Restaurateur Justin Anthony, who brought South African cuisine to Buckhead with 10 Degrees South and Yebo, and will soon debut Biltong Bar at Ponce City Market, has opened Cape Dutch in the former Woodfire Grill space on Cheshire Bridge Road.
Anthony said the name and inspiration for the concept, which features wood-grilled, South African-style braai steak and seafood dishes, came during a visit to the Cape Town home of winemaker Ken Forrester, famed for his South African Chenin Blanc.
During a recent tour of the restaurant, Anthony and executive chef/partner Philippe Haddad were eager to show off all the changes to the sprawling 6,800-square-foot interior, which suddenly appears much brighter and more open than previous incarnations.
Anthony’s wife, designer Kelly Anthony, took charge of the re-do, which starts with the chic lounge area, and its nooks of oversized leather sofas and stripped chairs set around cocktail tables. The main dining room still uses the open “woodfire”grill as a focal point. But there are many other points of interest, too, including a pair of custom-made chef’s tables and some semi-private areas tucked away in back and upstairs.
“This is Cape Dutch present day,” Anthony said. “If you go to Cape Town and you go to wine country, this is what it’s going to feel like. What’s interesting is that a lot of people see it and say it feels like Napa or Sonoma, which is very much the same aesthetic.”
Anthony designed the wine list, which he said he put together to include single family and boutique selections, as well as global wines.
“You’ll see California, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, France, Italy, Spain and more,” he said. “Originally, I was going with a very extensive wine list, but then I decided it needed to be more approachable and less intimidating. There’s a small rare, reserve and magnum list, but the prices per bottle on the main list are very affordable.”
The cocktail list will feature several variations on the Manhattan, plus signature drinks such as Anthony’s Good Hope, a tall mix of brandy, Van der Hum tangerine liquor, lemon, maraschino and Angostura bitters.
Beyond the decor and drink, Haddad’s cooking is certain to bring people out to try Cape Dutch. The Belgian chef has a long history on the Atlanta restaurant scene, going back to his time at Nikolai’s Roof. Here Haddad is doing what’s described as a “global menu highlighting South African influences.”
“It has things from my traditional Belgian fundamentals, and into France and South Africa, and then Asian,” he said. “I wanted to bring in some things like the Norwegian salmon, which is really interesting, with a lot of intricate flavors. It’s quickly marinated in sake, with a little mirin and ginger. It’s finished in a sauce with a little butter, and served with caramelized baby bok choy and shitake mushrooms. So it’s a dish that’s light but very interesting.”
One thing on the menu that may take a bit of explaining on the part of the servers is a starter called Foie Gras Brûlée.
“I think it’s a complex item that involves creativity,” Haddad said. The contrast of a pan-seared foie gras with buttery king mushrooms and a foie gras brûlée, which is not sweet but has an egg custard base. We serve a toasted brioche with it, so you can spread it, and there’s little bit of roasted figs for contrast.”
Of course, Haddad will have several Belgian dishes on offer, including Belgian pommes frites with chef’s sauce on the bar menu, and a Callebaut Belgian chocolate soup on the dessert menu.
“I have to have the pommes frites,” Haddad said. “And will be doing things like mussels, and a braised rabbit dish, which is my mother’s recipe. I grew up with that dish and it’s very classic comfort food — not sophisticated. It’s the opposite of the foie gras brûlée.”
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