After many years of poring over menus and dishes – and picking them apart – I have come to realise the ultimate dining experience has a lot to do with the company around that very same table.
When the food, service and atmosphere amplifies your dining experience in good company, you might have just scored the perfect night out.
You are never going to be short of new spaces to explore in the Mother City, but make sure YU Asian Restaurant at the Onyx Hotel makes your list. We recommend you start at The Granite Lounge on the fourth floor of the Onyx Hotel which boasts sweeping views of the ever-changing Foreshore precinct.
When you’re done sipping on the views and bright lights paired with delectable cocktails, meander on down to YU Asian, which is situated next to the foyer in the hotel. Let the food games begin.
A mistake we advise you not to make is to ask the chef for recommendations; he kept the dishes coming to our table and we rolled out of the restaurant at least two sizes larger. Although, I am more than willing to let out my clothing a size or two to have that dinner experience again.
The menu is extensive, and is a mesh of modern twists on favourite Japanese dishes. There are tapas portions, large plates, sushi favourites – both old and new – and salads for the light-hearted. Here are seven of my favourite dishes from my palate’s rendezvous with YU.
1. Spicy Edamame (R60)
We all love Edamame, but if you enjoy a fiery bite, then definitely try out this spicy version. The beans are drizzled with a chili dressing which add an extra special kick to your tastebuds. I’m not sure why this is not on more menus, but it needs to be.
2. Hot Potsticker – Seafood (R60)
Sadly, not all potstickers in the world are created equal. The good news is that at YU Asian, they are. The outside texture is velvety and the filling juicy. The vegetarian option of spinach and cream cheese is just as dreamy and luxurious. Each mouthful is a joy, if you know good potstickers, this is the place to experience them.
3. Bao Buns (R80)
Yes, there are Baos on the menu. Yes, the buns are light, steamy, creamy and delicious. Try the duck with hoisin, ask for a touch more of hoisin, you want the sauce drenching the tender meat. Other varieties include beef short rib with chilli, and there’s also a chicken bao with siracha (R75). There’s no cheese in the bao, so I will add some: I bao’ed down to them.
4. Sticky Ribs marinated in Sichuan Pepper, Soya + Ginger (R85)
This dish is exactly what you expect it to be. It is sweet, sticky, peppery, salty and tangy. It is also prepared to fall off the bone and requires a finger-licking finish. It was my favourite dish. The pork flavour is not lost under all the seasoning, but is genuinely enhanced.
5. Spicy Salmon, Spring Onion, Sesame Oil (R100)
This is the epitome of sushi reinvented. It is a deep-fried rice finger topped with slivers of salmon in a light spicy sauce. It is crunchy and unusual – in a good way, of course. A way that makes you wonder why this is the first time you’re tasting it.
6. New Style Salmon Sashimi, Wasabi Mayo + Teriyaki (R125)
New style sashimi has been gracing the menu of many sushi eateries recently. It is thin slices of tuna or salmon drenched in a secret blend of asian sauces. It is a fresh take on sashimi, one that I can order again and again – and you should too. It is delicate enough to let the sashimi be the star of the show but powerful enough to change your concept of what great sushi really is.
7. Caramelised Pineapple, Black Sesame Compote, Coconut Ice Cream (R80)
Simple flavours, simple tastes, big conclusion. You must applaud the Japanese for discovering a dessert that has all the goodness of dessert with minimal calories and that makes for an exceptional end to your meal. The coconut ice cream was created at a level of sweet that didn’t make your toes curl, but instead offered respite from all the spicy dishes.
If there’s one reason to disrupt a cosy dinner in this cold season, let it be YU. Good food, they say, is all in the detail. And detailed dishes is what makes YU Asian so very different.
Contact: 021 111 0453
Address: Onyx Hotel, Foreshore, Cape Town
Pictures: Nidha Narrandes and supplied