Passionate chef Cheyne Morrisby, known for his flavourful Asian fusion tapas at Hout Bay darling Cheyne’s, brings his skills to the city bowl at SHIO. Named after the Japanese word for salt, this eatery lives up to its name, delivering big savoury hits in large portions.
The waiter encourages ordering around three tapas each, but the servings are so generous and fully flavoured that you might only manage two and half a dessert. The menu is divided into Umi (ocean), Tochi (land), Chikyuu (earth) and Amai (sweet), and if you’ve been to Cheyne’s before, you’ll know just what to expect.
You might struggle to choose from the many appealing options, including everything from trendy poké and nori tuna tacos to yakitori chicken, crispy pork belly and firecracker prawns. Umami, the fifth taste, abounds in the duck-fat fries sprinkled with truffle salt and crushed nori, which is served with mayo. The beef short-rib gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) are parcels of tender and sticky meat, softly flavoured with warming spices. The golden strips of salt-and-pepper calamari provide a zestier counterpoint, with aioli and a tangy dipping sauce. The beautifully cooked duck breast is one of the winners of the night, served on flat little dumplings filled with sweet ginger-rich flavour.
For dessert, the sweet-potato churros are perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy inside. They’re a little less light than the traditional Spanish dough, but nevertheless delicious dipped in circles of tonka bean chocolate sauce and what seems to be miso butterscotch. They’re served with slightly crystallised black-sesame ice cream. Other options include the kicky Kyoto Coffee, served with Nikka Black Japanese whisky, espresso-and-coconut cream and a delicious-sounding peanut-butter shake.
SHIO’s cocktail game is strong: If you want something more daring than the delicious Saigon Smash – made with Musgrave pink gin, crushed raspberries, makrut lime and basil – why not be bold and order the Dirty Ninja, made with vintage vodka, sriracha, soy, wasabi and celery? The bartender can whip up a virgin version of some of the cocktails if you’re driving. There’s also sake, Japanese beers and some carefully chosen wine options.
Booking a table is handled efficiently, with a follow-up SMS to confirm, and staff on the night are fine. The food comes out pretty quickly and the flavours go a long way, even when sharing, so you can summon up a feast and then decide if you want more later on.
Adjoining the Grey Hotel, SHIO is edgy, urban and modern, with dim lighting and touches of charcoal and red. A massive painting mirrors the street-art theme. The choice of very beautiful hand-made crockery in hues of turquoise and amber shows care and pride.
It’s a very sociable style of eating and perfect for this part of the city.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.
The cleverly thought-out menu at SHIO has something for everyone. It’s all about tapas-style eating here, which means you can share with the table or order a few dishes for yourself.
The Earth section features many vegetable dishes with the likes of duck-fat fries and grilled tofu salad, but it’s the spinach ohitashi that hits the spot. This Japanese salad is made up of raw spinach leaves, a slightly spicy sesame dressing, and crushed roasted peanuts for crunch. It’s moreish, light and full of umami flavour.
In the Sea portion of the menu you’ll find melt-in-your-mouth yellowtail sashimi with crisp apple slices and yuzu grape gel, oven-roasted kingklip, and crispy soft-shell crab. The chilli-salt squid served with green-chilli caramel and a lime-and-ginger aioli has that popcorn effect – you keep going back for more. With West Coast rock lobster now on the SASSI red list, we’re happy to hear that they’ve replaced this on the menu with sweet and plump tempura prawns. Sadly, there were no tuna tacos available; we’ve heard they’re something special.
For something meaty, there’s everything from duck to pork belly chashu. We recommend the beef short rib gyoza, though. These golden half moons are filled with spicy, unctuous meat, Fuji apple, tamarind and chilli. Great for hungry diners.
End off with the tonka-bean dark chocolate. This ultimate dessert bowl is filled with thick, smooth ganache-like chocolate and topped off with coffee gel, black-sesame snap and a miso butterscotch that perfectly offsets the bitterness. It’s rich and definitely needs to be shared.
The wine list is small but has a few by-the-glass options as well as bottles ranging from reasonable to expensive. There is also a small selection of sake and good dessert wines.
Friendly, informative and swift.
SHIO is a perfect vibey night-time spot: moody, dark and edgy. Neon red signage adds a glow to the navy walls and a feature wall of Japanese graffiti adds drama. If it’s a lovely warm day, nab a table outside next to the cobbled street.
End your meal off with a kick and order the Kyoto coffee with double espresso, Nikka Pure Malt Black Whisky, and coconut cream.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.