Embaixador dining fit for a King

13 March 2015

The city streets are just drying up from the afternoon rains, but the promise of more lingers in the townships where it seems to pour unapologetically, as if to make up for lost time.

If you’re not paying close attention, it is easy to miss the seemingly dimly lit Embaixador restaurant at the feet of the Jan Jonker Heights, thanks to its tinted windows.

Once inside, the bright and warm restaurant with minimal décor offers refuge from the thunder, which threatens violently in the distance.

An eager waitress ushers me into the dining room, through a maze of tables to the centre of the room. As she hands me the menu, a wave of nervous energy begins to swell in the depths of my stomach.

Good customer service in Windhoek is as scarce as the hair on Bruce Willis’ head, so excuse my paranoia and nervousness as I ponder on whether she is doing a great job or is an assassin hired to take me out. Fortunately, the former prevails.

Once I settle in, the smooth, yet low Portuguese lyrics over the speakers begin invading my body as I tirelessly try to keep myself from breaking out in dance.

The lighting is perfect, and the white and orange tablecloths perfectly complement the mahogany coloured wallpaper.

The plastic roses on the tables do nothing to take away from the romantic ambiance of the restaurant. For a split second, I wish I had a significant other to share the evening with.

I soon discard this fleeting thought to the depths of my mind as the waitress makes her way to my table with a 2014 Simonsvlei Lifestyle Merlot.

I am no wine connoisseur, but my theory is that when in doubt go for a Merlot. They are often medium bodied so they tend to pair well with foods that have rich sauces, be it steak or fish.

The bread is fresh, but cold. In my head that is better than the stale bread I’ve had at a few other places so I choose not to dwell on it too much.

The once empty restaurant now starts to fill up. True to its name, which means Ambassador, the restaurant hosts a range of people of all nationalities.

First on the menu is the Ambassadors Salad, a combination of chicken and prawns, on a bed of fresh, crisp lettuce, pineapple slice and a sweet and savoury sauce.

Before the first bite, the seemingly mismatched combo appears to be my way of begging for a serious case of food poisoning. However, this unlikely pairing makes me want to try it more.

As I carefully stack a piece of chicken, prawn, pineapple and lettuce onto the fork, like the gluttonous beast I am, I say a prayer to the food gods under my breath.

The explosion of flavour and different texture on my taste buds tells me the gods have heard my prayers and they have given me a favourable answer.

In my head, the combination does not work, but my mouth tells a different story. It tells a story of daring to try new things and not being afraid of taking culinary adventures because they can be richly rewarding.

The sauce is the cherry on the cake to tie in all the textures and make sure they complement each other.

As opposed to having a warm soup to keep the cool air sweeping in from outside at bay, my stomach’s eye has sights on the Kingklip fillet.

One would think that my mild allergies to seafood would have put me off indulging on sea critters, but that was not the case. A poorly prepared fish schnitzel had me swearing fish off.

However, it’s a new day, and a new year so why not give it a shot, right? Had that fillet been the last food I had ever tasted, I would have died a happy woman.

I find that people often try to do too much with fish fillets. Either they add too many spices/flavours, or they over-cook/under-cook it, or it becomes too oily.

This fillet reminded me of something my first arts professor used to say, he would tell us to always use the KIS factor, Keep It Simple, which they obviously employed for this dish.

The fillet was well done and crunchy on the outside but moist in the centre, with no trace of excess oil.

By the time I got to my third plate, the House Steak, I began to wonder if my gluttonous heart had bitten off more than it could chew.

But that soon became a problem for tomorrow as I took a bite in the well-done steak, topped with a slice of polony and a poached egg to finish off.

“Dear God in heaven,” I exclaimed to myself in between bites. Another weird combination that I had under-estimated, but it blew me out of the water and I could feel tears welling up behind my eyes.

As I took another bite of my steak, having swirled it in the gravy sauce for what felt like a lifetime, my ear began to itch. We all know that is your body’s way of telling you that you are having a great meal.

I have always said that poached eggs go well with anything and everything, but for the life of me, I never thought of putting them on my steaks. At that moment I was at the chef’s mercy. Clearly, this man/woman knew what they were doing.

My pleasant thought was halted in its tracks as the waitress brought my desert, a slice of chocolate cake. My heart crumbled into a million pieces.

It was not much to look at, no garnish on the plate, save for some chocolate syrup, and it looked so dry I thought I would be taking a bite into a baked lump of clay.

Whoever said never judge a book by its cover, knew what they were talking about. I blacked out after the first bite. All I recall after that was the owner/manager bent over at my table asking if I would have another slice, on the house.

My theory is that I had begun moaning in ecstasy so much so that this generous man felt obliged to keep me on my high, and I obliged him.

At the end of my culinary adventure, I pictured the owner rolling me out in a wheelbarrow, but alas that was not the case.

He came to see me off, with a warm smile, he shook my hand, raising it to his head and wished me a pleasant night as I wobbled off into the dead of night. –
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The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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