The menu is cleverly divided into small bowls, large bowls, plates and boards. This is handy, so you can decide on what to order based on how hungry you are. Sharing is recommended, so order according to the number of people that are dining. Order a selection from each menu category so you get a broad flavour experience. The deliciously spicy kimchi pickle is a great accompaniment to all the menu items and adds a spicy, sour kick to both the soups and the dim sum. If crunchy, deep-fried nibbles are what you crave, then the crispy rice cubes are a must-try. The texture of the sticky rice with its crunchy exterior dipped in a soy dressing is a flavour sensation.
The bao buns are very popular. Served as a singular bun in a small steamer basket while piping hot, the bao buns have fillings like sticky pork, shredded duck or deep-fried battered oyster. The pork, with thick udon noodles served in a deep meaty broth and topped with a soft egg, is packed full of strong umami flavour.
Because food is prepared to order, menu items come as they are ready so that they are eaten at their best. The modern Japanese theme is carried through to the desserts, which are all based on popular Asian desserts using interesting flavours such as miso and tonka bean.
The selection of Japanese inspired cocktails combines interesting spices and flavours with base spirits and juices. There is also an extensive wine list on offer, along with a small selection of craft beers and ciders. The vast whiskey selection includes a special Japanese whiskey as well.
Service is attentive, with the staff ready and willing to explain each menu item in detail as well as clarify on portion sizes and how much of one item you should order.
Although the food may be Japanese, the restaurant décor is modern French, with low-hanging chandeliers and velvet upholstered chairs. An adorable French poodle statue guards the bottom of the stairs and watches you while you dine. The wall is lined with small trinkets, amongst them a Chinese good fortune cat.
The tipsy caramel popcorn is the perfect-after dinner nibble to enjoy with coffee or a night cap.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Tucked away upstairs above Dear Me, this night time-only venue is a real hidden gem. Tapas dishes are Japanese and Asian-inspired, and are relatively affordable, considering the quality – so order a feast, and try a wide range of the fabulous flavourful dishes.
From the sides portion of the menu, the miso corn – chargrilled on the cob, with a lump of mindblowing miso butter – should not be missed. The burst of sweetness from the corn contrasts beautifully with the saltiness of the miso butter. The nasu dengaku – a miso-glazed roast eggplant – is almost meaty, thanks to its unctuous, umami-rich glaze. The piece de resistance in the umami department, however, is the ochazuke: a bowl of sushi rice swimming in a warming matcha and dashi broth, topped with tender pan-fried fish. The broth offers a serious punch of umami and, with the addition of sticky sushi rice, this is a Japanese-inspired answer to comfort food.
On the plates menu, try the karaage chicken – crispy batter on the outside, tender thighs on the inside – and a tasty lime and chilli aioli to boot. The sticky pork ribs – once only a special – are now thankfully on the main menu.
For dessert, try the sublime sorbet (sake, lime and pickled ginger) or look out for the blackboard offering a taste of Dear Me. On the night we visit, there’s a churro bowl on offer, which turns out to be an actual bowl constructed out of churro batter then filled with the creamiest ice cream we’ve ever encountered.
It’s not perfect. The gourmet hot dogs yield less oohing and ahhing from our table (although the crispy onions are a great touch) and on one recent visit the ribs are a little dry. But it’s likely you’ll hit the jackpot with some of the dishes – and everyone in your party will find their own favourite.
A knowledgeable but very down-to-earth sommelier is on hand to guide you through the interesting wine list, if that’s what you’re after. Otherwise, try one of the cocktails from the extensive Tjing Tjing list, a Japanese Kirin beer, or an Aegir Giant IPA – a new craft beer being produced in Noordhoek.
Moody blue walls, industrial metal tables and ghost chairs set the scene for a stylish dinner. It can feel a little cold and in-between-y – as young people pass you on the stairs, heading up to the rooftop bar above.
Friendly and helpful. The food comes out as it’s ready – so order your tapas dishes in two waves if you’re worried about things getting cold.
