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Of all the places I’ve chosen to dine on this trip, the most hotly contested by commentators and reviewers is the one we’re visiting tonight. “Best in Cape Town.” “Tourist trap resting on its laurels.” And so forth. But in a way, that restaurant doesn’t exist anymore. What used to be called one.waterfront, and was identified as such on the hotel’s web site when I made the reservation, is now called Signal.

Same people? Same menu? I have no idea. The restaurant operates with the surety of continuity, however, so I’d suspect that no more than superficial changes have occurred. (One thing they might have considered adding to their list of changes: the clear plastic seats at a table under the central chandelier, which look terribly déclassé in an otherwise lovely restaurant.)

Service is very good, especially from the sommelière, who really knows her stuff.

Enough. How’s the food? It’s good, though we note that the enticing and carefully-recited specials are actually on the printed menu, which I’m not sure makes them “specials” in the usual sense of the word. We feel a little bit pressed to order both wine and food at the beginning, but matters soon slow to a lovely pace…just slow enough for enjoyment, just quick enough for two fatigued travelers still not fully adapted to the local time. Massive Mozambique prawns (they taste more like giant crayfish, meaty and rich) in pesto are a fine opener, but a giant bowl of Saldanha Bay mussels is almost overwhelming in its size. The mussels, which approach the gigantism of New Zealand’s green-lipped behemoths, are sauced with an absolutely vibrant Cape Malay curry, which adds complexity, spice, and a light sweetness, but not heat. The bread, too, is very good.

From a fairly long wine list, I choose a much-awarded bottle that I’ve been eager to try.

The meal is expensive by the numbers but a fraction what one would pay for an equivalent dinner in the States. Despite any nagging concerns, there are definitely reasons to like this country. And when we take a taxi back to the hotel, it’s just $2, which includes a rather extravagant tip. (11/08)


Copyright © Thor Iverson