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Papa San’s Takumi
Cape Town’s very own Japanese diner
No pets, children under 10-years-old or wise guys
“Takumi is like the best ballerina,” says Hatsushiro Muraoka, also fondly known as Papa San, demonstrating by holding his arms up in a circle. What he means is that, the ballerina is at the top of her game, the best. And Takumi, the name of his new city restaurant, roughly means the same thing.
Papa San is the original founder of Minato’s in Buiten Street; two years ago he sold the restaurant and returned to Japan. He tried to retire. But the pull of our stormy shores proved too strong. Now, a smiley 68-year-old Papa San is standing in front of me in gleaming chef’s whites.
His beaming visage, in the form of lino cut prints, is echoed throughout the restaurant. Those who have heard whispers that the restaurant is a fine dining establishment need to check their sources. More like a Japanese diner in Kawasaki; there are bamboo shutters, a stained wood sliding door, neat little black tables, and all of this in a freshly sanded Victorian on Park Road.
There’s also an outside area at the back, as well as a deck at the front of the restaurant for sunny summer dining.
Order quick and enjoy the wait with your friends
The front cover of the menu lists a few house rules: all written in the no-nonsense style that Papa San is known for. Featuring mostly sushi, the menu also has a number of hot and cold Japanese dishes such as, udon noodles and a dish called Hiyayakko; cold tofu dipped in shoyu soup, topped with ginger and Bonito flakes, amongst many others.
Papa San is a bona fide sushi master, a rarity in Cape Town. He tells me that he trained for 15 years and that three of those years were spent washing dishes. We need no more convincing. And leave lunch up to the chef.
Soon he sends out a portion of Super Crunch inside out rolls; stuffed with tempura prawn and greens, and served with plenty of tempura crumbs on the side (like Rice Krispies for grownups). Next up is salmon skin California rolls, and then salmon roses (the most beautiful I have ever seen). The portions are generous and the prices fair. The sushi is without a doubt, delicious; and very creative, but not so much that it’s off-putting. Sublime cuts of fish paired with perfect rice. What more could you want?
No debates allowed about who serves the best sushi in Cape Town
Smiling (of course), Papa San delivers the last plate of sushi: raspberry and banana California rolls, dessert with a hit of wasabi.
“The secret of the rice is the sauce,” he says when I ask him about his methods. “I have two secret ingredients that I use along with salt, vinegar and sugar.”
Restaurant manger Janine Venter (who worked for Papa San at Minato and now Takumi) says that he comes in on Sundays when the restaurant is closed, and cooks up his secret sauce.
“Other restaurants keep the leftover rice and then re-use the next day,” says Papa San, clearly not impressed, “the customers don’t know the difference.
“When I eat my rice, my stomach wants more and more! But when I eat bad rice, it says enough, enough!”
As always: open until owner’s choice
We’ve had a warm and fun lunch. Quite the convivial host, Papa San says he always comes out to talk to the guests. “I’m always happy,” he says with that infamous big grin, “eager to please.”
Words by Malu Lambert, photography by Antonia Heil
3 Park Road | Gardens | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 424 8879
Opening hours: Lunch fromMonday to Friday: 12pm – 2pm, Dinner from Monday to Saturday: 6pm - owner’s discretion.
Visit our sushi section for more chopstick inspiration.