It’s virtually impossible not to immediately notice the Quentin Tarantino/’Kill Bill’ influences at this hot new eatery called Yuzu on Kloof Street – from the music to the décor and design.
When some restaurants replace others, former elements often linger. At Yuzu this is not the case, and although its predecessor was there for well over a decade (perhaps close to two), not a hint of it remains. The work of Deon Meyer and Marlon Leggat from Framework, the space was redesigned around a dojo (a room or hall in which judo and other martial arts are practised) to create an open flow and add a warm touch to the restaurant and theme, and the sushi counter is inspired by the scene in ‘Kill Bill’, where Uma Thurman goes to buy her Samurai sword from the sushi chef.
The idea behind the design was also to reduce waste and carbon footprint, so materials were salvaged and reclaimed where possible: the windows from an old steel folding factory which ties in with the samurai sword mounted on the wall; the wood and bar tiles from Japanese buildings and martial arts clubs; and the timber floor was burnt using an ancient Japanese method called Shou Sugi Ban’d, used in dojos across Japan.
As for the food, it’s an East-meets-West fusion conceptualised by Michelin star trained chef, Rikku Ó’Donnchü, inspired by his extensive travels and culinary influences, and his love of rock ‘n roll, martial arts and hearty fare. “The idea of Yuzu was to create a place where I could combine and share all the things I’m passionate about, and bring them together in a really interesting and laid back space,” explains Ó’Donnchü.
The menu includes sushi, ramen, dumplings, main dishes and desserts, all incorporating fresh and creative twists for diners who have been craving something different for so long. Sure, you can still get the typical sushi served at other establishments, but step out the comfort zone and try urumaki – smoked duck tartar with sweet and spicy apricot and szechuan mayo. You won’t be sorry.
We also had Snow Dragon rolls (panko crumbed prawn, avocado, sweet and sour chili, miso mayo-dressed crabsticks and toasted sesame seeds), Onigirazu with tuna and sesame seeds, and maki like never before: beet and gin cured salmon rolls with lemongrass mayo and black garlic rice, which were spectacular.
That in itself could easily have been the perfect sushi meal for two, but we felt obliged to try some more dishes for the sake of the story. As one does. My sensible friend stuck to the Italian Ninja salad from the starters section of the menu – an Asian “Caesar salad” with romanesque lettuce, nashi pear, crispy anchovies and tempura egg yolk – which she described as “yummy”.
From the fun and imaginatively named main courses I more recklessly chose (and had to take home about half of it) “That Ol’ Cow” which is sesame coated wagyu short rib with molasses glaze which melts in the mouth, masala mash and grilled asparagus.
Other main courses include Wagyu Warrior fillet burgers with gem lettuce, goat’s cheese, chili pickle, spicy mayo and triple cooked chips; Piggy On The Braai – roasted pork belly with pak choi, smoked bbq black beans and re-roasted bell peppers; and for the non-meat eaters, Miso Veggie – grilled asparagus with nashi pear, ginger butter, miso mash and a chili soy reduction.
The “Rock ‘n Roll” ramen are all served with a soft –boiled “scotch egg”, udon noodles, spring onion, toasted sesame, Chinese leaves and bean sprouts in a lemongrass broth, and available with tofu, chicken, pork belly, line fish, or wagyu beef.
Where many menus fall down, Yuzu stands tall with desserts that sound incredible but were simply not possible for us that evening…cinnamon bread and butter pudding, strawberry jam, cardamom custard and glazed berries; the signature chocolate fondant with lime honeycomb, caramelised pineapple, chili salsa and yuzu sorbet, named Not For Pussies; and Jou Ma Se Malva – traditional malva pudding with litchi, frozen vanilla custard and pistachios – among them.
* Yuzu Kitchen & Bar, 75 Kloof Street, Gardens, is open Mondays to Thursdays 4.30pm till 11pm, Fridays 4.30pm till midnight, Saturdays noon till midnight, and Sundays noon till 11pm.
Early service is sushi and ramen only (with half price specials on basic sushi), and the full menu is available from 6.30pm.
For more information and menu, visit www.yuzu.co.za, or call 065 346 1792.