The origin of these utterly delicious bowls of comfort might be a bone of contention (some say China; most say Japan), but there’s absolutely no dispute about how darn delicious and satisfying (and relatively inexpensive) ramen is!
And that’s even before we delve into the health-giving properties of what is essentially noodle soup (if done correctly, the slow-cooked bone broth takes hours to make and, as such, is packed with gut-activating nutrients).
Fortunately for Capetonians, a fresh wave of ramen bars has washed up onto our shores, allowing us to satisfy our cravings for these belly-warming broths. And, with winter here good and proper, there’s hardly a better – or more delicious – way to ward off the sniffles than with a big, brothy bowl of ramen. Here’s where to get your noodle fix in Cape Town.
Three Wise Monkeys
An after-work and weekend favourite, this ramen bar bursts at the seams most nights, so it’s best to come early or settle for takeaway noodles. Either way the generous sizes will keep you full long after you’ve had your last mouthful.
The ramen There are five types (chicken, duck, beef brisket, beef fillet and vegetable), all seasoned to perfection and made from chicken bones (except, of course, the vegetable ramen).
Cost R95 – R155
Opening times Tuesday – Sunday, 12pm – 11pm
Monday, 3pm – 11pm
Contact 021 433 1837
Location 77 Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town
Bü Ya: Ramen Fusion & Sake Bar
This dedicated ramen and sake bar – whose name, according to manager Jake Bezuidenhoudt, is a derivation of “Booyakasha” (Ali G’s exclamation of triumph back in the Noughties) – is new to Kloof Street – and what a winner it is! If you’re looking for a good variety of made-the-right-way broth (no less than 12 hours, says Jake), you’ll be hard-pressed to find better!
Housed in the same spot as the former Slug & Lettuce, it’s owned and managed by the same pubthumpers, which is probably why halfway through my hearty bowl of broth, I wondered if I was in a bar or restaurant – blaring beats and all!
Under the warm glow of dangling Chinese lanterns, we were pleasantly surprised by the utterly delicious ramen, that we overlooked the peeling faux-leather upholstery.
Good to know “Buya is also the Xhosa word for ‘return’,” Jake tells us, as we were leaving. We will certainly be back!
The ramenThere are seven different bowls, including a grilled chicken shio, vegetarian shio, beef shoyu, chashu shoyu, and spicy miso beef, which get topped with fresh spinach, bean sprouts, spring onions, radishes, herbs, homemade kimchi, and marinated eggs.
Cost R95 – R145
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 11am – 11pm
Contact 021 422 5325
Location 64 Kloof street, Gardens, Cape Town
Locals have been flocking to to this grungy, no-fuss ramen bar since it opened above Lefty’s four years ago. The rough-and-ready decor and tavern-like seating is all part of its appeal but, actually, the ramen is the main event!
The ramen There are four lip-smacking bowls on the menu, all rammed with flavour: shoyu pork-belly ramen (with a light broth); kimiko tofu ramen with bok choi (with a thick, sweet broth); braised-beef ramen (with spicy miso) and a chicken laksa ramen.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 5pm – 10pm
Contact 021 461 0407, email@example.com
Location 103 Harrington Street, Zonnebloem, Cape Town
Owned by celebrated chef Arata Koga (formerly Tank and Genki), this casual gourmet spot lives up to its name – izakaya means Japanese gastropub – with its cool indoor-outdoor scene that is reminiscent of a streetside spot in Tokyo. It doesn’t serve ramen yet, but Arato assures us they will be churning out delicious noodle dishes in a month or so when their noodle machine arrives from overseas. We can’t wait!
The ramen While we don’t know what varieties will be on the menu, we do know that the noodles will be home made and delicious, with options to satisfy various palates.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 11.30am – 3pm; 5pm – 10pm
Contact 021 421 4520, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Shop 6, The Rockwell, Green Point, Cape Town
Genki Sushi & Japanese Tapas
Known for serving some of the best sushi and Japanese tapas in Stellenbosch, Genki isn’t specifically known for its ramen, but now that they plan on introducing more ramen dishes to their menu, it might well become the winelands’ go-to ramen spot.
The ramen Currently only shoyu ramen is offered, which is served with pork belly, shiitake mushrooms, daikon and a soft boiled egg, but they plan on introducing more ramen dishes soon.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 11.30am – 3pm and 5.30pm – 10pm
Contact 021 887 5699, email@example.com
Location Corner Bird and Church Streets, Stellenbosch
This relatively new Rondebosch joint serves a mix of Korean and Japanese dishes so don’t be confused if you see Japanese ramen next to the Korean ramyun (noodles) on the menu – although similar, they have very different flavour profiles.
