Sitting cheek by jowl with some of the city’s hippest watering holes and street-food joints, this serene gem on Kloof Nek’s busiest corner is consistently ranked among the best by some of Cape Town’s top chefs and connoisseurs (Franck Dangereux, Peter Tempelhoff and John Maytham, to name a few). Here, beautifully crafted, non-fussy Japanese cuisine, is served in a warm, minimally decorated space, with hands-on owner, Pennsylvania-born Scott Wood, ensuring his diners are treated to the ultimate guest experience. His attention to detail is evident in every aspect, from the perfectly lit interiors to the time-honoured Japanese traditions that are incorporated into your meal, such as watching your waitron painstakingly grate fresh wasabi stem to accompany your sushi (which may sound tedious, but is actually fascinating).
SIX-COURSE TASTING MENU FOR 2
Are you feeling adventurous? Then we highly recommend Kyoto’s 2018 Tasting Menu for Two. At R1 400 (R700 per person), it might appear pricey but, you can take our word for it, it’s rather good value because only the finest ingredients from all the four corners of the globe are used (and treated with the respect they deserve by the zealous six-man-strong team of chefs). We’re talking umi (sea urchin) from Spain, lobster from Maine, and deep-sea scallops from Japan, to name a few.
So, if you’re ready to be cajoled out of your culinary comfort zone, here’s what you can expect:
Course 1: Sushi A platter comprising two pieces of gently grilled (still-warm) eel nigiri, two pieces of neatly cut scallop nigiri, and two pieces of umi, whose salty, seawater taste is slightly jarring, and our first clue that this is not your run-of-the-mill menu!
The ginger deserves special mention: none of that lumo-pink stuff you get at most places; theirs is homemade, pale yellow, with a moreish sweet-and-sour pickled flavour that I could’ve mainlined in kilogram helpings. As for the wasabi, it’s not the smooth, artificial paste that comes out of a tube; this is a freshly grated, slightly granular blob that packs a delicious flavour punch.
Course 2: Squid and ink The most exquisitely presented scorched squid you’ll ever encounter, artfully strewn on a pool of black ink. Tender and chewy in all the right places.
Course 3: Tempura This peerless rendition of a popular deep-fried favourite is heaven on a plate: grease-free and tantalisingly moreish.
Course 4: Palate cleanser: Just as you float off on a tempura-lined cloud of ecstacy, the palate cleanser shakes you back into reality. It’s a helping of noodles, served in a shallow bowl of ice and wafer-thin slices of lime. Its perfectly calibrated flavours are inoffensive enough, but the freezing temperature and eel-like texture of the ramen definitely keep you on your toes.
Course 5: Lobster with burnt brown butter Like landing with our bums in the butter (after the rather unconventional palate cleanser), this course is the softest and most delicious touchdown we could have wished for. We take a few bites, and then, quite literally, put down our forks and stare at our plates. Accompanied by a glass of Ataraxia chardonnay, it is simply sublime – there are no other words.
Course 6: Ice cream The pale, cool and not-too-sweet black sesame ice cream is one of our all-time favourite desserts, so when our wonderful waitron Mikhail mentions that the miso might steal the show, we don’t pay much attention. Until we dip our spoons into the impossibly silky and ever-so-slightly salty frozen orb. A close call, but the black sesame is still my favourite. The third ball is matcha – perfectly flavoured and textured (even though green tea is not really my thing).
While you can order à la carte, this exciting tasting menu is definitely worth a whirl.
As always, the service is superb, the atmosphere pitch-perfect, and the dishes roll out at a steady pace, so there are no long waits between courses.
Kyoto is the perfect place for a special-occasion meal. And, the best part: you won’t wake up with an MSG hangover – Scott is forensic about the authenticity of the ingredients used. Stick around late enough, and he might just pour you a glass of Hibiki Harmony Blended Whiskey…