Ur­ban Garde Cui­sine

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Julie Gra­ham Im­ages © Ur­banologi

Jo­han­nes­burg, af­fec­tion­ately known as Jozi to many, is a vi­brant hub of imag­i­na­tive ex­pres­sion that has fast be­come a cul­tural, cre­ative, and culi­nary epi­cen­tre in South Africa. Over the last few years, the city has un­der­gone sev­eral changes as part of a mas­sive re­gen­er­a­tion pro­gramme, trans­form­ing it into a buzzing nu­cleus with some of the best art gal­leries, bou­tique cloth­ing stores, restau­rants, cafés, night­clubs, and ho­tels. Ar­eas that were con­sid­ered for years to be no-go zones due to crime and ur­ban de­cay, are now vi­brant and alive with newly in­spired en­ergy.

The Mad Gi­ant Brew­ery is lo­cated at 1 Fox Precinct in Fer­reiras­dorp, in the heart of Joburg. Here, chem­i­cal engi­neer, Eben Uys, is us­ing his pas­sion for ex­per­i­ment­ing with sci­ence and flavour to tan­talise taste buds and give drinkers and din­ers a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. Sit­u­ated in­side the brew­ery is Ur­banologi, a restau­rant that is giv­ing an avant-garde twist to Asian street food in a fine din­ing man­ner, com­bin­ing umami flavours and craft beer through an ex­per­i­men­tal and con­stantly evolv­ing menu.

This unique cui­sine, dubbed “ur­ban garde” by Head Chef Jack Coet­zee, is a beau­ti­ful re­sult of the kitchen team work­ing closely with the brew­ery team, brain­storm­ing and test­ing new ideas in search of bold flavours, us­ing fresh in­gre­di­ents, and ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent pro­cesses and tech­niques. The essence of the de­lec­ta­ble food comes from this avant-garde (or ur­ban garde) thought process as well as the over­all free-spir­ited,

ad­ven­tur­ous phi­los­o­phy of the brand which en­cour­ages un­in­hib­ited cre­ativ­ity to flour­ish.

Chef Jack grew up on a farm in Zim­babwe where he was sur­rounded by wildlife and vast, di­verse land­scapes with an abun­dance of plants and veg­e­ta­tion. Us­ing his own veg­etable and herb gar­den to source fresh pro­duce for meals, which he would as­sist his mother in pas­sion­ately pre­par­ing, he soon re­alised that he had a call­ing to cook as a ca­reer. His culi­nary jour­ney be­gan at Sil­wood School of Cook­ery in Cape Town, where he spent three years hon­ing his skills, all the while mas­ter­ing the art of Asian cook­ing by work­ing at var­i­ous restau­rants in the area.

Now at the helm of the Ur­banologi ship, Chef Jack is dig­ging deep to bring din­ers some­thing new and ex­cit­ing, ex­per­i­ment­ing not only with food, but beer too. Think beer­in­fused caramel, syrup, vine­gar, Mar­mite, and so much more.

“I try to draw from the im­me­di­ate area around me,” Chef Jack says. “We work a lot with the brew­ery and we share some of their tech­niques and prin­ci­ples. I like to pick the brains of all the brew­ers to see how we can col­lab­o­rate and in­vent some­thing unique.” Un­der­stand­ably, with the state-of-the-art Mad Gi­ant Brew­ery in-house, no ex­pe­ri­ence at Ur­banologi is truly com­plete without a beer in hand.

Din­ers can ex­pect an abun­dance of Asian flavours through­out the menu, show­cas­ing the use of tra­di­tional in­gre­di­ents like okra, miso paste, and soy sauce. While most of the in­gre­di­ents are lo­cally sourced, for­eign com­po­nents are al­ways given a fresh South African twist – think tra­di­tional steamed mos­bol­letjies with whipped farm but­ter and dukkah spice. Tapas-style plates with heir­loom baby car­rots, teriyaki poached sweet pota­toes, and kumquats ga­lore are also present and close to Chef Jack’s heart.

“I be­lieve food al­lows you the abil­ity to time travel. You can sit and eat some­thing and be trans­ported. I re­mem­ber eat­ing kumquats as a kid, and for me, those are some of the best mem­o­ries I have of my child­hood,” he re­calls. “I try to keep away from any­thing pro­cessed and avoid short­cuts when it comes to mak­ing all meals. I’d rather make things from scratch, make it my­self and make it dif­fer­ent. The flavour that gets lost in mass pro­duc­tion is in­cred­i­ble.”

The menu is di­vided into six sec­tions (raw, fried, kushiyaki, steamed, cured, and frozen), each in­clud­ing a dish that you might con­sider for starters, mains, desserts, or sides. This way din­ers can con­struct their own meals de­pend­ing on what they en­joy. Each dish has a rec­om­mended wine or beer to pair to make the most of the culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence.

With so many great lo­cal har­vest pos­si­bil­i­ties, Chef Jack loves to take one key in­gre­di­ent and ex­per­i­ment un­til he has run out of ideas. His pas­sion be­hind this is to get South African in­gre­di­ents recog­nised, so that we may have a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the unique pro­duce we have right here in our home coun­try. Be­liev­ing that in the near fu­ture we will also be see­ing lots more veg­eta­bles and less red meat, he hopes to cre­ate aware­ness about se­condary cuts and sus­tain­able eat­ing. In his opin­ion, it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the chef to ex­per­i­ment and cre­ate con­scious eat­ing habits for all.

“I hope to see other chefs mak­ing use of more se­condary cuts, some­thing we have also in­cluded in the menu. Th­ese cuts are not as well-known as they should be and I plan to use Ur­banologi as a plat­form to make peo­ple aware of them.”

This is stim­u­lat­ing and in­spi­ra­tional food to say the least, and we are ex­cited to see more and more in­spir­ing cre­ations by the master­ful teams at both Mad Gi­ant Brew­ery and Ur­banologi. Head on down and have the ur­ban garde ex­pe­ri­ence for your­self – your taste buds will be most grate­ful.

For more info, visit www.ur­banologi.co.za.

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