Asian feasting at Saigon Suzy. Image via Saigon Suzy’s facebook page.
Things may be easy when you’re big in Japan but, until recently, popular Asian dishes such as kimchi and ramen had little traction with Johannesburg diners.
All that has now changed, as new artisanal restaurants crop up in the city’s trendiest districts and stretch palates beyond braaivleis and other local favourites.
Saigon Suzy, situated in Rosebank, the city’s new epicentre for cool, is designed to be reminiscent of somewhere soldiers in Vietnam would have dined. Its menu offers a mix of foods from across the continent, though it appears to have a south Asian bias.
Though the restaurant does not take reservations, which can lead to disappointment on a busy night, and most nights are, its BBQ and ramen bowls are worth a wait.
But the true beauty of this spot is that it brings more than Asian tastes to Jo’burg – it also brings karaoke.
A staircase leading to its private karaoke rooms, situated above the dining area, has the lyrics to Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ sprawled across each step.
About six kilometres south of Suzy, as the restaurant is affectionately known, in the Bohemian suburb of Melville, several Asian joints have mushroomed on the landscape. One Such Joint is Love Me So, which serves up piping hot ramen and tapas. Although, the Great Eastern Food Bar and Glory, are also great choices.
Glory’s ambience will have you feeling like you’ve teleported to the courtyard of a Thai backpackers’ lodge.
If traditional Chinese noodles is what you are after, however, Linden is probably your best bet – outside of Johannesburg’s two Chinatown districts that is.
PRON – or the People’s Republic of Noodles – dishes up authentic dishes from the Chinese province owner Emma Chen’s family comes from. Its decor pays cheeky tribute to communist revolutionary Mao Zedong.
But if Africa’s richest square-mile is your preferred area code, Sandton’s Banchan should be on your list to try. The Korean restaurant takes its name from the abundant side dishes that accompany most meals in the country’s national cuisine. Though there are many must-haves on its menu, a bowl of its bulgogi bibimbap will have you in foodie heaven.
Pick a table, take a seat, glance out of the window, and it’s as if you’ve been transported to downtown Seoul.