This review Appeared in The Mercury on May 16
The old Gaby’s Tasca in Durban North has recently has something of a makeover. It’s now simply called Atasca, although Gaby Fernandes still has a hand in the business.
It’s a smart spot, livened up with a bar at the front that offers a good and reasonably priced pub grub. While the menu boasts of Prince Henry the Navigator bringing back tomatoes and chillis from the New World and their influence on Portuguese cooking. So fasten you’re seat belts, we’re in peri-peri territory.
Starters might include calamari tubes, with garlic, or peri-peri; chicken gizzards, yes with more garlic or peri-peri; chourico served traditionally or in a mild peri-peri sauce; or trinchado, that’s cubed rump going the peri-peri route. For those who want to lose the hot stuff, there are snails in gorgonzola and prawn tails in a creamy garlic sauce.
I opted for the squid heads, lightly dusted in flour and deep-fried, and with, you guessed it, peri-peri. These were delightfully crisp tasty morsels with a good kick in the tail. Norman’s chicken livers – in a creamy peri-peri - were less exciting. The sauce was flavouful, but the livers had spent too long in the pan.
Naturally, seafood features strongly. There are various ways with bacalhau, the salted Portuguese cod. It’s roasted with peppers or flaked with onions, potatoes and, believe it or not, scrambled eggs. Calamari, kingklip, sole and prawns make an appearance, and can be combined in a number of platters. Crab in a mild coconut curry looks interesting, although it doesn’t come cheap.
A friend vouches for the flame grilled peri-peri chicken, which can be paired with seafood. Fillet, rump and espetada complete the picture. And for those who like it, there’s rump the traditional way – topped with fried egg.
Norman opted for the deboned oxtail casserole served on tagliatelle, which was an enjoyable lunchtime dish. I settled on Arozz De Marisco, a traditional saucy seafood rice dish. I imagined a Portuguese take on paella, but sadly this lacked bite. It was saucy in terms of cream, rather than spice. The fish had that frozen flavour and the prawns were cooked to a mush. I think it’s best to stick to good old peri-peri.
Desserts can’t leave ice-cream and chocolate sauce behind, or vanilla custard with caramelised sugar – read crème brulee. I eyed a traditional Portuguese meringue soufflé pudding served with custard. I was warned it was rather unusual – meringue soaked in caramel and baked. And unusual it was. It was served cold and had the texture of bread and butter pudding, but it wasn’t too sweet and I enjoyed it. Norman gave the chocolate mousse the thumbs up, although it could have been darker and richer for me.
Service was very slick, the food out promptly.
We finished up with good espressos.
Adelaide Tambo (Kensington) Drive, Durban North
Tel: 031 563 2603
Starters: R35-R65; Mains: R70 to R175; Desserts R25 to R45. Kids menu R25-R45
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