The ramen There are two Japanese ramen dishes on offer: shoyu ramen made from a soya broth and tonkotsu ramen made from a pork-bone broth. Both are served with pork belly, spring onions, bean sprouts, nori and a boiled egg. Of the two Korean noodle dishes – one is spicy and the other is less piquant and vegetarian.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 11.30am – 10pm
Contact 087 470 0474, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location 92 Campground Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town
These eateries serve ramen – but just one variety.
The lovable (if volatile) Papa San – who earned his exemplary reputation at the now defunct Takumi and Minato – is still cooking up a storm in Long Street at the restaurant he co-owns with Ben Bettendorf. Obi specialises in sushi, tempura and ramen, and the fish is always ocean-fresh, flawlessly prepared and as tasty as forbidden fruit.
The ramen Though the menu only features one ramen dish, it’s a knockout. Made with free-range chicken wings, vegetables and a soya-sauce broth that’s lovingly prepared for nine hours before being served, it’s flavoursome and comforting.
Please note Ramen is only served at lunchtime.
Opening times Tuesday – Sunday, 2pm – 4pm and 6pm – late
Contact 021 418 4040, email@example.com
Location 14 Long Street, CBD, Cape Town
Cheyne Morrisby has carved quite a name for himself as an fusion-flavour fundi, with his restaurants Cheyne’s, Shio and two branches of Lucky Bao. The latter are teeny-weeny Asian street food bars – one in Hout Bay and one in De Waterkant – and with a new chef at the helm, Cheyne has made it his mission to go after the title of best ramen in Cape Town. We’ll let you, dear readers, be the judge of that.
The ramen There are two types: pork belly ramen and miso.
Cost R95 – R125
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 5pm – 10pm
Thursday – Saturday, 12pm – 3pm
Contact 064 661 4415
Location Main Road, Hout Bay, Cape Town
12 Jarvis Street, De Waterkant, Cape Town
Kyoto Garden Sushi
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. Which is why we love their take on a traditional ramen dish.
The ramen Their ramen noodles come straight from Japan and are served in a beautiful broth with fresh prawns.
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 5.30pm – 11pm
Contact 021 422 2001
Location 11 Lower Kloof Nek Road, Cape Town
SAIGON VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT AND SUSHI BAR
The gold standard in Asian cuisine, Saigon continues to serve aromatic, evocative and, most importantly, delectable dishes 21 years after opening! In winter, you’ll find a rich and rewarding ramen bowl on their menu that is pure perfection. If you have your heart set on it, call ahead to ensure it’s still on the menu!
The ramen A seafood-based broth with added pork and chicken.
Opening times Sunday – Friday, 12pm – 2.30pm
Daily, 6pm – 10.30pm
Contact 021 424 7670
Location Corner Kloof and Camp Streets, Gardens, Cape Town
Willoughby & Co
Despite being in a shopping mall, Willoughby & Co is still considered one of Cape Town’s top sushi restaurants. The extensive menu – which can take a bit of figuring out – offers a variety of delicious Japanese and traditional seafood dishes including a bowl of spicy ramen.
The ramen While there is only one ramen dish on the menu, it packs a sparky punch. The miso ramen is made from a miso (fermented soybean seasoning) and is served with chicken, bean sprouts and vegetables.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 12pm – 10.30pm
Contact 021 418 6115
Location V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
It’s hard to stand out on Camps Bay’s sizzling strip, but Umi certainly puts in a convincing performance. A modern Japanese restaurant – from the interiors to the menu – expect to find an assortment of traditional dishes that have been given a fresh twist.
The ramen Their ramen dish is a winner served with udon noodles, pork broth, pork belly, a boiled egg and scallions.
Opening times Monday – Sunday, 8am – 11pm
Contact 021 437 1802, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location 201 The Promenade, Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town
The Mill & Press
The Mill & Press in Upper Woodstock is known for their decidedly delicious Japanese-imported noodles. But before you get your hopes up, know that it’s not always available on the menu. Here’s hoping that changes soon – and that ramen becomes a permanent fixture.
The ramen Made from a pork- and chicken-based shoyu broth that’s cooked over two days, the ramen is served with slow-roasted pulled-pork shoulder, oven-roasted baby tomatoes, spring onion, nori, coriander, radish, bean sprouts, a soft egg and topped with a fermented chilli and sesame oil.
Opening times Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm
Contact 060 754 1553
Location Masons Press, Woodlands Road, Woodstock, Cape Town
- Word on the street is that a new ramen hotspot called Township Ramen & Grill is opening soon. While we don’t know where or when (butcher boy Andy Fenner is keeping his lips tight on this one), we do know that the general idea is to offer everyone in Cape Town healthy, hearty ramen.
- Lotus Food Truck Keep a look out for this mobile Asian eatery that serves some seriously delicious ramen with grilled pork belly, spring onions, a soft-boiled egg, pickled cucumbers, nori, pork broth and Chiankang vinegar.
Researched by Alicia Chamaillé, Nikki Benatar, and Georgina Visser