There’s a hot, new Asian eatery in Claremont, courtesy of Cheyne Morrisby, chef-owner of the wildly popular Lucky Bao, Shio, Cheyne’s and Ding Dong, which has brought some much-needed flavour and spice to the southern suburbs. Introducing Fire Monkey, a sleek, open-plan restaurant (housed in the space previously occupied by Salushi; next to Hudsons) that’s already making a name for itself as the go-to place for a smorgasbord of East-Asian cuisine.
Under the watchful eye of a striking monkey mural, Fire Monkey presents social dining – a unique spin on the restaurant experience, with communal wooden tables and a view into the open kitchen, somewhat reminiscent of a (fine) dining hall. The thought of sharing a table with eight potential strangers might be daunting at first, but once the plates start rolling you and your fellow patrons will be lulled into a delicious trance, with collective “oohs” and “aahs” emanating from all around.
The menu comprises of tapas-style small plates, divided into different sections: Ichi, Ni, San, Shi (the first four numbers in Japanese), each of which represents a category, namely seafood, meat, vegetarian and dessert.
Diners can opt for the four-plate offering (R300 per person), or choose to order individual plates, which range between R80 and R160. It’s definitely worth getting the four-plates option, as it is the perfect way to taste as many combinations and flavours as possible.
If, like me, your secret favourite part of the dining experience is the pre-meal bread basket and nibbles, then the snack menu – which includes edamame beans with kimchi butter, and divine Fire Oysters that pack a bite-sized punch – will set your evening off on the right start.
Easing in with the lighter flavours of our combined eight plates, we started with the Tokyo tacos, served on a crispy taco with lightly seared tuna, daikon, crème fraîche and Kewpie mayo – a flavour sensation not dissimilar to a tuna crunch roll. From there, we tried the salmon tartare and the aubergine fritters with miso aioli, both of which perfectly combined fresh ingredients with concentrated flavours.
As the evening progressed, so did the plates, and we were presented with three of the dishes from the meat section of the menu: JFC Japanese fried chicken wings, pork belly with lime leaf and coconut laksa, and Wagyu short-rib gyoza – all of which toppled the previous as the new highlight of our evening.
After seven dishes between two of us, dessert almost seemed like overkill, but… credit where it’s due: Cheyne really knows how to end off a meal! With its delicate elements, the chilled coconut cream sago with mango, condensed milk, toasted coconut and puffed black rice was the ideal ending to a palate-popping meal.
As with all small sharing-plate-style restaurants, there runs a risk for serious table overcrowding and cutlery mishaps. Luckily, with a lot of knowledgeable waiters and runners on the floor at all times, Fire Monkey avoids this by serving the food in waves to allow for breathing space. The minute your plate is clear – a matter of seconds, I assure you – it’s whisked away to make space for the next course, allowing for a seamless dining experience.
Dare we say the townies might have to take a trek into the ‘burbs for this one?
Insider info Fire Monkey is currently running a weekday lunch special: three bowls for R150!
For the latest and tastiest restaurant news, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.