel sunset with clouds billowing off the mountain, to Gardens.

I last visited Asoka when Annie and I were still dating, or were newly married, so I was probably still trying to impress her, and Cape Town was the place we dreamed of living in, so basically it was years and years ago, and all I remember is that it was delicious and pricey, so somewhere in the expectation centre of my brain, a high bar had been set.

Asoka and Kloof Street House both have the same owner(s), and you can see that immediately when you’re greeted by the front of house staff, and also when your waitress comes along to introduce herself. All the waitress staff fit a certain bill when it comes to physique and dress code, very similar to their sister establishment further up the drag. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve been to either. Also, if you’re a woman and you go there with your husband/boyfriend/male date, you’ll know what I mean when the guys eyes can’t find their way to you or the food in front of you. Our waitress shared the same name as my ex-wife, so I was a little traumatized at the beginning.

The menu is high-end Tapas, or small plates, so expect to order at three to four dishes per person.

The Restaurant week special featured 3 plates from a scaled down menu with three options each per course. It’s a diminutive tasting menu that needed one more course to make you full enough not to want to consider the Burger King drive through on the way home. That’s not to say their regular menu will leave you feeling wanting, because you can always dive in and order another plate. The Restaurant Week special was a decent price considering the average price from the regular menu, but it was one course short of satisfying.

The food is high-end, very refined, and fits well with the price point, which is as many R’s as the max your average restaurant guide will allow you to fill in when it comes to the price category. Small plates cost anywhere from R75 to R240 and you need at least three for a small meal, four for a reasonable meal, and add dessert to call it a proper meal, so make that 5. You can throw a few sides in for about R65. The R’s can add up to a hefty bill. Ambiance is vibey, and it’s generally full, so the noise level can go from zero to pumping in minutes.

Between the 5 of us, from the Restaurant week menu we had the Goat’s Cheese croquettes and Tuna Tacos as round 1, the Tandori Chicken thigh and the Mussels as round 2, and the prawn wonton and the lamb rib for round 3. (The lamb rib is singular because there was only one and it was tiny).

Ja, the food was good, but in my view it comes with an excessive price tag and a low score for value for money compared to the other restaurants offering a similar caliber of food and it borders on pretentious. Creativity on the menu ranks high, as does execution. They pay a lot of attention to high class detail, but all of that comes at a price. If your age is past the halfway mark, get out of there before 9pm. It’s the opposite of the foyer in the theatre where they flicker the lights to get you inside if your intermission beverage and ciggie are more important to you than part 2 of the show. Here they pump the music up loud at 9pm to make way for the overdressed cocktail crowd who no doubt line up at the golden ropes guarded by the guy in the black suit.

It’s a nice night out, but designed for a very much younger crowd who need to impress people they don’t know by spending a fortune they don’t have on cocktails they won’t remember.

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