Whether it’s authentic Thai curries, adventurous Korean barbecue, killer sushi or exciting Pan-Asian plates, South Africa’s offering of Asian cuisine is something to be celebrated. We’ve got the list of where to go for your next Asian feast, from aromatic coconut curries and crispy duck to pillowy dim sum and silky ramen. 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 critics for the 2016 Eat Out magazine, plus our winners of the 2015 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Everyday Eateries.
Give yourself enough time to explore the extensive menu of dim sum, sushi, seafood, noodles and generous appetisers including chicken skewers and seared rib-eye steak. Start with crispy soft-shell crab or eight-piece dim sum platter and move on to seared tuna coated in sesame seeds or the crispy yet succulent Peking duck with mandarin pancakes and hoisin sauce. Finish it all off with deep-fried ice cream.
Chinese Northern Foods (Cyrildene)
Enjoy dishes such as a plate of hot and silky soft dumpling, seafood wonton soup, and the signature Pie like Hat that unravels in strips. Spring rolls are coated in breadcrumbs and presented in a tower, and the delicately seasoned line fish is served with lemongrass, soy and fish sauce. For an interesting sweet ending, order the candied pumpkin and sweet potato.
The Good Luck Club (Illovo)
Dim sum is the order of the day at this hip spot. Options include pillows filled with spinach and cream cheese or chicken, spring onion and ginger. For starters, the ginger chicken in a plum sauce is pleasant; the spiced coconut prawns with broccoli are even better. Vegetarians can tuck in to options such as the bok choy noodles with shiitake and enoki.
The Great Eastern Food Bar (Melville)
This is for fun and adventurous foodies. The eatery serves up ‘world food’ with lots of Eastern influences. Starters include a green papaya salad layered with coconut, tamarind and pickled pear. Order the fried cubes of fresh tofu with hot agedashi sauce and opt for one of the mussel dishes like the smoky miso mussels. Desserts are wonderful.
The Orient (Melrose Arch)
The extensive menu offers a wonderful array of Asian dishes including dim sum, sushi, and Thai curries. For a real treat, sample the Peking-style duck. The specials menu changes with the season. Order as a variety of dishes for the table to try as many options as possible.
Owner Emma Chen offers a street-food style menu with small tapas dishes and hearty noodle options that are perfect to share. The hand break bread deserves a special mention: filled with spring onion and salt, it’s a must. Mains include Szechaun-chilli chicken with peanut sauce green bean, and a pig’s ear salad and glorious bowls of noodles. It’s soul-warming comfort food.
Sai Thai (Cyrildene)
This popular restaurant is known for serving authentic Thai cuisine, from spring rolls and prawn cakes to curries and soups. Highlights include the angry duck with fried noodles or the chicken satay with homemade cucumber sauce. No alcohol is served, so choose between soft drinks or fresh seasonal juices.
So Yum (Hyde Park Corner)
Asian bites come rolled, wrapped, steamed or deep-fried. There’s also sushi, curries and noodles. Try a spinach leaf filled with ginger, chilli, nuts, lemongrass, and roasted coconut or the signature Hong Kong Pears, which are chicken-, prawn- or duck-stuffed potato dumplings. End off with the Thai Silk, a dup of white and dark chocolate mousse balls.
Yamato Japanese Restaurant (Illovo)
A brilliant showcase of Japanese cuisine, with à la carte choices, set menus and combos. Start off with a wakame salad or share some of their famous gyoza dumplings. Highlights include pork dumplings and great tempura, as well as the sushi and maki options. House favourites are crispy chicken and oyster-sauce beef. For a delicious meal for two, try the bento box.
Guia Chinese Restaurant (Faerie Glen)
Head to this authentic spot with a group of friends and try as many dishes as possible. Order generous portions of the beef hotpot with black bean sauce, fried salt and pepper calamari, pork chops and chicken curry. The pumpkin cakes are also worth a mention and need to be ordered two days in advance.
This stylish eatery offers a diverse menu with a mix of traditional and contemporary Asian dishes. The dim sum menu includes favourites such as the lamb pao and beef pot stickers. Sushi-lovers can order from the large sushi selection with new-style tuna sashimi, salmon roses, and spicy tuna hand rolls on offer.
