Beijing Opera Dim Sum Restaurant in Cape Town

Meet the CBD’s new dumpling dreamland

As fun as the concept of pop-up dining is, when people find something that pleases the palate, they want access to it permanently not periodically. So naturally, local dim sum guru Yang Zhao has long been under pressure to transform her popular but sporadic supper club offering into a set restaurant, and to the delight of her many fans, she’s finally done just this.

Opened in mid-March 2014 on the De Waterkant side of Rose Street, Beijing Opera, which was also the name under which Yang’s pop-up eateries operated, aims to both give dumpling enthusiasts a regular fix of their favourite cuisine and acquaint curious customers with the traditions surrounding these pastry-wrapped snacks.

“It’s about the culinary experience,” says Yang, who grew up in South China, where dim sum originated, “but on a larger scale, it’s also about introducing people to aspects of a different culture”.

One such ‘aspect’ is the notion of communal eating, which is why the small, pared-down restaurant claims only two large tables, so patrons are encouraged to order many mini meat- or vegetable-stuffed parcels for the whole group and share amongst themselves. But the CBD eatery’s look and feel is also inspired by its name – a reference to the traditional Chinese performance art that delights viewers with dance, mime, song and more. Hence, the space’s colour palette mirrors that of the elaborate headgear, make-up and costumes of these theatre performers and is rich with reds, greens and the gold of freshly sanded wood.

It’s an appropriate theme too, considering that, as Yang says, “it’s almost like I’m putting on a show, telling the story of a really old, traditional food.” The open-plan kitchen is thus the stage, and the star of the act is, of course, the little flavour-filled dumplings, which are all made using responsibly sourced, fresh, local ingredients from Yang’s own recipes.

What makes the offering quite unique is that the innovative founder has dotted the menu with both authentic dim sum dishes that are popular in China, like doughy pork buns, steamed prawn and chives parcels and pork and chives potstickers, and more experimental options with unusual fillings, like pepper, chilli shrimp or peanut and pork. Rumour has it that in the future, Yang plans to play with quintessentially South African ingredients too.

Although the only items on the menu are steamed or fried dim sum parcels, the fillings and flavours change every few weeks to keep things interesting and to give customers the chance to taste different variations of this Chinese treats. Plus, there’s green tea for those who want to match their bite-sized snacks with an aromatic infusion – a classic combination in China. And though the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor licence yet, visitors are encouraged to bring their own booze (there’s just a small corkage fee of R30).

Overall, it’s a unique offering that many a local will surely be keen to cash in on, be it for a full midday meal or a quick afternoon nibble. Either way, Capetonians can be grateful that this time around, Beijing Opera is here to stay.

Tip: The restaurant doesn’t take bookings, so be sure to arrive early enough to secure a spot, especially on Saturdays when it gets busy. That said, don’t be afraid to squeeze in next to strangers at one of the two long tables – after all, the eatery operates on the principle of social eating. Also, during the week when it’s quieter, Beijing Opera is a great spot to get some work done, and it offers free Wi-fi too.

The Bill: Because you purchase by the piece here, you can spend as much or as little as you want at Beijing Opera. Steamed dumplings cost R45 for four pieces, buns go for R15 a piece and fried potstickers ring in at R25 for four pieces. Yang holds that customers can comfortably enjoy a full meal for no more than R120p/p.

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 10am – 5pm; Saturday: 10am – 3pm (the restaurant will soon open in the evenings too)

The State House Building | 6 Rose Street | De Waterkant | Cape Town | +27 (0)72 530 9654

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Lusting after other Asian food? Have a gander at our overview of top Chinese restaurants in Cape Town.

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