Visit the rooftop bar, Tjing Tjing, upstairs for a nightcap, if you’re not quite ready to go home yet.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.
Situated on the first floor of 165 Longmarket Street in Cape Town, Tjing Tjing Torii feels like a brilliant secret. The restaurant and bar was voted Best Asian Eatery in the Western Cape by Eat Out readers in 2015. Katharine Jacobs went to investigate – and thinks she may just have an inkling why.
Named for a traditional Japanese gate usually found at the entrance to a shrine, Torii acts as a gateway to Japanese flavours. The menu is full of fun, delicious teasers, the flavours inspired by owner Ilse Koekemoer and chef Christi Semczyszyn’s love of Japan and Japanese cuisine.
We start off with one of sharing boards, a fabulously refreshing platter of self-assembly lettuce wraps. It might sound simple, but it’s actually pretty special thanks to an excellent peanut sauce, which pairs beautifully with the pickled ginger and some segments of lemon.
Then it’s on to a small side of nasu dengaku – cubes of miso-roasted aubergines that are nothing short of transcendent. This, for anyone who’s still not sure about the mysterious fifth taste, is what umami is all about. These are aubergines as you’ve never had them before: meaty, salty, and unctous in the way that roast lamb, still swimming in its flavour-rich fat, or powerful exotic mushrooms, might be.
From here, we tackle some dishes from the plates portion of the menu: lime-cured fish, prettily plated with chilli aioli; and panko beef tataki, with butter-soft cubes of fillet, crumbed and fried and sprinkled with sweet, crispy fried onions.
Next comes a special for the night, a plate of fall-off-the-bone pork ribs in five-spice and the sweet, sticky glaze that my heart yearns for. A minute of total silence passes between my dining companion and me as we gnaw on our respective ribs, until he pauses to say “Chat later”, before returning his full attention to his meal. They’re the best ribs I’ve eaten all year.
For dessert, we try the Japanese cheesecake – a little lighter and eggier than the Western version – and the ice cream and dorayaki. The latter features balls of creamy matcha and stunning black-sesame ice cream, topped with what looks like a macaron. It is, in fact, two little pancakes filled with sweet, earthy red bean paste.
An excellent, interesting wine list is complemented by something you might not expect at a tapas-style restaurant: a sommelier. Samuel Ross is the perfect man for the job. He’s friendly, relaxed and is good at reading diners, so he adds a fun touch to the experience. Allow Samuel to suggest something you haven’t tried before, or something that’ll pair well with the flavours you’re about to experience. There’s also sherry, straw wine, port and sake.
Everyone we encounter is relaxed and friendly, but attentive. Dishes come out of the kitchen as they’re ready, so place your order in stages if you’d prefer to stagger the evening.
The former White Room space has been transformed: it’s equally beautiful, but perhaps a little more playful now. Moody navy walls, a chandelier and Philippe Starck Ghost chairs contrast with illustrations on the blinds featuring young girls with cats, tattoos, bats, skulls and a miniature dinosaur.
This is a fun, contemporary take on Japanese flavours rather than an attempt at an authentic, pure version of ancient dishes. Dishes are easy to love as there’s a clear focus on making things delicious, and the tables surrounding ours are voluble with their compliments to the chef. We have a small feast for under R500, which, considering the quality of the food, is great value for money.
Three of us came for dinner on a surprisingly quiet Saturday night. The room is a bit dark and moody, making you feel slightly exposed, which is perhaps why it wasn't buzzing and full. The service was excellent - extremely professional and warm without being overbearing – and the food was wonderful. So many little tastes and textures and flavours… sweet sauces, crunchy fried morsels, fresh crisp veggies, chewy noodles, umami-rich broth and surprising little sides. Loved the pork buns dripping in tasty sauce, the miso corn (I scooped up the butter with my spoon), the sesame brocolli, the tempura beef, and the sweet endings of sake, lime and ginger sorbet and caramelised cardamom popcorn. Just wonderful! Will tell everyone about it and be back soon.