While a lot of what we do at Eat Out celebrates absolute precision – at our Top 10 restaurants, for example – we also look out for the kind of food lover that enjoys mayo on their tempura California rolls. (Don’t try to deny it.)
Not every restaurant on this list is 100% authentic Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean or Pan-Asian, but that’s the fun of living in a melting pot of a country like South Africa. (Biltong sushi, anyone?) This list throws Thai curries and crispy duck in with your sushi, and dim sum and pork belly in with your ramen to make a glorious Asian feast. Grab your chopsticks and enjoy!
This list comprises all the Asian restaurants in the Eat Out 500, the best restaurants in South Africa (as rated and reviewed by our editorial panel) that made it into the 2015 Eat Out magazine.
Chinese Northern Foods (Cyrildene)
You may require an adventurous spirit for the cold pig’s ears and fungus in sauce, and pork skin jelly with garlic sauce, but the regional fare of fried mushrooms with pork, braised beef brisket with potato, and stir-fry of calamari and pork kidney are super tasty. This is the place to book for a Chinese New Year celebration in Cyrildene.
The Good Luck Club (Illovo)
This quirky venue may not be strictly Asian (dim sum options include butternut, spinach and mushroom), but the mostly one-bowl dishes boast superb flavours and textures, like the ginger-plum chicken, chilli-orange pork stirfry, bok choy noodles with mixed mushrooms, and five-spice tofu stirfry.
The Great Eastern Food Bar (Melville)
Owner-chef Nick Scott plays with ingredients and techniques at this new-style ramen restaurant. Highlights include sashimi tacos, smoked trout buns with wasabi mayo, and roasted sweetcorn ramen with miso, mushrooms, sprouts and a creamy, slow-poached egg.
It may be on the pricey side, but the menu is geared towards high quality seafood and Asian-inspired dishes, like the rock shrimp tempura roll, chicken and ginger dim sum, and sesame-crusted seared tuna topped with wasabi mayo and sweet potato crisps.
Regulars here like to share large baskets of steaming dim sum (go for the steamed ginger chicken or prawn puffs). The sushi menu is extensive, and mains of sesame-crusted seared tuna, Peking duck, fragrant Thai curries and prime rib are outstanding.
Li Kou Fu (Linden)
This gem keeps the residents of Linden and surrounds happy with authentic fare to take away or eat in. Their mushroom dishes would surely convert any carnivore, and they’re well known for their crispy duck pancakes, and exceptional crispy beef with sweet chilli sauce.
Orient (Melrose Arch)
The menu offers an interpretation of pan-Asian classics like Thai curries, spicy soups, sushi, dim sum and a variety of duck dishes. Highlights include bang bang duck, green Thai seafood curry, crystal spring rolls, spicy prawn soup and wasabi Caesar salad.
Sai Thai (Cyrildene)
If you can’t make it to Thailand, this is the place. Dishes are redolent of garlic, galangal, ginger, lime, lemongrass and chilli. Standouts include ‘heavenly’ shrimp, tom yum, ginger chicken and house curries.
Shun De Chinese Restaurant (Cyrildene)
No-frills no-fuss traditional Chinese cooking. They are famous for their extensive dumpling offering, but the vast menu includes lamb, offal, pork and seafood, too. Try the salt-and-pepper prawns, Peking duck, spare ribs with black bean sauce, and steamed fish with bean curd.
You might get stuck choosing between the sushi and the variety of authentic Japanese dishes, but don’t miss the tempura; hana chirashi box (a bowl of sushi rice topped with avo, tuna, salmon sashimi and mayo); ramen; and the beef fillet teriyaki with crisp seasonal vegetables.
Luteng’s Kung-Fu Kitchen (Brooklyn)
Excellent Chinese favourites like fried rice dishes and noodles, succulent Peking duck with delicate pancakes and delicious hoisin sauce, and sizzling prawns in satay sauce are worth returning for (not to mention their crisp spring rolls), but the main focus is the revamped sushi bar with incredibly competitive prices.
