Tjing Tjing Momiji offers Japanese fine dining in the heart of Cape Town with its multi-course kaiseki menu that celebrates the season by using the best local ingredients in a beautifully balanced way.
Tjing Tjing is a multi-level space that gives Capetonians and visitors a chance to experience Japanese dining culture in three different ways. Having been involved in the institution’s interior design for the past eight years, Francois du Plessis was instrumental in the new look and feel, and he enlisted the help of Suzanne Schekman of Untitled-Designhub for the architecture and overall project management. On the ground floor, there’s Tjing Tjing Torii, a casual space that serves up Japanese street food in a vibrantly cool setting. On the rooftop, there’s Tjing Tjing Bar, a favourite spot for sundowners, cocktails and dancing under the night sky. And sandwiched in the middle of the two is Tjing Tjing House’s crowning glory, Tjing Tjing Momiji and Momiji Lounge.
The beauty of this floor is its emphasis on contrasts, with the dark and moody Momiji Lounge providing a dramatic juxtaposition to its airy counterpart. The lounge is a seated-only space, with ambient lighting, sunken booths and low couches where guests can enjoy Japanese folklore-inspired cocktails, wines and an array of Japanese whiskies before moving on to the main event: Tjing Tjing Momiji fine-dining restaurant.
Here, Warren Franken of Elementree was responsible for the industrial design, and his touch is evident in the shoji screens, sculptural pendant lights and pale maple wood furniture – speaking of Momiji’s name, which means ‘maple tree’ in Japanese. White papered walls and framed origami artworks combine with charming ceramic chopstick rests and beautiful stoneware in a room whose rabbit motif-adorned acoustic panels by Terence Kitching and Kim Bischofberger of Superelastic Studio encourage you to look up and savour in the quite serenity. It’s as if the setting is a reflection of the menu itself: considered, crafted and charming.
Drawing inspiration from the traditional multi-course Japanese meal, Tjing Tjing Momiji’s kaiseki menu comprises seven delectable dishes infused with Head Chef Christi Semczyszyn and Pastry Chef Adri Morel’s signature styles and local flavour. To start there is a trio of surprising flavour combinations consisting of a soy and wasabi ice cream sandwich, homemade tofu with buchu-pickled ginger and soy, and a tempura quail egg with truffled mayonnaise and trout roe.
Next, there is the sashimi course, whose standout element is the seductively smoky, hay-seared yellowfin tuna, served alongside fresh salmon, yuzu-cured cob in wild garlic oil and a glass of Niepoort Dócil Loureiro 2016 Vinho Verde.
Following this is a clear duck and daikon broth, which boasts elegantly subtle flavours punctuated by tantalising texture in the form of slices of tender duck and a segment of crunchy radish. The drink pairing for this course is Hakutsuru Josen Saki.
The West Coast bread board reminds us that bread needn’t always be served at the beginning of a meal, and its West Coast mussels, crispy nori and hearty chunks of bread are all perfectly complemented by Cape Brewing Company’s Amber Weiss.
While a palate cleanser isn’t usually something to write home about, Tjing Tjing Momiji breaks the mould with its mizu shingen mochi – or raindrop cake. This delicate morsel packs a flavoursome punch, with bold tastes of fermented tomato and basil resulting in a refreshing and unique experience.
Continuing Tjing Tjing Momiji’s delightful rabbit theme is the Takiawase spring salad, where a beautifully presented array of fresh vegetables are adorned with a bunny cut-out, served in a bamboo steamer and accompanied with braaied beetroot swimming in kefir and topped with miso sand. This dish is best enjoyed with a glass of JH Meyer Kleinrivier Pinot Noir 2016.
The meatiest course of it all combines one of the most expensive cuts – wagyu – with one of the cheapest – tongue – in a dish underlined by the notion of honouring an animal by using all of its parts. Included in its name is the Japanese term ‘mottainai’, which loosely translates to ‘What a waste!’. Its rich flavours are intensified by Reyneke Reserve Red 2015.
Drawing on the fact that rice is considered to be a meal all on its own in Japan, the last savoury dish is served separately as opposed to as a side. Tjing Tjing Momiji’s Gohan, literally meaning ‘meal’, is made up of perfectly cooked and seasoned sticky rice, which takes on a creamy consistency with the addition of a raw egg.
Pleasing finishing touches include custom Momiji matcha, raspberry and white chocolate Kit Kats (symbolic of the fact that Kit Kat is the most popular treat in Japan) and three bon-bons thoughtfully placed in a Tjing Tjing Momiji rabbit-branded box for you to take home and enjoy later. This, combined with excellent service that sees the staff explain exactly how each course should be eaten, results in a one-of-a-kind dining experience not to be missed.
Visit Tjing Tjing Momiji at 165 Longmarket St, Cape Town City Centre, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm. The restaurant can only accommodate 16 people per sitting, so booking is essential. Find the full kaiseki menu here.