Another great winter special we look forward to every year is at Kyoto Garden in Tamboerskloof.
This tiny restaurant is one of Cape Town’s favourite Japanese eateries – Eat Out’s 2018 Best Seafood Restaurant and Best Asian in 2014, in fact – and specialises in exotic fruits of the ocean, from farmed abalone to Mozambican conch, eel, sea urchin, and even Alaskan king crab, deep-sea scallops and wild salmon. For an immersive experience, there is a large selection of Japanese whiskies and sake, and it is renowned for gorgeous cocktails, including the popular Dirty Ninja Saketini, which is my personal favourite.
The signature drink is made with sake muddled with cucumber and finely sliced nori with a dash of sweetened rice wine vinegar. This is mixed into a blend of Nikka Japanese vodka and Roku Japanese gin, which is poured into an elegant martini glass. The drink is elegant, cool and refreshing. My friend, a regular at Kyoto Garden, had her favourite: Ginger Mizuwari, which infuses root ginger, fresh limes and whisky to allow “the natural flavours to develop, the old fashioned way”.
The winter special, which runs until August 31, costs R230 for three courses, and includes a glass of wine in the colour of your choice, sake and green tea. The wine will change from time to time, but it will always be excellent, as per the wine list.
We had a sneak preview before the launch, and there have been some minor changes since then. Of course, these changes, small as they are, related to our choices. Never ask “what are the odds?” because the universe will respond with “hold my drink”.
While Kyoto is known for its seafood, vegans and vegetarians have been take into consideration for the special, with options to suit them in every course. You can begin with a bowl of miso soup, which is always so deliciously wholesome and full of umami flavours. My friend had the seaweed salad, which has now been replaced by vegetable tempura, and I had tuna tartare with condiments including wakame, a nutritious, edible seaweed relish which I recently discovered in Thailand…delicious.
Main course options are a fantastic prawn ramen bowl in a deep rich broth (my friend’s order, of which I was supremely envious), “special” fish with rice, and a sushi platter of the chef’s creation. It was vegetarian on the night we were there.
To finish, you can choose between two scoops of miso ice cream and vegan chocolate ice cream with orange. The sake and green tea are served at the end of the meal.
Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room – Kyoto Garden is fairly pricey. Fabulous food to be sure, and worth every penny, but not everyone can afford it. This winter special is a pocket-friendly way to be able to enjoy the restaurant without having to sell a kidney.
* Kyoto Garden is at 11 Kloof Nek Road, Tamboerskloof. Call 021 422 2001.
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 5.30pm to 11pm. Booking is essential.
For more information, visit to www.kyotogarden.co.za.
By Bianca Coleman