I have a habit of taking away the surprise element of a restaurant by googling the establishment before I visit. On the odd occasion, when I don’t have the time, I am pleasantly surprised and Umi – the Japanese word for sea or ocean – is one such place.
The location, Camps Bay, could also very well be why the restaurant is named Umi. The doors open and as you step inside you are immediately transported into the heart of Japan. Peach blossom tress, hanging chandeliers, eclectic wall paintings and modern lantern shaped lights bring the room to life. It is a stark contrast to the world you just stepped off in Victoria Road.
Umi is a celebration of the Japanese spirit, it brings together the old world with artworks of kimonos and hanging peach blossoms, and the new world, with anime framed pictures, and orb light fixtures hanging in the bar.
It is a mixture of these worlds that make the restaurant so unique and welcoming, it appeals to both young and old and the food is very much a fusion representation of these worlds too.
The winter set menu special gives locals the chance to experience a sojourn into Japan without breaking the bank. A 2-course meal will cost you R190pp and a 3-course meal R230pp.
Starters include Octopus Carpaccio, Salt and Pepper Squid, Fried Shrimp Wantons and Chargrilled Chicken Wings. My choice was the wantons, because Japanese first.
It was possibly the best choice – the wantons were deep-fried-delicousness and presented with a dipping sauce of citrus syrup, together with candied chili. The crunch on the outside and the warm shrimp mixture on the inside can only be described as comforting, just what a winter starter should be.
I strayed a little from the main option and ordered the Prawn Laksa from the main menu. The laksa is a South-East Asian dish of rice noodles smothered in a rich spicy curry coconut sauce. While it looked authentic, it was disappointingly tasteless. The prawns were fresh, but they weren’t given enough time to infuse flavour into the sauce, neither was the sauce salted. After a good dollop of green chili and several shakes of salt, the dish improved – but the depth in flavour was clearly amiss.
Other options include Braised Sweet and Sour Short Rib, Chargrilled Hake and Chicken Thighs in a curry sauce. My dining partner raved about the short rib.
Dessert was my best dish. As it should be. The Lemongrass Panna Cotta with a Mango Sauce and Candied Chili was heavenly and worth ordering a second, because one is never going to satisfy you, it’s that good.
The Panna Cotta was the perfect wobble and the perfect infusion of lemongrass. The reason for the mango sauce became abundantly clear after a hit from the red candied chili. I am a huge fan of dessert surprises, and this sweet ending packs a powerful kick – fantastically innovative.
Other dessert options include a Rum Baba and Dark Chocolate Brownie ganache.
Umi serves a wide range of signature cocktails and panders to a wine connoisseurs tastebuds – please make sure you check out the bar, it is an anime experience worthy of the hype.
I love that the restaurant is not what you expect before you open the doors, and is so very different from all the other offerings on the Camps Bay strip. You still have a bird’s eye view of the beach – it’s definitely the place to be when the sun starts its decent into the sea.
If anything, it is authentically unusual, with a dessert to prove it.
Contact: 021 437 1802
Address: 201, The Promenade, Victoria Rd, Camps Bay
Pictures: Umi and Nidha Narrandes