March 520 Chef's Table: A Taste of South Africa

Garden Court Hotel's 520 Chef's Table farm-to-table dining series returns to downtown Palo Alto Thursday, March 17 as Executive Chef Clive Berkman and his culinary team present "A Taste of South Africa."   

The four-course pre fixe menu features a diverse selection of dishes inspired by the cuisine of Berkman's native home.

"I'm originally from South Africa, and my mother was a cooking teacher and a caterer," says Berkman. "I was always around food growing up, so I had a chance to experience many cooking styles."

Historically, South Africa was a popular port for traders sailing from England, Portugal, The Netherlands, and other countries, which Berkman says had a significant influence on local culinary traditions.

"South Africa experienced a unique mix of influence from the Portugese and the Dutch, the cultural influence from the English, spices from India, and of course the African influence, so it was a unique mix of flavors."

Though Chef Berkman says there's not one signature style to South African cooking, the culture does have a signature dish called Babootie, which will be featured on this month's menu.

"Babootie was historically made with wild game or lamb, incorporating the curry flavors from India, and dried fruit which comes form the Portugese influence," Berkman says. "It's similar to a shepard's pie. The crust is made with egg and tumeric, and it's served with a fruit chutney."

Berkman points out that ingredients available locally in South Africa are actually quite similar to those found in California.

"There are lots of vegetables, a diverse selection of fish, and meats like wild game and lamb," Berkman says. "Fresh, local ingredients play an important role, just as they do with our Chef's Table dinners. We use meats and vegetables from California whenever they're available."  

While the ingredients may be similar to other farm-to-table dishes, Berkman says it's the flavors that make this month's menu stand out.

"I've prepared a number of these dishes over the years, and when people taste them they are often surprised," says Berkman. "Anytime someone tastes something for the first time, they say, 'Wow this has a lot of flavors.' These dishes have mulitple layers of flavor due to the influence of spices."

The wines for this month's dinner will also represent "A Taste of South Africa."

"We've selected all South African wines for this month's dinner," Berkman says. "Pinotage, which is similar to Pinot Noir, pairs nicely with game and meat dishes. Chenin Blanc works well with spicer foods. It's a light, vibrant wine, so it pairs well with fish dishes."

We hope you'll join us March 17 for this unique culinary experience. View the menu below, and make reservations online to reserve your spot at the Chef's Table!


Passed Hors d’oeuvres
Biltong Mac n cheese
Wild game and dried fruit sosati

Amuse Bouche
Biltong and chips

1st Course
Prawns peri peri

2nd Course
Fried kingklip

3rd Course
Boerewors and pap

4th Course
Babootie with mango chutney

5th Course
Lamb and root vegetable Poje

Milk tart crime brûlée