1. PINTXOS BAR AT SOTANO
Need a spot for after-work skinner with colleagues? Safe space for a Tinder date? Hell, maybe just a place to wait out the damn traffic? This new Pintxos Bar is your friend.
The space takes up the lower floor of Sotano’s Bree Street outpost and there’s no shortage of charm or pintxos — the Basque-country take on Catalan tapas. At Sotano, they start simply as tasty skewers of olives, chorizo, white anchovy, and peppers. The bowl of marinated octopus is superb, as are the rabas — deep-fried squid rings in feather-light batter. The sliced baguettes are more substantial, topped with anything from prawns and salmon roe to marinated bell peppers. Good for soaking up that glass of beer or wine.
The small wine list taps into some unusual local estates. Pity there’s not more by the glass. If you won’t finish a bottle, opt for the excellent house cocktails: The Bentley, which blends local brandy and Pierre Jourdan Brut, won’t disappoint. 199 Bree Street; 021-422-0567
2. DING DONG
This tiny spot at The Grey boutique hotel cements chef Cheyne Morrisby’s reputation for superb, playfully irreverent Asian cooking. Need a snack while you dive into the compact menu of small plates? The edamame beans in warm miso butter will help.
Our advice? Just order one of everything, for Morrisby rarely misses the mark when it comes to flavour-packed small plates. The sashimi cured in kimchi and a coconut-lime dressing is suitably fresh and zingy, while the bao — pork belly and sriracha, ramen-fried chicken, or tempura tofu — are a certain hit.
There’s a passable wine list, but the cocktails are the stand-out. 47 Napier Street, De Waterkant; 079-067-4919
3. MELTING POT
This petite pop-up (which runs until mid-May) has hijacked the Marrow space on Loop Street, filling its small kitchen with a flavour-packed menu of punchy, global street food.
It’s a tiny space, featuring two ceramic-backed counters on opposite walls and wooden stools seating just a dozen diners at a time. Plates and cutlery are paper and timber, with each dish served on a simple wooden tray.
But its simplicity belies the serious skills in the kitchen: John van Zyl, previously head chef at Thali and Chef’s Warehouse, heads up the pass, working alongside chefs Stefan Roos and Sage Fell.
The menu, which changes every two weeks, features only eight dishes at a time, each reflecting the trio’s travels.
“For a quick lunch, people order two dishes; for dinner most couples just order the entire menu to share,” van Zyl says. And little wonder. The squid bocadillo is a sure-fire winner: lightly battered squid — with tentacles, hallelujah — laid on a generous smear of fiery house chilli sauce, all piled into a soft prego roll. I almost ordered another for the road.
The pork barbacoa runs a close second. The slow-roasted pork shoulder is served atop a fresh taco and spicy, black-bean purée. The Singapore chicken broth is also worth seeking out. All soy, sesame, and pickled mushrooms, it’d fit right in at Singapore’s Lau Pa Sat hawker centre. Next time, I’m bringing a friend and ordering the fragrant Persian lamb flatbread.
Melting Pot is unlicensed, but you’re welcome to bring your own. Or ask for “extra olives”, with a wink. 83 Loop Street; no reservations
• From the April edition of Wanted 2019.