No – this isn’t a typing error – there is sushi available in the depths of the Kalahari. Cathy Marston investigated.
... is the Kalahari Sushi Bar in the Kalahari Gateway Hotel in the main street of Kakamas in the Northern Cape. Technically in the Kalahari desert, Kakamas is one of a chain of small towns which follow the fertile Orange River – mainly agricultural dorps, full of churches, sheep and dried fruit. The hotel is firmly rooted in the 70’s with net curtains, zebra-print chairs, a pervading smell of chip fat in the lobby and some battered pictures on the wall.
But everything is clean, the staff are smiley and happily directed us through the hotel bar to – a proper, rotating sushi belt (brought in from Hermanus apparently), equipped with soy sauce, chopsticks and hanging lanterns. It’s totally and completely surreal and as I hoisted myself up onto a stool, I kept looking through the curtains for the hidden cameras of one of those ‘surprise’ TV shows.
But it all appeared to be genuine as sushi-maker, Gerrie de Witt, sharpened his knife and got to work. The fish is flown in from Cape Town every second day so he never knows quite what he will get. In any case, he has started ‘supplementing’ his sushi to cater for the local market, so we enjoyed ‘Springbok Roses’ made with carpaccio and Gerrie says he has plenty more meaty tricks up his sleeve for the carnivorous farmers in town.
The ‘normal’ sushi itself was pretty darned good – salmon roses, fashion sandwiches, California rolls, nigiris, makis and the most delicious 7 spice seared salmon – all came rolling past in orthodox fashion and all tasted fresh and delicious. If I had a criticism, it is that the rice was slightly crunchy, but it didn’t detract from the occasion and, as always when confronted with sushi, I ate and ate until my ears bulged.
Also rotating on the sushi belt were various bottles of the local wines from Orange River Cellars. They have just won joint Best Cellar at the Best Value Wine Awards and, as they were sponsoring our trip, it was unlikely we were going to drink anything else anyway! But I have to say that their entry-level Dry White 2010 (R21.20 from the cellars) is as nice a tipple as I have had in a long time. A blend of Colombard and Chenin, it is dry, crisp, fresh, fruity, cheap – what’s not to like? And it went incredibly well with the rich fish.
These were pretty standard sushi prices with the Seared Salmon Sashimi being the most expensive at R47 for three very big pieces. I think this is eminently fair considering the extra costs in getting the raw materials, and it is made even better when Gerrie says they also do ‘Buy one, get one free’ every lunchtime.
Absolutely anytime you ever find yourself in Kakamas and want some good fish. I had a great weekend there and am already planning a family holiday in the area. If you stopover on the way to Namibia or are heading down the Orange River this Christmas, please do yourselves a favour and drop in. As Julia Roberts says to Hugh Grant in ‘Notting Hill,’ - “Nice! Surreal – but nice!”