This venue has closed.
We worried when chef Amber Deetlefs left Pinotage last December. How would Beijing’s premier – and only – South African restaurant get on without its young mastermind? A visit shortly after her departure quelled our doubts, but when the restaurant recently moved from its Sanlitun Soho location, we were left to wonder again.
It was a relief to find that much has been left largely unchanged, and that which is new is successful. In the new digs, you could be in a travel enthusiast’s lounge, where books and the odd zebra painting litter the room. Li Ting Fang runs the kitchen now and, for the most part, he has maintained the same menu of South African specialities that Deetlefs developed. Li worked alongside Deetlefs for seven years and obviously commands a similar level of expertise. A new dish featured on the blackboard demonstrates his prowess. It’s a tender pork filet accompanied by two exceptional rounds of roasted pork neck wrapped in Parma ham (108RMB).
There are some small missteps among the changes. The former location in Sanlitun Soho introduced an intriguing concept: starters and mains offered in three different portion sizes, with scaled pricing to match. The present location has retained the format, although nearly all of the smallest ‘Taste’ portions are no longer available. The next-largest (‘Enjoy’) portion of chicken liver parfait (60RMB), meant for one person, delivers so much that it leaves more than enough to share with the table. The fried chicken livers breaded in cornmeal and smeared with a peri peri (hot pepper) jam are exquisite, yet the pate underneath now arrives thin and mealy when it used to be rich, creamy and decadent.
Remarkable bobotie samosas (60RMB) with a curried beef filling are a flaky affair, accented by a spicy peach chutney. Once it arrives, the curious ‘Chocolate bacon!’ (40RMB) – strips of bacon with a pool of melted chocolate – is disappointingly simple.
Before you leave, you’d be remiss not to order ‘The Only Ostrich Burger in Beijing!’ (70RMB). It’s worthy of such enthusiastic punctuation, with an exceptionally lean, intensely flavourful meat patty befitting such a sinewy bird.
The charming wine bar from the former location – which had fantastic South African wines at competitive prices – has also made the transition. The 15RMB-a-glass deal at happy hour (5-7pm Mon-Fri) is surely one of the best in Sanlitun.
‘The Only South African Restaurant in Beijing!’ has weathered its move to new digs well – and for that, we’re glad.