The menu at this sleek spot is varied, starting with dim sum and sushi (platters are pretty and generous) and moving to red Thai curry with chicken, prawns or vegetables and the slow-roasted lamb, which is dusted in cumin and coriander and served on mash with a soy-chilli sauce and lime gremolata.
Padbok Thai (Brooklyn)
The selection includes dim sum, dumplings and excellent sushi, but this is Thai heaven, so ask for their famous green papaya salad with prawns, chilli, garlic, lime and roasted peanuts, opt for spicy glass noodles with prawns, shredded pork, tomato and onion, or try a red or green curry to experience the real thing.
Shilla Korean Cuisine (Hazelwood)
Expect outstanding food in generous portions. Pork dongkwas (crumbed pork served with cabbage slaw, sticky rice and tangy chutney) delivers serious crunch, and the ojinguh guksu (noodles with calamari and red pepper paste) is another favourite. They also serve Korean barbecue and delicious fried pork dumplings.
Wing Hin (Hazelwood)
Phone ahead to order your Peking duck. There are a number of recognisable dishes, but why not venture into unfamiliar territory? Try clams with preserved vegetables, calamari with green pepper and black bean sauce, or aubergines with black bean sauce.
1890 House Sushi & Grill (Observatory)
The sushi never fails to impress at this unassuming neighbourhood favourite. Grab a hotly contested spot at the carousel to get to the colourful plates first. Favourites include dragon rolls with sweet roasted eel or seared tuna salad.
Beijing Opera (De Waterkant)
This sparse, casual spot serves all things dim sum: potstickers of beef, chicken, veg and pork; steamed buns with fragrant fillings of pork, veg, chicken and chives; and steamed dumplings in various guises. (They take only cash or Snapscan.)
Chef Pon’s Asian Kitchen (Gardens)
The exotic pan-Asian fare at this landmark takes your tastebuds from Mongolia and Japan to Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Duck flies out of the kitchen and Thai curries range across the colour spectrum, but regulars stick to their favourites of Mongolian lamb or garlic-and-pepper prawns.
Downtown Ramen (City Bowl)
CT’s first ramen bar has a concise menu of two noodle dishes (pork or tofu) and three bao (pork belly, braised short rib, and vegetables). If you do have to queue, order a drink at Lefty’s (the dive bar below) to enjoy as you wait on the stairs.
Cheyne’s (Hout Bay)
Though chef Cheyne Morrisby prefers his pacific-rim cuisine to be classified as modern instead of Asian, his portions taste delicious either way. Expect the likes of chilli-salt squid with spicy mayo and shichimi (seven-flavour pepper), Korean pork belly with ramen noodles, and potato dumplings with delectable coconut cream.
Izakaya Matsuri (Green Point)
Sushi options dominate at this atmospheric little eatery, but Japanese tapas such as crispy bang bang prawn spring rolls, grilled skewers of pork neck, garlicky gyoza and miso soup keep things interesting. (End with the green tea or wasabi ice cream.)
The focus at this quirky cool spot is on Asian favourites like noodles, with highlights of prawn skewers with steamed buns and coriander-lime dipping sauce, slow-roasted pork belly and 12-hour duck.
Kitima at the Kronendal (Hout Bay)
There’s something for everyone at Kitima, which won Best Asian Restaurant in 2013. It’s a good idea to start with dim sum or sushi, then move to stir-fries, curries, noodles, rotis etc. The house cocktails are particularly good.
Kyoto Garden Sushi (Tamboerskloof)
This shrine to Japanese cuisine was chosen as the 2014 Best Asian Restaurant. Top quality, unusual seafood hails from around the world; flavours are fresh and delicate in stocks and dressings infused with mirin, dashi, ponzu, ginger and soy. Try the signature clear broth called The Sea, a crayfish miso soup, and feather-light tempura scallops, veg, prawns and oysters. Order fresh sushi from the bar.
Nobu at One&Only (V&A Waterfront)
A vast Japanese menu includes all sorts from sashimi and flash-fried tempura to seared tataki, all with tantalising sauces. The set dinners are a good bet, or try the more affordable light menu from 6pm-8pm at the bar.
Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant (Gardens)
Saigon is a favourite for Vietnamese and Asian fusion cuisine. Order hot prawn toasts, lemongrassy tom yum soup and shaky beef with a delicious soy-lime-garlic sauce. Arrive before sunset for stunning views of the mountain and Kloof Street.
Sawaddee Thai Cuisine (Gardens)
The exotic interior is infused with fragrant aromas that will take you straight to Thailand. Start with prawn toast, deep-fried duck wontons or a platter, before moving on to sizzling Mongolian lamb and a Phuket curry of fish, prawns, mussels and calamari with chilli oil.
South China Dim Sum Bar (City Bowl)
The emphasis at this tiny hole-in-the-wall is on good-quality dim sum. The braised beef short rib served with steamed jasmine rice is a perennial favourite, as are the pork dumplings with mustard and hoisin sauce, and the hawker noodles.
Takumi Sushi (Gardens)
This is by no means classic sushi – you might find your sushi deep-fried in tempura batter – and owner Papa San can be rather eccentric, but that’s all part of the charm of this trendy spot.
Umi at The Marley Hotel (Camps Bay)
The extensive menu offers new-style sashimi, sushi, tempura, grills and seafood with an Asian twist – think dashi-infused crayfish with yuzu butter; Norwegian salmon with teriyaki, soy and asparagus; and black cod with misoyaki.
Wang Thai (Milnerton)
The menu reflects regional Thai influences, from the fiery red curries of the north to milder curry masala from the south, and seafood in coconut milk from the islands. Start your visit with sundowners and sushi.
The Greedy Buddha (Durban North)
Chef Nardia Adams produces beautiful, tantalising tapas-style food. Standouts include the lamb, chilli and coriander pot stickers; steamed pork buns with caramel chilli jam; and prawn tails in seven spice with coconut-pea purée and mango salad. The duck pancakes are popular, too.
Daruma (North Beach)
Teppanyaki is the signature here, with fresh ingredients prepared with flair and cooked in front of you. Try the marlin sashimi, toro tuna and traditional kakigōri (shaved iced flavoured with condensed milk and syrup) for dessert.
China Plate (Umgeni Park)
Owner George Hu has notable culinary credentials, which is why other chefs come here on their night off. Enjoy spicy Szechuan cooking, fu yong, chop suey, chow mein, sticky barbecue pork on garlicky bak choi, and spicy brinjal casserole.
Quo Restaurant (Gillitts)
Modern fusion cuisine with an Asian twist; the menu abounds with galangal, ginger, scallions, lemongrass and Thai basil. Look out for the starter of fillet in a fantastic sweet-and-sour oyster sauce, pan-fried calamari in pad Thai sauce, and the signature pork belly.
Genki Sushi and Japanese Tapas Bar (Stellenbosch)
The fare at this little gem is high in umami, and top-quality seafood is plated with artistry. House specialties include spider roll (crispy soft-shell crab), prawn dumplings, and squid tentacles with seven-spice mayo. The new-style sushi will excite even jaded taste buds.
The food is pan-Asian with contemporary flair, and the setting spectacular. The à la carte menu holds treasures like fragrant mussel laksa and sweet, smoky Thai barbecue pork belly with shiitake sausage and charred onions.
Fushin (Richmond Hill)
This is the equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for Asian food lovers. Choosing between the tapas, tempura and dim sum is already difficult, then there are the skewers and 17 kinds of California rolls to further tempt you. The showstopper is the incredible whiskey menu, with some rare Japanese blends.
Full House Chinese Restaurant and Sushi Bar (Dan Pienaar)
Aside from brilliant sushi (yes, even the pieces rolled in biltong powder), the tasty roast quarter duck in a Chinese plum sauce comes highly recommended. You could opt for spring rolls, one of the soups, or the classic chicken stir-fry in a sweet and sour sauce, jazzed up with a handful of prawns, and the Thai prawn hot pot.
This list comprises all the Asian restaurants in the Eat Out 500, the best restaurants in South Africa (as rated and reviewed by our editorial panel) that made it into the 2015 Eat Out magazine. Did we miss one of your favourites? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments section below.