If you were to stop the average Atlantan on the street and ask them what they know about South African cuisine, you would probably get lots of blank stares. Moreover, judging by the recent survey news that one out of every four of us thinks that the sun revolves around the Earth, you’d probably get even more blank stares if you asked, “Where’s 10 Degrees South?” While the answer to the first question can be somewhat complicated, the answer to the second is really quite simple: it’s right on Roswell Road in Buckhead.
For close to 15 years, 10 Degrees South has been providing Atlanta with the unique and multicultural cuisine that is South African. From its modest beginnings in a small bungalow to its present contemporary state, this restaurant has created quite a following with food that while often very good, can sometimes seem like expensive comfort food.
Our party of six arrived on a Wednesday night. There is a warm and intimate feel about this place. The interesting artwork and lighting lets you know that someone cares just as much about the atmosphere as they do the food. A guitar-playing singer could be heard in the bar.
We chose a bottle of wine from the large selection of South African whites and reds. Many will recognize the South African professional golfer turned winemaker, Ernie Els, whose wine can be found several times on the list. They also have a limited number of choices from other latitudes as well. Many selections can be had by the glass.
We tried a variety of small plates. The mussels were excellent. The accompanying baguette was the perfect vessel for sopping up the delicious white wine and garlic broth. The bobotie spring rolls were filled with a ground beef curry and served with a chutney. They were crunchy good but maybe a little too sweet for many appetizer palates.
The sosatie, the South African version of a kabob or meat on a skewer, was tender beef filet and also on the sweet side with its apricot curry. It had been de-skewered and sat atop a mound of Basmati rice, a staple side for many dishes. An order of garlic bread produced another very good baguette; the bread is good here.
We ordered the Filet “Au Poivre,” the rack of lamb, the prawns, the chicken curry and the chicken bobotie. The filet was tender and had a nice peppercorn cream sauce. The beef was cooked to the correct level of doneness but it lacked a good sear. The accompanying medley of vegetables was well seasoned and spiced with a dash of red pepper flakes. The mashed potatoes were simply prepared.
The lamb chops were good-sized and cooked to medium rare as ordered but, they, like the filet, lacked the sear that a hotter grill would provide. Regardless, they were quite tasty and also accompanied by the vegetable medley and potatoes. The prawns were split open lengthwise and grilled in the shell with lemon butter. They had the consistency of lobster and were only slightly smaller. Two at our table ordered them and both proclaimed them a hit.
The curry chicken, while tasty, was texturally a one-note dish. It was a plate of comfort food – chicken and rice with just a hint of spice – not necessarily something one would chose to eat when dining in a finer restaurant. The chicken bobotie was another comforting plate of food. Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa. To the uninitiated it gives the appearance of a free-form potpie. However, an egg custard stands in for the topping. The dish had a mild level of spice and was quite rich, thanks to the custard. Again the basmati rice was its stalwart, if uninspiring, backdrop.
No one felt the need for dessert, but the waiter’s description of Di’s sponge cake, evidently made daily by the owner’s mother, sounded too good to pass up. We also ordered a brulee cheesecake as well. The sponge cake was a surprising hit. It was warm and soft, bathed in a caramel sauce and served with ice cream.
Small plates range from $9 to $16 with sampler platters for 4 at $70. Entrees range from $21 to $38. The menu states that they will add an 18% gratuity to parties of five or more; however they did not do so in our case.
10 Degrees South combines a very inviting atmosphere with solid service and some very good food, even if some dishes are relatively uninspired. If you don’t want to spend 15-plus hours flying to Johannesburg, it can provide you with a taste of South Africa many latitudes closer.
10 Degrees South is located at 4183 Roswell Road. For more, visit: 10degreessouth.com.
Art Huckabee is one of Yelp’s Elite Reviewers, as well as a pilot, gourmet cook and food lover. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.