Chef Dario De Angeli’s contemporary new tasting restaurant, Est Est Alea, is an evolving fine-dining experience where the essence of ingredients are infused into your food
Chef Dario De Angeli’s latest restaurant is as much a statement as an eatery. Est Est Alea (meaning ‘the die is cast’) is the chef’s final establishment. ‘This is it,’ he says. ‘I’ll never do another one.’ It’s also a clever nod to the former Cube Tasting Kitchen because it colloquially translates as ‘it is cube’.
De Angeli, who’s had no formal culinary training, has been in the business for 30 years. It’s been a long journey, but today the award-winning chef shies away from a starry-eyed approach. ‘I have no interest in the world of celebrity chefs,’ says the man who handed over his awards for his Greenside restaurant Yum to a charity shop.
In terms of his direction at Est Est Alea, De Angeli says, ‘I believe in finding the best ingredients and cooking them properly, keeping the intrinsic flavours.’ He and his team aren’t as driven by the molecular side of things as they are by classic tastes. ‘Our focus is on pure flavour. We try to find the very essence of a flavour and infuse it into the food. For example, our chicken stock has been reduced for 18 hours and has the sweetness, the umami, the saltiness and the consistency of syrup. We want these kinds of flavours in all our dishes,’ he says.
De Angeli and his sister, Lara, who takes on the roles of sommelier, maître d’ and marketing manager, grew up in a typically Italian household, where operas like Carmen played in the background and food was front and centre. ‘Our Sundays as a family were spent cooking. My folks would make the bread, the pasta, the sauce… everything from scratch. We’d walk into the kitchen in the morning and there’d be pasta lying all over the chairs drying,’ he says.
Lara knows her wines and loves to research them thoroughly. ‘I like to speak to the winemakers personally and seek out interesting facts and stories,’ she says. ‘I enjoy finding lesser-known boutique wines and introducing them to our customers.’ With this in mind, the wine list is adapted every four weeks or so – an ever-changing theme that continues on the food menu, which shifts every six to eight weeks.
‘As far as I’m concerned, no menu’s ever fully developed,’ says De Angeli. ‘I look at ours every day and it adapts all the time. I never think: “This is perfect.”’ It’s an admirable quest for dining perfection.
Text & production: Fiona Davern Photographs: Annalize Nel
Est Est Alea is open Tuesday-Saturday from 12.30pm for lunch and 7pm for dinner. Parknorth Heights, 17 4th Ave, Parktown North, Johannesburg. estestalea.co.za
Looking for more Johannesburg dining options? Read David Higgs’ Sinfully Sophisticated Saint Restaurant, Joburg’s Hot New Breakfast Collab and 6 New Dining Hotspots to Try This Week next.