Cape Town's The Melting Pot is where world’s street foods meet
Come for the dhal, go back for the fried chicken. This new pop-up should be the next eatery on your list - if you’re lucky enough to nab a spot, writes Alix-Rose Cowie
Chefs John van Zyl and Sage Fell spent a month travelling Sri Lanka last year and ate dhal every single day. What they’ve eaten on their many travels has provided the inspiration for the menu at The Melting Pot, a pop-up restaurant they’ve started with chef Stefan Roos. It is taking over the space of Marrow, the broth bar at 83 Loop Street in Cape Town, until winter.
The trio has taken over the Marrow Instagram account too — which is where I found out about them. Their bio promises global street food. Think a Peruvian pork bun, a riff on Van Zyl’s favourite meal in Peru, fried chicken with Asian flair and that Sri Lankan dhal.
After a failed attempt at securing a seat for lunch on a Wednesday — it’s small, it’s popular and they don’t take reservations — I go earlier this time, three minutes before they open at noon on a Friday.
Before I meet my lunch date, she confesses over WhatsApp she ate at Melting Pot the previous night but she can’t wait to do it again. She’s back for the sashimi line fish — and I’ll go back for the fried chicken.
The cosy 12-seater is unpretentious. Delicious smells come from the tiny open kitchen and Anderson Paak streams from the speakers. Continuing the down-to-earth feel, you grab a printed menu and order with Fell at the counter.
The food arrives quickly, on eco plates and wooden trays, with the option of chopsticks or wooden cutlery — or your hands when it comes to the fish taco. The menu is small but packed with flavours. “It’s all our favourite food,” Fell says.
We have the sashimi line fish first, a refreshing starter of kabeljou in coconut cream, topped with chilli oil, toasted coconut, mint and welcome pops of spicy fermented black bean.
The fried chicken is tender, deboned thigh in a crisp coating. They keep it light by dusting it in flour, rather than dipping it into a heavy batter. It’s rolled in a ginger and chilli glaze and served with miso and sesame mayo. The bright orange chilli oil and acid green herb oil pop off the plate. The herb oil is a clever way to use the leftover herbs from making other dishes: mint, coriander, parsley.
The fish taco comes in a poppadom shell. The curry mayo, tangy tamarind dressing, the pickled red onion and deep-fried curry leaves are a nod to Van Zyl and Roos’s time in the kitchen at Thali, in Gardens.
The bone broth is an homage to the space they’re in. Pull-apart beef brisket and noodles steep in a flavourful broth which has extracted its goodness from pork and beef bones and chickens’ feet. The highlight of this bowl is the shiitake mushrooms rehydrated in the broth and then pickled for extra zing.
Before we leave this flavor haven and head back into Loop Street, we inhale an affogato for dessert.
The portions are perfect for a lunch bite; order everything and share it for dinner. Order the extra olives and get a complimentary beer or glass of wine.
What we ate is just a teaser for the kind of thing you can expect at The Melting Pot, as the menu will be changing every two weeks.
• The Melting Pot is open from Monday to Saturday for lunch from noon to 3pm and for dinner from 6pm to 9pm. No reservations.