It is not every day you come across a country that is said to be more culturally diverse than South Africa (this is after all, one of our ‚claims to fame’). Keenwa, the name of the first Peruvian restaurant in South Africa, represents the food of such a culturally diverse nation. I was intrigued by what this ancient foreign nation had to offer and so decided to explore the quaint restaurant on Waterkant Street, Cape Town known as Keenwa.
Upon entering I immediately feel at home, it feels very “Cape Town CBDish” in its d√©cor. Modern mismatched furniture compliments the roof length turquoise drapes and pale blue walls. Although stylishly modern one still feels the Peruvian influence. There are ponchos on the back wall and a vast array of prints on the walls showcasing Peru and its people. All this is accompanied by the soft sounds of Peruvian melodies matched with minimal candle light. For those of you who are wondering about the origin of the name of the restaurant ‚ Keenwa is the way you pronounce Quinoa, the (now very popular) pulse from South America.
German de la Melena, the Peruvian owner who decided to make Cape Town his home after a long modelling career, socializes with each table as if they were guests in his home. Wonderfully chatty and passionate about his native land’s food, he recommends a few dishes on the menu that he believes we should try and enthusiastically tells us about the Pisco cocktails that are unique to Keenwa restaurant.
For those who have yet to learn about this South American alcohol, Pisco is a yellowish grape brandy made in Peru and Chile. If you had to liken it to another alcohol it would probably be similar to grappa, but more subtle. We tried two Pisco cocktails. My boyfriend goes for the Pisco Sour cocktail, the “national cocktail” in and Peru and Chile that is prepared with egg white, lime juice, syrup, and bitters. German, the owner, warns against having more than two of these. I agree‚after one my boyfriend is already giggling. I try the cocktail that is said to be “the rage” in Peru right now. It is known as Chilcano de Pisco and is made with Pisco, lemon juice, and ginger ale. It is one of the most refreshing drinks I have ever had and I can see why the Peruvians are crazy about it!
Keenwa promises Peruvian home-cooked meals. Which is what we got. First up is the country’s best known dish, the classic ceviche, raw fish briefly cured in lime juice and served with chillies (starter portion is R75). Like everything on the menu it comes with rice on the side. We also enjoyed a dish called Papa a la Huancaina con Anticuchos, described as potatoes with a delicious creamy feta and chillies sauce and Anticuchos (Peruvian delicacy). The starters come in quite substantial portions, I recommend taking a break in between and having another cocktail.
One thing I must credit the restaurant for is the speed of service ‚ what felt like 5 minutes after ordering mains our food was laid on the table (it wasn’t the cocktails talking, promise). For mains we went with the Tacu Tacu (rice and bean mixed together served with a choice of 3 toppings: beef with Anticucho sauce, chicken on a coriander sauce or chili seafood mix) and the Carapulcra con Sopa Seca (dried mince potato cooked on a very spicy peanut sauce, served with dry soup (spaghetti) and fried chicken, Lima’s most traditional dish and one of the oldest in Peruvian cuisine). All the food we tried was foreign to us and therefore I wasn’t always sure of what was what, but we thoroughly enjoyed it non-the-less. A lovely evening spent in a memorable setting. This restaurant is definitely worth a try if you are up to trying something new and different.
Visit Keenwa’s website to view the full menu.
For bookings phone (021) 419-2633 or email email@example.com