I was happy to be invited to Keenwa on the Cape Town fan walk by the owner, German, to explore Peruvian food. I was first to arrive which gave me a little time to chat to German and ask him, “What did he want Cape Town to know about Keenwa?” From this simple question I began to learn so much about Peruvian food.
Cape Town LOVES trends. As soon as something happens globally, we adopt it and just as quickly start modifying it with our own style. Yet Peruvian food, which has become a massive global trend over the last 2 years, has been almost totally ignored in Cape Town. Upon researching, I’ve been amazed at the channels that have featured Peruvian food including CNN and Food Network. I took my Mom to El Burro for her to have the amazing ceviche, a HUGE hit on the Mexican Restaurant’s menu. Origin? Peru. Something for us to think about!
German explained that because of Peru’s extreme landscape (from sea level to HIGH in the mountains) as well as geographical location, Peruvian food had many influences. Stir fries included rice and spring onions from the East. Colonised by the Spanish, that’s influenced the food too. Quinoa (Keenwa – where the restaurant get its name), a super grain, is also previlent as well as seafood and fish.
German said, “Everyone says our food is so fantastic but I’d like to busier.” I thought to myself, “Ya, I’m heard THAT on Hell’s Kitchen a few times!”
But I was proven wrong, the food at Keenwa really is fresh, unique and flavourful. Our table agreed that he should order for us and show us what Peruvian food is all about. I don’t eat seafood but I am a “When in Rome” type of person, therefore, I had the ceviche which was incredibly light and fresh.
We enjoyed new potatoes with a feta sauce and mini chicken rolls. I had a beef skewer which turned out to be beef heart. I knew it wasn’t a regular cut because of the tougher texture but had no idea it could be so flavourful. The star dish was the langoustine quinoa croquette. Langoustine filling rolled in quinoa and baked accompanied by a passion fruit sauce which was just exquisite. This is a MUST. (Yes, I don’t eat seafood, that’s how good this was!)
Another strange dish, and I say strange because it’s unlike anything I’d had before, was the mushroom quinoa risotto. Quinoa is slightly crunchy compared to risotto rice but the flavour that was absorbed by the Peruvian version of the risotto was amazing.
The other funny thing was the stir fry – it had American styled fries in it! And, just like all the other quirky Peruvian touches, it worked perfectly. Hey, you can’t go THAT wrong with potatoes!
For dessert we had a GORGEOUS short bread biscuit with a caramel filling. I’m a sucker for caramel. Our second dessert was another fusion chocolate cake, balsamic strawberries, goose berries and egg fruit ice cream. EGG FRUIT?! I know. What on earth?! Egg fruit look like heart shaped peaches. Unusual? Yes. Fun? Yes. Delicious? YES!
The food at Keenwa is unique and delicious. My only real criticism is that I feel the restaurant is too dark. The others said “Oh ambience, ambience!” But when I asked myself, “Honestly, would you bring Mom here and if so why and if not why not?” I think my Mom would enjoy the food but I was concerned that it was very dark inside. The brightly lit fan walk casting everything else into shadows so all the shops look closed. But Keenwa is NOT closed! It’s very much open and offering Cape Town a dynamic and unique dining experience.
Contact Keenwa to book a table or order a lunch time meal if you’re working in the city. You really will enjoy the experience.
P.S Don’t forget to have a Pisco Sours drink. Very similar to defrosted frozen margaritas, these are REALLY good.
Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown airs on CNN and featured Peruvian food as early as 4 months ago. Peruvian Food is on trend.