Review: Slurp-worthy satisfaction and a buzzing energy at Kanji Ramen

Fast facts

Restaurant name: Kanji Ramen

Address: 12-16 Kloof Nek Road, Tamboerskloof, Cape Town

Phone number: 021 745 6625

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 4pm to 12am

Average price of a main course: R170

Corkage fee: R70

Parking situation: On-street only

Food type: Ramen and Japanese street food


Adding to the general nighttime buzz at the bottom of Kloof Nek Road is a new establishment called Kanji Ramen, and on its compact menu is traditional ramen along with small plates of Japanese-style street food. Also compact is the space it occupies – formerly the premises of a couple of burger joints, it probably seats 25 to 30 diners in an understated, dark-panelled space.

What is certainly not compact though, are the flavours on offer. There are four ramen bowls to choose from: mushroom, pork, chicken, and beef – of which we sampled the Double Pork and Mushroom variants. The former boasts particularly punchy flavours with the charred pork neck and pork neck resting in a hearty broth that included chilli oil, spring onion, bamboo shoots, soy-marinated egg and ramen noodles. The Mushroom ramen has a more subtle character with miso stock, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, Bok choy, bean sprouts, mushroom butter, tofu, garlic, soy-marinated egg, and noodles.


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Ramen bowls can sometimes look a little unappealing – i.e. a big bowl of soup with bits floating in it – but Kanji Ramen have clearly paid attention to the presentation of all their dishes and the ramen bowls are quite artfully presented with each dish’s various ingredients layered in a visual composition that looks as good as it tastes.

Worth trying too are the bao… the Katsu Fried Chicken with carrot pickle, spring onion and Japanese curry mayo, paired with the cucumber and Edamame Bean Salad with its garlic, soy and fermented wine vinegar dressing, made for a delicious aromatic, tangy combo that was enough as a main meal.


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Price-wise you’re looking at R160 to R180 for a sizey bowl of ramen and the small plates range from R55 to R110. On the value-for-money scale, given the portion sizes and the flavours, you’re going to feel like you’ve definitely got bang for your buck.


Compact too is the drinks list. There are three Japanese-inspired cocktails sensibly priced between R70 and R80, and a wine list with a couple of whites, a couple of reds, and some sake. All are available by the glass and again, it’s well priced. There’s also bottled Chinese Tsingtao beer among the usual SAB stable, as well as the usual soft drink options and some spirits from vodka to tequila, if you’re wearing your party shoes.


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Sure, there’s not a whole lot of choice here, but it feels completely in line with the restaurant’s concept. Kanji Ramen is not a place you’re going to spend the whole night at, and the drinks menu matches the restaurant’s quick in-and-out vibe where you’re in for a very tasty and well-priced meal.


The restaurant was full when our party of three arrived and there was another couple in the queue ahead of us. It’s a situation that could go south if not handled properly, but we were immediately met by a relaxed and friendly waiter who offered us a seat on the little outside bench and said we’d have a table within 15 minutes. Ten minutes later and a few sips into our wine, he was back to say our table was ready.


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And that pretty much mirrored our service for the rest of the evening. There were three service staff who managed all the tables with an attentive efficiency that again totally mirrored Kanji Ramen’s vibe.


There’s definitely a buzz going down at Kanji Ramen… you feel it as soon as you walk in. It’s the sound of a busy restaurant full of very happy guests. At 7pm it was a diverse and multicultural City Bowl crowd occupying the seats and you’re met with an appealing sonic invitation of animated conversation and the clinking of ceramic bowls and spoons that weaves in and out of the up-tempo tunes coming from the sound system.


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Wafting above all of this are some appetisingly piquant aromas coming from the kitchen at the rear of the restaurant. Judging by the size of the queue that developed while we were there, it was an aroma that’s clearly spreading around the city.

Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here

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