Award-winning local chef Katlego Mlambo has once again taken up residency at the trendy Marabi jazz club within the Joburg inner city’s Hallmark House Hotel.
Rather than a permanent stint, this time the young chef and TV-personality has embarked on a multi-month pop-up which sees him bring back some of his most-loved dishes and exciting new additions to the small plate menu for which the club has become known.
To start there’s Thai-style oysters — served with a sweet, salty, spicy and sour Nam Jim dressing — and a comforting bone marrow and bread course, the rich marrow served in bone covered with a crispy topping and fried capers to be enjoyed on the fresh out of the oven bun together with a selection of hummus, chakalaka and a tangy amasi curd.
The fan-favourite fish tacos are, of course, included too. The cured line fish, accompanied by jalapeño, avocado, passion fruit and pickled ginger, is sandwiched between two paper-thin crisp ‘taco’ shells. It’s a dish of equal parts texture and flavour, the crunch of the shell, the delicate ceviche, the creaminess of the avocado, sweetness of the passion fruit and the dash of spice making for a fantastic mouthful.
Next go for the chef’s vegetable dishes — some of the best on the menu — and Mlambo manages to take the humblest of produce and elevate it from ordinary to extraordinary. There’s the Carrot 3.0 — it’s a dish originally inspired by the traditional braai side of carrot and pineapple, but the ingredients are where the similarities stop. Textures of carrot, perfectly cooked, served with an amasi cream, sage, fermented apple and smoked pineapple vinaigrette, make for one punchy and memorable dish.
“Kat’s Broc” is equally impressive — the basic stems of broccoli transformed with the help of a Gorgonzola sauce, shards of smoked nuts and a fermented honey. It’s rich, salty and sweet, crunchy and creamy — everything you’d want from a dish and then some — and nothing at all what one might expect from a vegetarian option.
For mains there are the more generous portions of Marabi sliders — the deep-fried chicken thighs topped with Asian-inspired slaw and pickled red onions served within steamed idombolo buns. The “bugs bunny roti’ is another, the braised and shredded rabbit served atop a roti round is dressed with a laab dressing and garnished with smoked peanuts, coriander and basil.
End the meal with the chef’s twist on a classic, the malva pudding coated with an amarula anglaise is plated up with a scoop of in-house-made vanilla ice cream and topped with a featherlight brandy snap. Sweet, simple and delicious.
Mlambo’s return to Marabi, though it may be temporary, is one to be heralded. The chef bringing his impressive and honed skill set, appreciation and understanding of African ingredients, techniques and flavours paired with unbridled creativity to the table in a way few young chefs are doing today.
It’s food that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but impresses nonetheless.It’s fun and flavour-forward, well-aligned with the feel of not only the sultry jazz club which it serves but also of the contemporary-cool Hallmark House and this bustling part of Joburg.
The Marabi club is open Thursdays to Saturdays from 6pm until late, and for two Sundays a month from noon until 3pm.
The pop-up closes on June 30
To book visit hallmarkhouse.info/marabi
Call: 010 591 2879.