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Words: Kit Heathcock | Images: Kit Heathcock & Supplied

There’s a whole new energy at Tjing Tjing on Longmarket Street. The rooftop bar continues to hum, while the laidback Torii eatery is re-invented as a vibey Japanese street food joint downstairs, making way for a serene and sophisticated dining experience at Momiji on the first floor. Here we experience Kaiseki for the first time: the Japanese formal multi-course menu is all about respect – respect for the ingredients, respect for the guests, the chef striving for excellence in every exquisite detail.

Chef Christi Semczyszyn takes the traditional kaiseki format and interprets it with fresh local ingredients; the result has the pure focus of the Japanese tradition with an element of South African creativity and playfulness.

Waking up our palate, are a soy and wasabi ice cream sandwich, home-made tofu with ginger, and a tempura quail’s egg with truffle. Eating from cold to hot, these are delicious mouthfuls that whet the appetite for the traditional sashimi course. Today it’s cob in wild garlic oil with crispy ginger, ocean trout with radish shoots, and tuna with ponzu dressing – each one perfection.

A clear duck soup, with shreds of meat, daikon both poached and shredded, and a touch of apple blossom and lemon, is rich and light. We didn’t have the full wine pairing through the meal but couldn’t resist tasting the fine Hakutsuru Josen sake paired with the soup, complementing it beautifully.

The bread board has a West Coast inspiration, including smoked yellowtail, whipped bone marrow and smoked mussels to go with rice crackers, seaweed buns and sourdough, a substantial platter to share.

We love the pure focus on a specific element that the separate courses encourage: first the Takiawase, spring salad beautifully presented alongside fire-roasted beetroot. The Yakimono grilled course is pure unadorned meat: four impeccable cuts of wagyu beef arranged to showcase their differences in texture and flavour – who knew slow-cooked tongue could be such a delicacy?

The dessert description of a seasonal fruit platter is eclipsed by the reality: a light yuzu posset, lychee and kiwi jelly, kumquat ice cream with rosemary sugar and a dried rhubarb leather, delicate flavours going beautifully with the Umeshu plum wine pairing.

The six-course written menu doesn’t hint at the surprise extra treats and snacks: three hours of beautifully paced and balanced small dishes leave us abundantly well fed and elegantly entertained.

Tjing Tjing Momiji
021 422 4374
tjingtjing.co.za/momiji

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