The large menu offers an overwhelming range of Asian dishes. Try the teppanyaki or bento box of fresh sashimi, grilled line fish, tempura seafood and sticky rice. The delicate and tasty sliced-beef pot is great for carnivores. Food is beautifully presented and is prepared with quality ingredients that are often imported.
Padbok Thai (Brooklyn)
Padbok is known for delicious and authentic Thai food, including dumplings, crispy prawn cakes and chicken satay. Appetisers such as the green papaya salad with prawns, chilli, and roasted peanuts is a refreshing and spicy choice. Curry fans can try the rich and fragrant red duck curry with a touch of sweet litchi, red grapes and pineapple. For a sweet ending, leave room for the banana fritters with sticky honey and homemade coconut ice cream.
Shilla Korean Cuisine (Hazelwood)
This authentic Korean restaurant means business. The minced pork dumplings are flavourful and perfectly fragrant, and the more adventurous seafood pancakes, delicious. The traditional yangnum galbi (rib-eye beef) is barbecued at your table – a feast for the eyes. Ritz up your dishes with condiments such as kimchi, daikon, glazed peanuts and grilled tofu.
Wing Hin (Hazelwood)
Said to be the best Chinese food in town, this laid-back spot serves up an adventurous menu that’s packed with interesting made-to-share options. Order their sublime roast pork with plum sauce or opt for the roasted duck. Also worth trying are salt-and-pepper calamari, dumplings and crunchy Chinese vegetables.
China Plate (Riverside)
The set menus at this little gem offer great value for money, with mouth-watering items such as prawn toast, Mandarin fish, sweet-and-sour kingklip, and a sweet ending of deep-fried banana. Other specialities include crispy garlic langoustine, barbecue pork belly on a bed of bok choy, and crispy fried duck served with pancakes and plum sauce.
Daruma (North Beach)
Situated on the Snell Parade stretch, this hotel restaurant offers favourites like tantalising miso soup and excellent king prawn tempura. There’s a range of rice and noodle dishes, but the sizzling teppanyaki options are the winner. Top-quality sushi offers options such as crab roe, eel, tuna, sea urchin and mackerel as well as the usual salmon. For an authentic experience, opt for the private dining room where guests are seated on the floor.
Greedy Buddha (Umhlanga Ridge)
The stylish new look of this popular restaurant matches the trendy tapas-style food. Enjoy wontons filled with pork, prawn and ginger, or pot stickers filled with field mushrooms and herbs. The Ducking Fantastic platter is ideal for communal eating and includes Peking duck that is shredded at the table for diners to assemble their own pancakes. Other highlights are the slow-roasted crispy pork belly and fresh and delicious sushi salad.
Nam Jai House Thai and Rotating Sushi Bar (Empangeni)
Voted the Best Asian Eatery in KwaZulu-Natal by Eat Out readers in 2015, Nam Jai is popular for its quirky atmosphere, friendly staff and variety of sushi and Thai dishes.
The Wok Box (Durban North)
Seasoned restaurateurs Sean and Premjit Beatt have impressive knowledge of Thai food. Starters include crispy salt-and-pepper calamari, tom yum soup, or waterfall salad. For mains, dive into a massaman curry with delicate heat, or the roasted half duck. Delectable desserts feature options such as Nutella spring rolls and coconut custard.
1890 House Sushi and Grill (Observatory)
This casual spot just off Lower Main road in Observatory is all about the sushi. Favourites include fresh sashimi, nigiri with deliciously sticky rice, and salmon roses. For the more adventurous, there are dragon rolls with roasted eel. There are also standard Thai and Chinese options for those who don’t feel like sushi.
Active Sushi Hudson Street (Foreshore)
In this, the second location since their move from Strand Street, Active Sushi is finding its groove. The crowds love its great specials and friendly staff – but do make a booking in advance to find out for yourself.
Beijing Opera (De Waterkant)
This popular spot offers soft, flavoursome dim sum and robust broths. Try the cloud-like barbecue pot stickers available in chicken or veg. The food is best shared with a group of friends and goes down a treat with the small selection of wine and craft beer on offer.
