New review: Innovative sushi at Izakaya Matsuri in Green Point

Izakaya MatsuriOpened by the former owner of Genki in Stellenbosch, this sushi and Japanese spot is somewhat hidden away on a pedestrian street. Here’s why you should seek Izakaya Matsuri out as soon as possible.


Sushi options dominate two thirds of the menu, but the tapas dishes, mostly starters, keep things interesting, such as the crispy bang bang prawn spring rolls, grilled skewers of pork neck or chicken, gyoza (fried dumplings filled with garlicky pork) and the hearty miso soup with bobbing cubes of tofu. Keep an eye on the specials board for chef Arata Koga’s quirky dishes like the spider rolls with crab legs, otherwise go for the exemplary sushi. There are several tempura options, with fillings of salmon, spicy tuna, prawns, eel and vegetables. The carb-dodgers can even opt for a salmon, tuna, line fish, avo, caviar and prawn roll without rice, or the hot soy wrapper roll using a gluten-free soy bean sheet – or just plump for a platter of sashimi. Some of the dishes are accompanied by dipping sauces like ponzu, a dark soy with spring onion, and a little dish of sticky and sweet sesame sauce, but the table also sports Kikkoman soy and a little shaker of chilli seasoning. There are only three options on the dessert menu and all are ice creams, but they are anything but boring. The green tea-flavoured variation, with its accompanying fudgy bean paste, is a fresh and fragrant delight; the deep-fried vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce is fair enough; but the real showstopper is the wasabi and black sesame seed ice cream. It’s surprisingly palatable – and will at least be worth a good story if you don’t manage to fall in love with it.


Japanese beers

Order hot or cold sake or one of the two Japanese beers on offer. The Kirin is a deliciously crisp and slightly sweet beer that complements the salty umami of the food brilliantly.


The décor has an urban edge, with screeded concrete floors, grey walls and metal chairs; nevertheless the restaurant has a very comfortable and cosy feel. Strings of dangling red and white lanterns and shoji screens against the big windows help to create an intimate, softly lit ambience. The bar area to one side has gold-edged sake bottles lined up alongside earthenware carafes; and a line of flags with colourful backgrounds to the famous wave woodcut print by Hokusai are a tongue-in-cheek touch. The smartly dressed sushi chefs behind the counter look serious, and produce authoritative-sounding sizzles and chops.


If you need anything explained or recommended, staff are able and willing. As you’d expect from a sushi restaurant, things move along pretty quickly.


The place may be tricky to find, on a pedestrian alleyway off a one-way street, but this only adds to the feeling that you’ve slipped into another city once you get inside.

Have you dined at Izakaya Matsuri? Tell us about it with a quick review.


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