With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
Obi Restaurant on Long Street
Culinary legend Papa San joins forces with chef-partner Ben Bettendorf to serve authentic Japanese sushi, ramen and tempura at this new Cape Town haunt
“Come”, Papa San says leading us into the restaurant’s pristine and compact kitchen, “I’ll make you a tuna roll to taste.” Today my colleague and I are at Obi Restaurant on Long Street, a new authentic Japanese eatery and bar owned and operated by Cape Town’s much-loved sushi legend, Hatsushiro Muraoka (or Papa San as he is affectionately known) and his chef-partner Ben Bettendorf.
Since the closing of Papa San’s former culinary playground, Kloof Street’s Takumi in April 2016 (which in turn caused much disappointment amongst locals), Mother City sushi-lovers wondered what the renowned chef and restaurateur had up his chef’s white sleeve next. Wasting no time (and much to the delight of Papa San-followers), the sushi-specialist and Ben joined culinary forces officially opening Obi Restaurant in July 2016 serving authentic Japanese ramen, tempura dishes and of course, Papa San’s famous inventive sushi.
“Obi Restaurant is everything”, explains Ben. “Papa San has always liked restaurants and is a people pleaser, but this is my first venture. Cooking is all I’ve done since school, so this is obviously a dream of mine.”
Serving customers genuine East Asian cuisine – majority of the ingredients used at Obi are imported directly from the Pacific Ocean island – Papa San and Ben saw Obi (which is named after the broad sash of a Japanese kimono) has an opportunity to showcase the clean flavours and textures of Japanese cuisine. “The menu is very similar to that of Takumi,” Ben continues. “It’s the same menu Papa San has had for some time now and that people have come to know and love.”
On the menu, diners can expect to find some old Takumi starter favourites including the Nasu Miso (fried aubergine with toasted sesame seeds and honey miso dressing) and the Edamame (steamed young soy beans in the pod) as well as some tasty tempura options. As for sushi, which fittingly comprises majority of the restaurant’s offerings, patrons can order from a wide selection of Papa San trademark inside out rolls as well as an array of nigiri, handrolls and maki dishes (amongst others). With a wide range of sushi plates available there is enough variety to suit every sushi-lover’s palate, from the traditionalist type to the adventurous sort.
Focusing on clean, fresh food, Papa San has strict sanitary policies in the Obi kitchen and while we watch Papa San and Ben skillfully roll sushi the duo not only constantly wash their hands but also change their food preparation gloves, cutting boards and knives as they work. What’s more, every ingredient found in the kitchen is bought in fresh daily and all dishes are prepared to order. “We’re very hands-on”, Ben says, “and both work in the kitchen together. If we can, we’ll also help out in the front a bit.”
Tucking into the spread the sushi-stars have created for us – Papa San not only made tuna rolls, but also salmon and tuna nigiri while Ben created a prawn and cucumber California roll – I believe my wholly satisfied face says it all. Presented on beautiful handmade genuine Japanese crockery and served with small soy sauce bowls, the sushi is real and wholesome with a distinctive and genuine Papa-San-a-la-Ben twist that is sure to keep loyal and new customers returning time and time again.
We’ve finished our food and its time for us to say goodbye to the inner city sushi haunt and its innovative chefs. Once again showcasing his true love and passion for the food he creates and the people it feeds, Papa San invites us to return to Obi in the near future. And as we step out onto the busy Long Street sidewalk, we both know that Papa San’s invitation is something we’ll definitely be accepting. See you again (very) soon, Obi Restaurant.
NOTE: Although walk-ins are welcome, to avoid disappointment it’s advised to book a table at Obi as the Long Street haven is known to be very popular. Since opening date, the Japanese restaurant and bar has been fully booked every day.
Chef's Tip: Chef Ben recommends diners try Obi’s Shoyu Ramen, which comprises ramen noodles, soy sauce broth, pork cheek chashu (which is braised in the stock itself), a six-minute egg, spring onion and nori (NOTE: Only served at lunchtime). For dinnertime Obi sticks to the old Papa San favourites like the inside out sushi rolls as well as its Japanese side and starter dishes.
The Bill: Starters: R20 – R40 | Tempura: R50 – R100 | Noodles: R70 – R80 | Sushi (nigiri, handroll, maki, sashimi, inside out roll, obi rolls): R15 – R180 | Specialties: R65 – R200 | Beverages (non-alcoholic: hot and cold): R14 – R28 | (alcoholic: beers, ciders, sake, spirits, wine (by the glass and bottle) and MCC): R18 – R170
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday (lunch): 12pm – 2pm | Monday to Saturday (dinner): 6pm – 10:00pm
by Krysia Gaweda
Video Credit: Josh Oates
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