Iâ€™M unsure if there is any point revealing food prices at restaurants reviewed in these columns as, with now 9 000 000% inflation choking our beloved country, itâ€™s of mere archival interest almost before I have finished weekly critiques.
I write 10 days after re-visiting re-opened palatial Shilla, Connaught Road. Some prices seem-ed stratospheric then and look little more affordable today (when they have probably at least doubled!) But what do similar outlets charge?
Manager Chris Dube, previously with Cresta Hotelsâ€¦but as an engineer! urged me to return to Shilla, shut March-October 2007. Previously Iâ€™d met original owner, David Lee and his wife, Cherry, who cooked superbly.
He was a South Korean, early retired as a Seoul bank manager, but sold out to new Korean entrepreneur owner, Gilbert Baek.
Chris waited patiently while I snapped imposing duplex 1950-ish architecture of the former family home from several angles.
Previous trips were before I digitalised and the Hollywood-style building is photogenic.
It was a chill, grey day, like so many this miserable highveld winter: certainly not ideal to appreciate Shillaâ€™s accent on alfresco food in fabulous clipped gardens, by attractive water features. Clean, minimalist lines and dÃ©cor also scream for floor-to-ceiling sliding aluminium windows to be openâ€¦but it was too cold.
I was peckish, rather than ravenous, and curiosity, not hunger, made me order fairly disparate items from a catholic menu, now featuring original Japanese and Korean cuisine, plus Western dishes the Lees introduced and Chinese food, which is new.
So I had cream of butternut soup, seemingly currently the star starter at almost every Zimbabwean eatery. Most seem good; Shillaâ€™s would have been merely good too, were it not accompanied by an unannounced house specialty, really great rich melted cheese on toast, a mini-Welsh rarebit, making it
outstanding at $30 billion.
I initially declined crumbed mushrooms, thinking theyâ€™d be the usual fairly insipid button jobs, coated in breadcrumbs, often garlic-drenched.
Shilla uses the thinly sliced plate-sized dark field fungi; dried, then re-hydrated before cooking. A herby-spicy crumb-coating was memorable, texture interesting, flavours deeply intense: also $30 billion.
Blue cheese salad comprised not only the eponymous dairy product: sharp, clean sliced apple and macadamia slivers studded crisp mixed leaves and standard salad ingredients. It was quite wonderfulâ€¦ $45 billion on June 17. All salads cost the same; many may feel chicken liver salad or one tuna-based better value.
However, prawn avocado at $30 billion was fine value: out-of-shell crustaceans in large, ripe half-avo, slathered in piquant rose-marie sauce.
While nibbling middle-of-the-road Western dishes, two young Koreans, in my field of vision, wolfed and gulped a largely noodle dish, eaten messily and noisily with chopsticks, then moved on (after chain smoking furiously, as if it were 1968) to something Chris called Bibim Bob: rice, assorted vegetables and fried egg: $85 billion. Maybe their starter was Gop Chang Jun Gol ($70 billion): beef broth with tripe, intestines, vegetables and noodles!
Shilla, by the way, was the name of one of three ancient Korean kingdoms (57 BC-AD 935); the restaurant specialises in traditional Korean table braais, which have me looking around urgently checking escape routes and fire extinguishers: $110 billion, beef, chicken pork or seafood. Sushi was $85 billion.
Couldnâ€™t do justice to seafood curry with more prawns and generous hake fillets in a mild fruity sauce â€“â€“ not masking delicate seafood flavours â€“â€“ into which fresh peas and other greens were folded. It came with separate beans, carrots and “sticky” rice, Chris said grew in Australia.
By Dusty Miller