Rivonia is one of Joburg’s most versatile suburbs when it comes to food culture. From Vietnamese and Japanese joints to Afro-fusion and Lebanese eateries, there’s really something for everyone. Thando Ndabezitha counts down eight of her all-time favourites.
One of the newer restaurants in the area, Asanka, with its modern take on traditional African cuisine, has quickly become one of the local favourites. Think oxtail tagine ravioli made with homemade pasta, pulled oxtail, pine-nut brittle, charred onion, parmesan crisp and sherry voluté as a starter, or Moroccan-spiced lamb loin with sweetened soy parsnips, apricot jus and purée, sweet-potato confit and cauliflower purée as a main. Young executive chef Rouget Bagley is not afraid to push the envelope, and it seems to be paying off.
There are a lot of Japanese restaurants in Rivonia, but the top-end Biru restaurant stands out. Known for its yakiniku approach, which you could say combines our local love for braaied meat with fine dining, Biru has the ambience of a swish Tokyo hotel bar. You can also order the likes of high-quality fat-marbled Wagyu beef off the illustrated menu, if price is not a consideration. The chef’s pick of six Wagyu cuts (altogether 36 pieces) is a good initiation. Skewer options are also a good choice, with mouth-watering options such as quail eggs, shrimp, squid or octopus rounds, water chestnut, seafood strips and fish tofu, among others. Biru is a deeply immersive and sensory experience; go there with an open mind.
In the mood for Chinese? In the chilly weather, there’s nothing better than Fong Mei’s prawn wonton soup followed by beef chow mein. Don’t knock the place because of the ambience, which is a bit on the dark and kitsch side. The food hits the right spot, especially the ribs, which have become somewhat legendary: deep-fried with black pepper, sweet-and-sour sauce or lemon. No chopsticks required here. The average meal costs only about R70.
It’s not exactly the most lavish of restaurants, and trying to find parking in the overcrowded location can be vexing, but the food makes up for everything. Go for the Istanbul mixed plate – six different kebabs, from beef to chicken and lamb – which will satisfy three to four people, or one person with a huge appetite. Since kebabs are served with five salads, rice, chips and roti, you could basically host a mini-lunch in your home with one mixed plate. This is street food-style dining, so shwarmas, falafels and wraps are your main options, besides kebabs.
With a massage parlour and health spa, as well as a supermarket selling food imported from Vietnam, Saigon offers an immersive experience that goes beyond fine Vietnamese dining. The restaurant is exquisite, with cane and dark wood furnishings, and red décor adding a touch of pizzazz. For starters, go for the pho bo soup, a traditional beef broth, and for mains, an ostrich curry made with seasonal fruit that has a bit of a spicy kick that’s not too overpowering, but potent enough to be memorable. End with a coconut flan or traditional steamed banana pudding.
With the mission to treat each guest like a sheikh, this restaurant offers an experience akin to floating away on a magical flying carpet into one of the splendid lands of Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights. Your choices range from Lebanese and Mediterranean favourites like hummus, tabouleh and baba ganoush to regal main courses of prime AAA-grade fillet that’s been matured for 21 days, prepared with a traditional dukkah crust and served with a medley of vegetables. Sip on copious amounts of mint tea as belly dancers entertain you, and you’ll feel like royalty. There are set menus for first-timers to introduce the cuisine and dining culture here.
This eatery offers a little bit of Paris in Joburg, with fresh macarons, tarts and cakes made daily, as well as a set breakfast and lunch menu. When you’re feeling particularly peckish, it’s not a bad idea to grab a table at the patisserie in the morning and order the Patachou Breakfast, comprising eggs, beef sausage, bacon, roasted cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, potato croquettes, creamed spinach and toast. This is the most guilt-free and responsible way to prepare for a sweet treat afterwards. Did someone say apricot Danish? Yes, please.
*20 June 2017: This story was edited to remove Browns of Rivonia, which has closed.