I don’t like to review (although I do like to preview) restaurants when they have just opened, I prefer to give them a couple of months to settle in. I may have taken that policy a bit too far with Hallelujah, seeing as it has been open for over a year already. My word, time does fly these days! What got me there eventually was a perfect storm of me wanting to go there for dinner and someone inviting me to join them there for dinner.
Why was I suddenly so keen to eat at Hallelujah? Well, I had recently seen this tweet:
Now if you’ve read my Chef’s Warehouse review, you will know I’m a big fan of the place and rate it the best tapas offering in Cape Town. So either someone doesn’t know what they are talking about, or I am really missing out! So I was very happy when I was fortuitously invited to join friends for dinner at Hallelujah soon after seeing that tweet.
The restaurant sits on a road which is home to some of my favourite restaurants, Kloof Nek Road (turn left at Rafiki’s as you head toward the mountain). Hallelujah is situated right next door to Kyoto Sushi garden, one of my favourite Asian restaurants, and over the road from Miller’s Thumb, one of my favourite relaxed dining spots. On the corner you have The Power and The Glory if you fancy a pre or post-dinner drink. If you’re allergic to hipsters you could also have that drink upstairs at Rafikis.
Talking about hipsters, Hallelujah is very hip. It’s very New York with it’s small space, trendy decor, counter seating and limited menu (not that I’ve been to New York lately, just going on what I’ve read). You pick up that vibe straight away just from the exterior, with it’s name written in neon pink lights. It’s appealing, I have to admit. Anyone with an ounce of curiosity would want to eat there.
Their policy is that you can book tables for groups of 4 or 6, if there are fewer of you then you have to grab a seat at the window counter (walk-ins only). There are only 4 or 5 tables so I advise you to book. It’s a very small restaurant, seating for about 25 maximum. Half the space is dedicated to the bar / kitchen. It gives it a busy vibe, even though there are not that many people.
The decor is unusual, but not overdone. The scene is set with some prominent elements like the pink flamingo wallpaper and the retro longboard on the wall, then the rest is mostly functional. The lighting is soft, which is great for the ambiance (but TERRIBLE for photos! I have to apologise, these were all taken with my phone and even after applying some filters they still look terrible!). I didn’t notice if there was music or not, which I suppose is a good thing. Service was friendly and attentive, no complaints in that department.
The menu is quite limited, which is not a problem. I do prefer fewer dishes done well than a big selection of average dishes. There are 3 seafood options, steamed mussels in a lime & butter sauce (R88), grilled prawns on steamed buns (R98), lobster on a New England style roll (R128). The 4 meat options are, beef tataki (R78), pork belly on steamed buns (R78), spicy chicken wings (R78) and duck on soft ramen taco (R88). There are 3 sides to complement the dishes, vegetable suprise (R64), pickles (R48) and green papaya salad (R48). The one dessert is banana bread ice cream in a fresh guava pond (R64).
So we ordered everything. There were 5 of us, so we doubled up on the duck and the pork belly. The highlights were the beef tataki, pork belly and duck. The pickles were surprisingly good and the vegetable surprise was also quite interesting mainly due to the cashew miso brittle. I found the buns diluted some of the flavours, for instance the prawns were tasty but a lot of the flavour was lost when you enveloped them in a bun. I don’t think the lobster roll is worth the money, the roll is really the highlight. You could put anything in that roll and it would taste good, but R128 for a roll is a lot of money. We were a bit wary of ordering chicken wings as they sound so boring but actually there were quite tasty.
I have to say that the dessert was terrible. One of our group of 5 thought it was ok, the rest of us hated it. The dessert sounds and looks quite interesting, and the guava pond matches the pink decor but other than that, it wasn’t anywhere near worth the calories.
If I was to go again, for 2 people I would order the tataki, pork belly, duck and prawns plus a side, either the pickles or the vegetable suprise. That would be enough food for 2 and not too badly priced at about R400. But then you have to add drinks. The drinks menu us similarly small, with options that are out of the ordinary. Craft beer lovers can enjoy something from the selection of Triggerfish beers (R36) which you don’t find everywhere. Bubbles is the focus with 10 options to choose from and 6 of them by the glass (R218 to R358 and R45 to R62 by the glass). There are 4 white wines and 6 red wines to choose from plus 7 cocktails and a couple of non-alcoholic beverages. We drank a few bottles of the Marvelous Yellow (R168), a chenin, chard, viognier blend.
If you add a bottle of the Marvelous to my recommended order above, you get a total of about R300 per person. Ours was slightly more at R2000 for 5 people, making it about R400 per head. Basically the prices are not cheap and similar to what you would pay at Chef’s Warehouse.
One think I really liked is that they give you proper chopsticks rather than disposable chopsticks. Using disposable chopsticks all the time is so bad. But please people, don’t steal them!
So which is better, Chef’s Warehouse or Hallelujah? I asked the other 4 people at my table and they all said they would choose Hallelujah but I personally would definitely choose Chef’s Warehouse. However, I have not been to Chef’s Warehouse for a long time so maybe things have changed and it’s not the same experience I remember. I guess I’ll have to go back to Chef’s Warehouse before I can make a final decision on this question.
Which do you prefer, Hallelujah or Chef’s Warehouse? Let me know in the comments below… and give a reason if you can. What is it exactly that makes you like the one over the other?