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Food24 eats at Possum's Bistro and Deli, Parkhurst

Like Father Like Son checks out Possum's in Parkhurst.

21 May 2012

The technically-minded have suggested that in relation to Western foods at least, particular ingredients form agreeable flavour combinations because they share the chemical compounds responsible for flavour. It never crossed my mind, when I was given a chemistry set for Christmas as a 10-year old, to test this hypothesis. But I do know that intuitively, fresh basil, tomato and olive oil make for a more pleasing flavour combination than chocolate, anchovy and balsamic vinegar.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very open to experimentation – my deconstructed Big Mac (with onion ice cream and lettuce foam) is still the subject of family jokes (or is it ridicule?) But deconstruction tends to retain conventional flavour combinations – it’s the delivery that’s different. In short – it’s hard to dispute that some flavour combinations work, and that there are others that ought to be avoided.

What got me thinking along these lines were the two dishes served at the recently opened Possum’s Bistro and Deli, located on the south side of the 4th Ave strip, opposite the Jolly Roger. From it I opted for the salad (a salad for the table was a collective decision with which I was happy to concur) and the tagliatelle with fresh porcini. The salad comprised a mélange of whatever was in the chef’s reach. The usual leaves, cucumber and tomato were supplemented by strawberries, gooseberries, grapes and dried fig .

As Michel Roux would say, ‘too much going on here’. In short, a series of combinations in which the whole was less than the sum of the parts. The pasta, on the other hand, was simplicity itself, but a classic flavour combination – pasta, wild mushroom and fresh parsley. It was one of the best I’ve eaten in a while – the pasta was perfectly cooked, the porcini was generous, firm and meaty and the dish was well-seasoned. The dessert disappointed – it was a pistachio ice cream that had clearly been brought in and which had that grainy texture of ice cream that has been refrozen after softening.

Of course, a dining experience extends beyond flavour combination. As its name suggests, Possum’s is a combination of deli and restaurant. The ambience is Oom Samie se Winkel meets Provence – a floor-to-ceiling assemblage of object d’art, including ceramics, old Bollinger posters, cases of canned tomato and olive oil, interspersed with assorted industrial memorabilia. All of this serves to promote a sense of claustrophobia, reinforced on a warm evening by the lack of any ventilation if you are not fortunate enough to secure an outside table.
The service was good, in fact, particularly impressive given that the place was packed. On a late lunch time return visit, the kitchen was closed, but the waiter obligingly prepared a selection of charcuterie (most of it sourced from Fama in Lorentzville, it seems) with a side salad, this time mercifully confined to a selection of well –dressed micro-leaves with a few pieces of fruit plated separately.

Jugs of water are presented on arrival, perfumed by a variety of fresh herbs, again, with little regard for flavour combination. The hand–written menu suggests an attention to detail that is promising, but the absence of a spell-check shows. The ‘roularde’, ‘pommegranate’ and the ‘panini’s’ will no doubt attract the attention of the spelling and apostrophe police. The deli offers a selection of goodies that you’d otherwise have to trek to La Marina in Modderfontein to find- think cheese, truffle oils, olives and patés from Petit Cochon.

All of which went to reinforce my intuitions about conventional flavour combinations – call me boring, but they work. So I’ll continue to serve a salad of warmed chèvre with slivers of lightly-toasted hazelnut, duck confit with kumquat sauce and to finish, chocolate fondant with pistachio cream. Those combinations work for me, and always will. Don’t ask me for my onion ice-cream recipe – it defies combination, even with a deconstructed burger.


Where? 7 4th Ave, Parkhurst.

You’ll like this if you enjoy fresh, reasonably priced but sometimes unconventional food in a relaxed but cluttered environment.
You won’t like this if can’t get into Jolly’s and are desperate for a beer and a pizza, or if you suffer from anxiety attacks in anything but a minimalist environment.

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