Welcome to the one, the only, South African restaurant in Atlanta: 10 Degrees South.
The menu here, with all its unusual words, seems to be talking to you in a foreign language.
But the flavors speak a language you know — that of staid, familiar Continental cooking. Throw in some easygoing sweet-and-sour sauces and a basketful of South African wines, and you’ve got a nice, non-challenging, date-night kind of spot with a slightly exotic sense of dress.
Consider these cheerful sosoties ($11) — an appetizer portion of skewered beef tenderloin served with a tangy, balanced apricot curry glaze. I was impressed that the first flavor wasn’t sugar. That said, 11 bucks seems a little steep for four bites of beef.
I had to order this sliced beef sausage ($9) after hearing the waiter carefully pronounce it with the right accent, sounding the “w” like a “v.” Boer-VUHRS.
You know what it was? Beef sausage swimming in a brown sauce that brought a strong whiff of Worcestershire as soon as it hit the table.
It was fine.
It was a sausage. In Worcestershire gravy. Fine.
The kitchen here likes to make spring rolls, several versions of which showed up on both the regular menu and the specials list.
We chose the chicken peri peri rolls ($8.50), which came to the table crisp, chickeny and glued into a perfect chicken roll cross with a scoop of mashed potatoes.
But that ramekin holds spicy peri peri sauce that is sharp, spicy, a tiny bit sweet, maybe a little mustardy? I don’t know. I just kept dipping everything in the sauce — first the rolls, then the potatoes, then my bare fork, then my finger, trying to tease out all the flavors. It’s yummy. I want access to the peri peri pipeline.
My friend and I split one order of bobotie ($20) for our entree. Perhaps South Africa’s most famous dish, it is a sweet ground meat curry topped with a rich custard a la moussaka. I remember my sister making a version of this dish with apricot preserves, bananas and ground lamb.
This one made with beef and plenty of plump raisins was less sweet and more to my liking. It did seem a little like exotic-flavored Hamburger Helper.
This was my first visit to 10 Degrees South since its 2005 renovation that replaced the former overeager, animal-print, safari-in-a-bungalow look with the this grand, airy, breezy dining room.
The back bar and outdoor patio seem really cozy. I think the next time I visit will be for wine, snacks and massive infusions of peri peri sauce on the patio.