The place of the fifth Taste
An Upstairs Dining
opens on 2 sides to a wide deck in the treetops
overlooking the little piazza. Romantic!
an evening at Umami
Umami is out of sight and off the beaten track but its a secret well kept among
the locals and tourists that frequent it.
In the fading twilight we walk down a darkened alleyway into a little piazza, greeted by the cheery
sight of restaurant lights and an already busy restaurant, though still early evening.
A single red rose in a glass vase, and candles, gave our table an understated
warmth. Red Wine bottles line the walls behind the counter, and the decor is simple and
elegant with an earthy element brought in by the clever use of brick and wood
We were served by a friendly and clued-up waitress. Once we’d scrutinized a well selected wine
list,(excellent descriptions of the wines) she took our wine orders while we looked over the menu. We had
decided on the tasting menu, which was a choice of 4 courses out of six, with the option of having it with
wines chosen for each dish or not.
The a la carte menu looked delicious too, with dishes like “Slow cooked Karoo Lamb with Rosemary
Jus, parmesan polenta.....” and “Chicken Ballotine...... or ” Aubergine & Haloumi Salad“ ,.
We were impressed before we had even tasted the food. It seemed to me that there were any number of dishes vying to
be picked and if we hadn't been doing the tasting menu, choosing could be hard.
We chose 1) Risotto Caprese with baby oven roasted tomato,basil fior di latte,grano padano
cheese and roasted pine nuts, 2) Herb & Citrus crusted fresh Line fish , 3) the Chicken Liver Parfait
with Brioche and apple marmalade, 4) Lamb Loin with green beans, mashed potato and finely chopped butternut
and onion, and lastly, the Chocolate Fondant with almond honey crisp and coffee ice cream.
We were not disappointed with our choices, each dish was full of unexpected and remarkably
combined flavours - a synthesis of the clearly fresh ingredients used. The meat and fish were perfectly
cooked, the veg al dente, the textures complemented each other, and the visual presentation was consistently
pleasing and inviting. The portions were just about right to. Not too big, nor too small.
The excellent food, wines and ambience made the whole evening a success and Umami’s is a
restaurant we would definitely recommend.
Who is Umami?..
The “Chef” appeared to enquire if everything was ok, and we met Toerie, who quickly corrected
us, he was a “Cook”, not a Chef. Toerie van der Merwe ‘s interest in food was birthed in his Mom’s kitchen,
where he frequently pitched in to help. He chose to be a cook in the Army (because it got him off other more
demanding positions, he says) and after his 2 year service travelled in Italy and worked in Bars, Restaurants
and Hotels, gaining experience. Back in S.A Toerie continued to work in Restaurants , learning all the time.
He came to Cape Town and opened Fandango, a Cafe and Cocktail Bar in Stellenbosch which he ran for another 12
years. In those years a real passion for food germinated and grew, and a desire to offer the Stellenbosch
Clientele an opportunity to enjoy really “good food” (actually you might call it fine dining but
unpretentious Toerie dislikes the term) sourcing local ingredients and giving Stellenbosch something that
Toerie felt was lacking.
Umami opened in April 2007 and has enjoyed steady growth since then.
What is Umami?..
Umami, the fifth taste. There is no English word for it, but “umami”, a savoury flavour, is best
translated as “deliciousness...”
Written by Jo Scott of www.stellenbosch-unlimited.co.za