I love visiting Cape Cod in the fall and winter – it’s a family tradition that has taught me how to enjoy travel during all seasons. As nice as it is to wander through the Provincetown crowds and lay on the beach in the summer, the colder months represent a slower and more subdued side of the Cape that I appreciate just as much.
My parents had been to Karoo once before and had a great experience, so I was excited to try South African food for the first time. There are two Karoo locations on the Cape: the seasonal Karoo Kafe in Provincetown (opened in 2002) and the year-round Karoo Restaurant in Eastham (opened this year). In both locations, Chef Sanette Groenewald brings flavors from the Western Cape in South Africa where she grew up, while incorporating extensive vegan and gluten-free options.
South African cuisine is very multicultural as a result of colonization and immigration. As in all areas where people have experienced racial injustice, it is difficult to celebrate unique combinations of food that result without recognizing that people have been discriminated against or worse for decades. However, I always feel that people can appreciate and respect fusion cuisines if they understand the history that contributed to those flavors. Enjoying South African food at Karoo inspires me to better understand the history of the region.
Karoo in Eastham has a great beer selection, including many local breweries on tap and imported bottles. One of their weekly draft specials was Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer Smoked Imperial Stout from Ipswich. I enjoyed the strong coffee and molasses tastes that are smoothed by a hint of sweet brown sugar - all of these deep flavors were a nice complement to the light curry of my meal. I liked the glass that it was served in as well – a mini goblet of sorts.
The West African Peanut Soup has a pumpkin-carrot base with hints of peanut. The clean peanut taste reminds me of fresh peanuts, which I really enjoyed. This was a great appetizer, particularly for the rainy and blustery day that we visited.
I love trying new-to-me food and I am slowly adding to my list of ingredients and dishes that I’ve tried and cooked with. One food that I had never tried until Karoo was snails! I know, I can’t believe it either. The Fried Snail Rangoons served with a soy, ginger and honey sauce are not your typical escargot. Each of the five pieces that come in the appetizer are unfortunately mostly wanton wrapper, but the creamy snail inside the middle is very pleasant. I look forward to trying more snail dishes in the future, although I probably wouldn’t order this dish again.
These Peri-Peri Wings, however, I will absolutely order again. The Karoo website describes Peri-Peri sauce as an “African Portuguese sauce is made from tomato, chilies, onions, ginger, and a variety of different herbs and spices. Spicy, not hot.” It is SO good and my perfect kind of heat for wings. The grilled chicken wing meat is extremely tender and it is served with the perfect amount of sauce. There are a must-try and I can’t wait to make my own.
For my meal I ordered Bobotie, the national dish of South Africa, which is a beef meatloaf (my second meatloaf after the Painted Burro Yucatan Meatloaf!). This bobotie is a very soft texture, gently flavored with curry, and completely melts in your mouth. It is topped with a thin layer of egg, baked, and served with rice, chutney, and a few banana slices. The picture I have from the meal does not do the dish justice (it’s really not that pretty of a dish in general), so just trust me that you need to try bobotie.
The atmosphere was very easy-going and welcoming. Our server was fantastic – he seemed to really enjoyed working there and was happy to answer all of our questions. The bartender was also very friendly and knowledgeable – Karoo would be a great place for drinks (their cocktail list has some fun local flavors) and appetizers at the bar if you are looking for something lighter.
I’m so glad Karoo was my first experience with South African cuisine and I hope to return soon.
Karoo Restaurant, 3 Main Street, Unit 32B, Eastham, MA