Cape Town loves a good food craze; and just like with the great gourmet burger obsession of the last few years, it’s only a matter of time before we have more ramen noodle joints in Cape Town than fingers to count them on. Of course, very soon we’re also going to have to discern the good from the great, and I’m quite convinced that no matter how many new ramen restaurants start popping up in Cape Town, the super cool Yuzu Kitchen & Bar is going to hold its own as one of the greats. Listen, it’s hard not to love a huge bowl of steaming hot, salty, meaty broth with tender, slow-cooked pork belly, and a pile of bouncy noodles to slurp, but there’s a big difference between the on-the-go variety that you will soon be able to grab at a conveniently placed takeaway window, to ramen so good it’s worth an obsession. Yes folks, the ramen at Yuzu is worth writing home about.
Separating the good from the great
So what are the criteria for ranking a good ramen bowl? All the elements of a great bowl of this warm, brothy goodness have to be top notch. First off, there are the noodles – they should be springy and flavourful, smooth and slick for slurping up, but never starchy or slimy. As for the broth, it should have an intense flavour and the top surface should glisten with droplets of fat. Finally, high quality “toppings” are what really take it over the edge to great status – a classic ramen bowl is served with delights like thinly sliced meat or tofu, pickled bamboo shoots, slivers of mushroom, a soft boiled egg, and plenty of green or spring onion.
Yuzu’s Rock n Roll Ramen bowls meet all these requirements and more. While you won’t find traditional ramen on the menu at this Japanese-American joint, the ramen they serve up should be praised for being different. Available with a wide range of different protein options (including tofu, chicken, pork belly, line fish, and Wagyu Beef) all served with a soft boiled scotch egg, udon noodles, spring onion, toasted sesame, Chinese leaf, and bean sprouts in a lemongrass broth, the ramen at Yuzu offers something for everyone, from the first-timer to the more adventurous ramen-lover.
I opted for the Wagyu Beef version (R125) which was jam packed with flavour. Succulent slices of beautiful Wagyu Beef help to elevate what is traditionally Japanese comfort food into a thing of luxury. Michelin star trained Rikku Ó’Donnchü has really outdone himself with this dish and the addition of the Western-style scotch egg is truly inspired. As for the portion size, Yuzu’s ramen bowls are gigantic and can easily be shared between two people if you opt to order starters before the main event.
Back to the start
Speaking of starters, Yuzu also offers a wide range of delicious starters to snack on while you wait for your mains to arrive. The boyfriend and I shared a portion of the Killermari (corn coated, deep-fried squid with citrus pepper and lime aioli – R49) and Danger Dumplings (sweet & sour spicy pork dumplings – R44) for starters. The Killermari was divine and the classic combination of squid and citrus paired with the creamy aioli made it a winner in my books. The portion size of this starter is very generous so I would recommend you share. As for the Danger Dumplings, they didn’t blow me away and I’ve definitely had better Dim Sum elsewhere in Cape Town, but I’m convinced that after being wowed by the sheer deliciousness of the Killermari, these didn’t really stand a chance.
Of course, there’s much more on the menu than just ramen and delicious starters. Chef Rikku Ó’Donnchü and his team have made sure there are plenty of options available for when you want to try something different. Along with more traditional options like sushi, burgers, and ramen, the menu is also packed with daring combinations of Japanese and western flavours. The boyfriend tried the Chicken Katsu Burger (deep-fried chicken cutlet with wasabi mayo and triple cooked chips – R99) and reported that it was delicious, although he did note that the bun it was served on, which was on the small side and a little too starchy, didn’t do the chicken too many favours.
A sweet end
As for dessert, there are a few East meets West options on the menu that locals will love. The Bangkok Baboon (banana split brûlée with Bains whisky ice cream and white chocolate – R35) and the All Buttered Up (cinnamon bread & butter pudding, strawberry jam, cardamom custard and glazed berries – R35) sound like the perfect way to end a meal. We opted for the Jou Ma se Malva (traditional malva pudding with litchi frozen vanilla custard and pistachios – R49). The flavours combination in this dish was surprisingly good and I love that they have added Asian twist on this traditional South African dessert. The only downside to this dessert is that the pudding itself was a little dry in the middle. Our waiter did, however, bring us extra sauce on the side to compensate for this and being able to add a little more sauce as we ate definitely helped to add more moisture.
To wash it all down, make sure you order one of Yuzu’s signature cocktails. We tried the Yuzu Iced Tea (Saki, Beefeater gin, Wyborowa vodka, triple sec, lime juice, chilli, syrup, and cola – R69) and the Japanse Steel (Saki, Nika red whisky, lime juice, litchi puree, soda water, dragon fruit, basil and sugar syrup – R78). The Yuzu Iced Tea is incredibly yummy and was declared the firm favourite of at our table. If you’re not into sweet cocktails then the Japanese Steel is a great choice! In addition to their show-stopping cocktails, the eleven-page bar menu offers a good selection of wines, beer, Sake, vodka, whisky, rum, gin, tequila, and non-alcoholic drinks.
Find Yuzu Kitchen & Bar at 75 Kloof Street, Gardens. The restaurant is open Mondays to Thursdays 16.30 – 23:00, Fridays 16.30 – 00:00, Saturdays 12:00 – 00:00, and Sundays 12:00 – 23:00. Early service is sushi and ramen only (with a Ramen and beer special for R99 between 16:30 and 18:30) and the full menu is available from 18:30. For more information visit the Yuzu website or say Hi to Yuzu Kitchen and Bar on Facebook.