Jenda at Montecasino in Johannesburg
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A Review of Jenda in Monet Casino
One of my biggest bugbears with restaurants in Johannesburg is that so many of the good ones reside in shopping centres. This means that your experience is somewhat tainted by the lack of sun and sky urging you to stay that little bit longer and have that one last glass of wine or cappuccino. Luckily one such spot, namely Monte Casino, has created the open air piazza where you can enjoy real sky and sunshine with a large fountain and play area in the centre.
The restaurants here include John Dory’s, Mugg and Bean, Ciao Baby Cucina, Metropolis Lounge and Grill and Jenda - our restaurant up for review.
The space is trendy and sophisticated: walls made of plant boxes and others dappled in bottles of wine, whilst an elegant bar with fashionable finishings lies at the centre. The outside area is divided into three parts (one smoking and two non-smoking): furnished with chic, black and white striped, cushioned chairs and a set against a lovely fountain that enhances the relaxed and inviting ambience.
It’s called Jenda: Food and Wine for a reason as the wine selection is extensive, different and very reasonable. They currently offer over 30 options by the glass including 9 champagnes and MCC’s. There’s something for everyone and if you’re not a big wino then John Maddison, the F&B Manager for the Tsogo Sun restaurants at Monte, will be there to suggest the perfect pairing for your dish. We went for Mount Abora Chenin Blanc to start – slightly wooded, citrusy and delicious, and, at R150 a bottle or R50 a glass, it’s a steal. With our mains we enjoyed the Beaumont Chenin with the sea bass which was just delightful and the Glen Carlou Gravel Quarry Cab Sauv with the ribeye. (It was on the pricier side, but when you taste it you’ll understand why).
Speaking of food:
The menu is short and sweet, divided into 4 sections namely ‘Small Plates’, ‘Salads’, ‘Mains’ and ‘Desserts’ with the ‘Small Plates’ section being the largest. By ‘Small Plates’ they mean tapas-style, but the variety is varied and eclectic. Snacks include dry wors, toasted cashews and olives and the plates consist sliders, prawns in lime and chilli, calamari, salmon, chicken wings, dim sum and larny potato fries (with parmesan and truffle oil)… the list goes on. We opted for the prawns in lime and chilli, salt and pepper calamari and pork dim sum to start.
The prawns, the prawns, the prawns! Never have I experienced such succulent pawns – they were out of this world; I would go back simply to have these over and over again. The salt and pepper calamari was lightly dusted, lightly fried and also perfectly cooked, served with a mild tartare sauce -they went down a treat. The pork dim sum however left me wanting. They were a bit limp and lifeless and, forgive me if I’m wrong, but seemed to me to be pre-frozen dim sum – I would take them off the menu as, when compared to the prawns and calamari, they don’t come anywhere close.
For mains we were recommended the ribeye and the salmon as they are their signature dishes – we asked about the fish of the day and it was sea bass (which is a favourite), so we went for that and the ribeye. The sea bass was magnificent; mouth-wateringly tender and served with a freshly-made spicy harissa sauce and steamed vegetables: it is the ideal summer dish – light and bursting with flavour.
My ribeye came slightly overdone at first, but the team handled the situation with the utmost humility and I was served a fresh, perfectly cooked steak in no-time. The ribeye was juicy and gorgeously tender, paired with one of the most scrumptious mushroom sauces I have ever encountered and some impeccably crisp and delectable fries.
For dessert (there’s always room for dessert) we had the Lindt chocolate fondue with biscotti, strawberries, marshmallows and honeycomb – I’m sure your mouth is watering just reading that description…It was decadent, indulgent and just fabulous!
In a nutshell: the fish here is better than most fish restaurants I know, the atmosphere is relaxed and trendy, the waiters are friendly but could be a little more pro-active, the plating of the food and the attention to detail from the kitchen is on point and the wine menu is to die for. With a tweak here and there this restaurant could go from very good to excellent in a heartbeat.
Prices: (based on Sept 2015 menus)
Wines R35-R60 a glass, small plates R35-R85, Mains R75 – R200