Cranks – “the Thai/Vietnamese/whatever you please” establishment, nay, institution had been calling our name for quite some time.
Some of us had been there a few times and others were crank-virgins, but the thoughtof a cranks adventure was bouncing around Restauranteering HQ like a rogue ping pong. We finally decided to grab the proverbial bull by the proverbial horns and do it. A date was set and off we went.
Team: 9 salivating soldiers ready for a foodie battle.
Décor: If Cranks is known for anything, it’s the décor. This place is a kaleidoscope of all things quirky. From the barely clad Barbie dolls hanging from the ceiling to the Tiger beer crates lining the wall, Cranks certainly provides ample ammo for an
interior design discussion. There is something to catch your eye inn every corner, including a mirror ball adorned mannequin wearing a pink feather boa and wooden torso with giant metal knockers (and no, I don’t mean door knockers). If Thailand and Las Vegas were to have a love child, Cranks would be it. Definitely worth visiting for the décor alone!
Vibe: As mentioned above, Cranks is an institution. It’s been around for years and it’s a place people will frequent come rain or shine. Luckily I booked, because the place filled up, and quickly. It’s based in the Mall of Rosebank, which was relatively empty but Cranks was buzzing. It’s certainly somewhere that you want to have been to, as in “Cranks? Yes, obviously I’ve been there.”
Service: Lacking. The staff is abrasive and I questioned on more than one occasion whether they were actually listening to what I was saying. As I will discuss more fully below, the menu is a tricky read and it’s hard to remember what you actually ordered.
This isn’t made easier by a waitress who just stands there with food in hand waiting for you to guess what’s what. That being said, we got our food promptly and the order, once ascertained, was correct. Word to the wise – make a mental note of what you actually ordered because the bill is not itemized and it can be tricky in a big group.
Food: Let’s start with the menu, or rather menus – plural. There are 4 of them, 2 of which are double sided and as big as a world atlas. They are a little confusing and all the dishes are described at length. Starters range from R50 – R90 and mains are anywhere from R80 to R130.
Here’s a selection of whatCranks was packing:
Starters: At table favorite was the Crank Mussels, served in the shell in a slightly spicy peanut broth. I found the seafood/peanut combination a bit odd but the sauce was rather addictive – I caught myself slurping some on more than 1…..10…..occasions. The mussel itself was a bit chewy. Approximately 6-8 mussels in the starter portion for R95 so a little pricey.
The boyf and I shared the Colonels Peek Gai – spicy deep fried chicken wings served with a chili/vinegar sauce and a fresh salad. I didn’t find the wings spicy at all but I guess if you poured the chili/vinegar sauce over it would have been. The fresh salad was made up of bamboo shoots, beansprouts, a variety of julienned veggies and some peanuts, and was delicious.
Another dish sampled by most of the battalion was the Yam Nea – Cranks version of a thai beef salad. The beef was slightly overcooked and I personally found the dish too spicy. The rest of the salad was quite nice but the spice killed it for me.
Mains: I ordered off the “specials” section of the green menu, so my dish was nameless. It was a spring onion and
rice flour pancake served with a Saigon chicken curry. This was not your typical crepe. It was a crispy pancake, the texture of which I can only compare to a moist, thin naan bread.The curry itself had just the right amount of kick and was toned down with lashings of coconut milk. I would definitely have it again.
Heo Xop Chua Ngot – crispy pork fillet with lemon grass, sweet chili and tamarind. The flavours worked perfectly.Each bite was fresh and had the right balance of sweet and savory. I did however, find the pork a tad dry.
Billy Boys Two-some – stir fried pork and squid . This dish was mild and all the flavours stood out. The squid wasn’t squid but rather calamari batons, but they were cooked beautifully. The pork was also cooked to perfection. A great dish all in all.
The boyf ordered the AC/DC beef, which he has ordered on previous visits to Cranks. It’s always good, apparently (I never taste it because he orders it “very hot”) I’m a great believer in consistency so tip of the hat to Cranks on this aspect.
Other dishes included – Ca-Ri-Ga (standard Thai chicken curry), HeoXop Chua Ngot (sliced pork with hot pink chili paste) and Tite Fitting Ping Ping(chicken skewers with potato wedges and a chili sour cream)
Dessert: Yet again, I didn’t order dessert.Not because I was overcome with wine, but rather because nothing stood out for me. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, Asian restaurants generally have a very limited menu which more often than not only includes ice-cream or fruit dishes. The only exception at Cranks is that they add peanut sauce…to everything. Not my cup of tea I’m afraid.
Overall, I found the food at Cranks to be good, but not great. I have most certainly eaten better Thai/Vietnamese food. However, what Cranks may lack in mind-blowing food and general service, it certainly makes up for in
Cranks is the grandfather of the restaurant world and has paved
the way for so many Asian style eateries.Therefore, my approach to Cranks is this – if you live in Joburg,or even if you’re just visiting for a while, go to Cranks. You may not be floored by the food, but you will definitely fall in love with this quirky little piece of history.
Note: if you have been to Thailand and loved the beer, you will find most varieties at Cranks.