I do not like curry. I have terrible memories of colleagues who used to invite me to dinner and prepare dishes with so much curry that I could not even eat a mouthful. Or of restaurants where the odor of curry smothered everything, and none of the offerings on the menu were edible.
Karoo was such a departure from my previous experiences. Maybe it is the moderation of South African cooking methods, or just some rational, rather than overwhelming use of a spice, but the food here is unique and excellent.
My companion has been jonesing to try Karoo the past several times we visited the Cape. This time we dined here on our first night of a vacation. We arrived just in time on a Saturday night before the crowd overwhelmed the place. Parties of 8-12 people were arriving, one right after the other. There was a folk singer entertaining the patrons seated outside, but they were all chased inside by a cloudburst within ten minutes of our arrival.
Karoo features some exotic drinks, many of which feature rum. My companion tried something called a ginger snap (not a rum drink), a delightful concoction she had never encountered before. The drink menu also offers a fair selection of draft and bottled beers, no double IPAs.
Companion settled on the Durban Bunny Chow. This is lamb stew in a quarter loaf of bread, flavored with CURRY. She offered me a bite. It was actually delicious. Yes, it bites back a bit, but the curry is subtle enough to complement and enhance the ingredients, not overwhelm them. I think that even I could eat this meal without gagging on the spices. Companion finished the entire portion, but she was flagging our server down at the end of the meal for a glass of water.
I chose a safer option--the vegetarian plate. I was familiar with all the individual components--chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, couscous, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, tabouleh--but never had seen it presented this way. The tabouleh had no tomatoes, very little garlic or mint, but it was a hearty and healthful portion. The grape leaves have spices completely different from the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern ones I am used to. The chef has adapted these to her own homeland's style, and it was a delightful change.
We looked at a dessert menu, but passed. We were pleasantly full, and nothing appealed to us.
Karoo does a good takeout business.
The restaurant does offer a kids' menu, but it does not cater to them.
We look forward to trying Karoo again and some other items on the menu next time.
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