African cuisine is as varied as the countries and cultures that make up the huge continent. Luckily you can try quite a number of them in a single city, as Johannesburg has quite a range as well.
A place where you can try multiple cuisines in one restaurant is Moyo, which has several restaurants around the city. There is live (somewhat touristy) entertainment most nights. Also on the menu is everything from the Middle Eastern-inspired food of northern Africa to the seafood-filled dishes of the Cape. Some game animals like springbok even appear in some dishes. The music, dance, and other performances just serve to cap off what is a well done yet approachable introduction to different African cuisines.
On the outskirts of town (near the Cradle of Humankind) is the more intimidating Carnivore restaurant. Game is the main focus of the menu here, with everything from antelope to wildebeest to elephant on the menu. It might put some travelers off completely, but for others this may be an exciting way to experience Africa’s plentiful fauna. They do also serve more traditionally acceptable meat dishes and have a surprisingly good vegetarian menu as well for diners who don’t desire to try the more exotic menu items. The decor is also interesting – sort of colonial safari lodge meets traditional African art.
A much more down-home and authentic-feeling restaurant is Mammas Tavern and Shebeen, a food joint whose decor and menu focus on the South African township. Food is sourced from around Gauteng province and prepared with the expected accompaniments of vegetables and rice or bread. Some antelope is on the menu here, but as a traditional part of this cuisine rather than as a gimmick. The atmosphere is quite lively and fun as well.
An upscale restaurant in the northern suburb of Sandton, Lekgotla, offers a similar array of pan-African cooking but in a higher-end environment and style. The decor has a slightly kitcshy feel in its attempt at marrying African patterns and materials to a luxurious restaurant interior, but overall it still works pretty well. The chefs are clearly well-trained in European cooking, as many of the dishes are traditional African dishes in their ingredients but created with a flair for French gastronomic technique. Whatever you want to call it, it works flavor-wise. A long and impressive list of South African wines provides good pairings. There is also entertainment here similar to that of Moyo, with “traditional” music, dancing, and face-painting. If you’ve seen if before and it’s getting old, just remember how good the food is – it’s worth it.
[photo courtesy of thomas_sly]