MiCasaYeah. I don’t want to be mean, but this was so bad that I can’t really help it.

On Friday Chantelle came home all excited, thanks to a piece of paper in hand that invited us to the ‘grand’ re-opening of the Mi Casa restaurant and cocktail bar, now under new management, situated just across the road from the well know Harbour Lights fine dining restaurant. Now Mi Casa is billing itself as a fine dining experience, but you’ve got to wonder straight out of the box, what type of fine dining restaurant sends its main chef Juan Something-or-other, a man who seemingly likes to blow his own trumpet, out on a leaflet drop anyway?

Of course, Chantelle was more than a little disappointed when I told her that I seriously doubted that little piece of paper was offering us a free meal (hell, we’d be lucky if we got a free cocktail out of it by my reckoning), but nevertheless we opted to go and try out this ‘new and improved’ Mi Casa.

Yup. What can I say?

First points deduction for location – little to none parking, unless you park across the road at the old harbour and then walk across, certainly not a great start to for an exclusive ‘location’. Two, on entering, get received by rather flustered and very, very young waiters, who after a quick discussion with presumably the owner’s wife (in a VERY bright pink, shiny shirt), kind of point us to a table, despite the fact that we had already reserved a spot and based on that alone they should have already known exactly where we ought to be going. Three. No matter what you say, a fine dining restaurant does NOT use cheap conference chairs and tables, period.

By this point Chantelle and I were already having quite a good chuckle amongst ourselves, but nevertheless decided to go ahead with this charade anyway.

Of course, having been in the industry herself, Chantelle was quick to point out all the small little things that were out of place and not quite right for how these people were trying to market themselves, simple things like having an incorrectly laid table or a waiter who nearly knocks out one of the ceiling lights when opening our bottle of champagne… little things like that you know :)

Surprisingly enough though, their wine list is particularly on the cheap side of things, a bit out of place when you consider their ‘positioning’, but hell, something I was not going to complain about. As it was, we ordered for ourselves a bottle of JC Le Roux La Domain priced at R35 for a bottle, literally only a couple of Rands more than what you would pay at the shops for it.

We were seated in the non-smoking section of the restaurant, an extremely small and cramped little space featuring the most miniature of conference tables. This is then cut off by a big pane of glass that shields what looks like quite a nice bar area (though not so nice the bartenders it must be said) and an equally sized smoking dining area on the other side. Now I was already elbowing the pillar beside me but our rather unsteady table was the thing really getting to me, so I promptly requested our young man to do something about it simply because if he is going to be standing there watching us all the time, he may as well make himself useful.

Next up for our barrel of laughs was a visit from the owner himself, coming to check up on us and see that everything was going well. Now as I mentioned earlier, a person has some expectations when it comes to fine dining locations (even I was in a shirt for a change) and having someone dressed super casual and telling us how everything went wrong and broke down in the kitchen today simply doesn’t cut it.

Nice enough people for sure, but certainly people who are trying their hand at something that is just that much out of their league.

Any way, as explained to us by a not entirely apologetic manager, half of their menu was completely offline, meaning that we weren’t exactly spoilt for choice while browsing over what seems a pretty decent enough menu (as long as you ignore ALL of the spelling mistakes though – again, I have to stress that they are marketing themselves as an upper-class eatery. Minor grammatical errors are forgivable, but misspelling your dishes’ names is almost a sin! Pick up a recipe book or just Google them for goodness sake!)

Chantelle opted for their espetada which was apparently excellent (apart from the spicy chilli she mistook for a normal red pepper and subsequently swallowed whole, thereby searing the entire ceiling of her mouth off) while I went for the eisbein, admittedly not the greatest of choices when you realise that the only knife you are given is a sad stainless steel excuse of a steak knife that stands almost no chance of piercing the surprisingly hard and completely un-sliceable skin of the hunk of meat that eventually gets laid down before you.

That said, every ten to fifteen minutes or so (when I succeeded in hacking a piece of edible flesh out), the meat was actually pretty damn tasty, meaning that at least the food is one thing we can’t criticize Mi Casa on. (In fact, if I remember correctly, Chantelle went for some lemon tart with ice cream as well, which tasted just as good as her main course apparently.)

The meal ran nice and smoothly from that point on, and because of the venue’s small dimensions and lack of background music, you can pretty much pass the whole evening just listening in on the other patrons’ conversations, though that said, I nearly had to hold Chantelle back after she overheard someone making a rather nasty comment about her particular choice of meal. Bad-mouthing fellow patrons is thus perhaps not the greatest thing to be doing when the diners sitting next door to you can simply extend an arm out and swat you without stretching a muscle.

In any event, I think the best way to sum up Mi Casa is a) don’t take anyone there if you want to impress them, and b) don’t go there under any sort of impression that they are a ‘fine dining experience’. At best they are a decent eatery with excellent food, offer fairly good value for money and I’m sure that once the fairly inexperienced family team that seems to be running the joint gains a little more experience, Mi Casa’s service will be up there as well.

So three out of six for them for now then, and that’s only because they had the nerve to advertise themselves as a upper market venue and the gall to conduct door to door advertising, inviting us to a ‘grand opening’ that simply didn’t exist.

Sorry Mi Casa, but it looks like Chantelle will certainly NOT be including a laminated copy of your menu in the guesthouse folders after all.

Oh, almost forgot to mention, but it does look like they do at least attract one or two customers off the street – it was quite a nice surprise to bump into Anime Mark and his lady friend enjoying a nice cosy meal together. Hiya Mark! :)

Related link: http://www.micasarestaurant.co.za/