Beluga (Green Point)
For great sushi, dim sum and crustacean platters, this is the place. The vibey restaurant serve up a range of soft, pillowy steamed buns, deep-fried wontons and pan-fried pot stickers as well as killer salmon roses and tuna crunch rolls topped with Japanese mayo. For dessert, you can’t leave without trying the Lindt chocolate beignets with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce.
Chai Yo (Mowbray)
The menu at this relaxed Thai-style street café includes spring rolls, dim sum and tempura vegetables. The crispy and hot sweetcorn cakes are a must. For mains, tuck in to beef, poultry and seafood dishes or curries, rice and noodles. The cashew-chicken dish with roasted chilli paste is particularly tasty and noodles are light and fresh.
Chef Pon’s Asian Kitchen (Gardens)
This popular Gardens eatery offers a vast menu with Asian-style tapas, curries, vegetarian dishes and noodles. Favourites include aromatic crispy duck with pancakes, or the tender Szechuan beef with orange and cinnamon. Adventurous eaters can tuck in to the sizzling Mongolian lamb, angry duck, or hot jungle curry.
Cheyne’s (Hout Bay)
The Pacific Rim cuisine at Cheyne’s is easy to like. The menu is divided into tapas portions of sea, land, earth, and happy endings. Dishes include beef sliders with Szechuan pepper and king oyster cream, and deep-fried coconut cream cubes scented with Thai curry flavours. The yuzu crème Catalan dessert is brilliant, as is the Irish-coffee-inspired Japanese whisky with coconut cream.
Downtown Ramen (City Bowl)
This hip little gem offers a mouthwatering selection of pillow-soft bao and punchy ramen. Order the smoked aubergine bao with teriyaki tofu and pickle to start, and follow with the shōyu ramen (charsu pork belly) or the Kimiko ramen (tofu and bok choy), featuring noodle ribbons, in a complex broth and silky-soft eggs.
An authentic menu boasts adventurous dishes such as tea-smoked duck and nose-to-tail pork specialties. Cantonese standards are also on offer with options such as egg foo yong and sweet-and-sour pork chop suey and chow mein. Vegetarians can look forward to satisfying braised eggplant and tofu, stir-fried bean sprouts, and mushrooms and Asian greens. Desserts include deep-fried ice cream, honeyed sweet potato and banana marbles.
Haiku (City Bowl)
This smart, timeless restaurant offers East Asian dim sum, robata, sushi and wok dishes served on small plates. Skip the sushi and opt for hot dishes such as the duck in pillowy bao buns, curries, grilled robata and Peking duck with pancakes. Order a bowl of fragrant coconut rice with your mains for an extra mouthful of lusciousness.
This tiny, hip hole in the wall serves up sharing plates that are packed with interesting flavours. There’s always at least one option of seafood, beef, poultry, pork and veg. Try the grilled prawns on steamed buns with coriander-and-lime sauce, or the 12-hour duck on soft ramen tacos with almond-ginger hummus and fresh orange. Save room for desserts that are just as imaginative and delicious.
Izakaya Matsuri (Green Point)
Chef Arata-san makes perhaps the best sushi rice in town as well as some delicious tapas dishes. Go for the five-dish starter platter with shiitake tempura, chicken and pork skewers, or crispy calamari. Adventurous dessert options include the ice cream flavoured with green tea or wasabi and black sesame.
Kitima at The Kronendal (Hout Bay)
The vast menu offers a selection of delicious dim sum and sushi, but the focus remains on Thai food. Choose from soups, interesting salads (try the mushroom version), noodles and curries, and end with the highly recommended lime-leaf crème brûlée. Seasonal set menus are also on offer for parties.
Kyoto Garden Sushi Japanese Restaurant (Tamboerskloof)
This is some of the finest Japanese food in Cape Town. The sushi is superb, as is The Sea, a clear broth swimming with shellfish. The ‘salads’ are spectacular, with options such as feather-light tempura, sake steamed clams, and succulent scallops. For dessert, try the black sesame seed ice cream.
Nobu at One&Only (V&A Waterfront)
This cutting-edge Japanese restaurant offers more than just sushi. Enjoy the contrast of warm and cold, light and rich, old and new styles on the set menus. Must-tries include the black-lacquered con den miso, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño, and new-style sashimi. End off with a Suntory whiskey cappuccino.
Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant (Gardens)
At this popular Kloof Street spot there’s something for everyone. The starters include spring rolls, dumplings and tapas like crisp prawn toasts with sweet-chilli garlic dipping sauce, and tender beef shiitake skewers. For mains, standouts include caramelised pepper pork, chicken with chilli, ginger and crunchy cashews, and tender pork ribs in honey. Finish off with a deep-fried banana or deep-fried ice cream.
Salathai (Green Point)
The chef hails from Thailand and her flavours are spot on. Start off with panko-fried buffalo wings with a spicy and sour sauce and topping of fried Thai basil. For mains, there is a range of noodle, rice and curry options. Try the umami crispy duck with black sauce, or the creamy coconut Penang curry. Afterwards, pop into Gelato Mania next door for a sweet treat.
South China Dim Sum Bar (City Bowl)
The short menu offers a variety of steamed and fried dumplings (the lamb and beef pot stickers are firm favourites). Popular dishes do run out, so get your order in quickly. The fluffy pork bun is sensational, and the braised beef short ribs are perfectly sticky. End off with interestingly flavoured ice creams and sorbet.
Takumi Sushi (Gardens)
This crowd-pleasing sushi spot serves up deep-fried titbits, sweet sauces, and massive portions. Order a few items to share, like Mexican-inspired chilli-popper roll with avo, cheese and chilli. Other explosive flavour options include the fighting roll, kamikaze and dynamite. For an elegant ending, try the Earl Grey ice cream.
Tjing Tjing Torii (City Bowl)
Voted Best Asian Eatery in the Western Cape by Eat Out readers, Tjing Tjing Torii has a menu full of fun, delicious teasers like nasu dengaku (miso-roasted aubergines); lime-cured fish with chilli aioli; butter-soft panko beef tataki; and, if you’re lucky, the sweet, sticky rib special.
Wang Thai (Milnerton)
Beautiful sea views are complemented by a superb range of Asian-infused dishes. Starters range from top-class sushi to crisp spring rolls. For mains, dive into the 602 phad med mamuang – wok-fried cashew nuts with chilli paste and a choice of duck, chicken, prawn or tofu. For dessert, the dark chocolate brownie filled with nuts and served with ice cream is a must.
Willoughby & Co. (V&A Waterfront)
There would be a riot if we didn’t include these famous sushi rolls: the 4×4, Rainbow Reloaded and Creamy Rock Shrimp, amongst others. They also have hot and cold Japanese dishes, including robatayaki (barbecue-style Japanese cuisine) and tempura on offer. The soft-shelled crab with ponzu dressing is particularly light, crisp and moreish.
Genki Sushi and Japanese Tapas Bar (Stellenbosch)
This quaint little winelands restaurant is a popular spot for tapas and sushi. The excellent food is prepared fresh with top quality ingredients and is beautifully presented. Tapas options such as edamame, petit yakitori grilled skewers, and classic miso soup feature on the regular menu. Other highlights include the special of delicate prawn dumplings served with a perfectly balanced sweet-sour-savoury sauce, or the new-style warm sashimi with loaded rainbow rolls. The feather-light tempura offering comes wrapped around shiitake mushrooms, veg, fish or prawns. Keep an eye on the specials boards for fresh and exciting dishes.
Indochine at Delaire Graff Estate (Stellenbosch)
Chef Virgil Kahn has a very deft and light touch. There is freshness and complexity in the spicing of all the dishes. Look forward to a signature starter of mussel-and-whelk laksa, mains such as pork belly prepared char siu with shiitake sausage and charred onion, and desserts that continue the Asian theme, such as green-tea crème brûlée and banana spring rolls.
Fushin Sushi (Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth)
Highly commended in the Asian category for the 2015 Best Everyday Eateries, Fushin is a paradise of Japanese cuisine, featuring the likes of black pepper chicken shāomài dim sum, tempura veg and fantastic ribs. Don’t miss the Peruvian Prince and Tiger Eye sushi rolls.
This list comprises all the Asian restaurants in the Eat Out 500, the best restaurants in South Africa as rated and reviewed by our critics for the 2016 Eat Out magazine.
We might not have included your tucked-away favourites – the magazine can only fit so many reviews! Please tell us about your hit list of Asian restaurants in the comments below.