Pioneering Asian restaurants in Franschhoek – Ōku Asian Eatery and Yama Sushi Emporium – enter the summer season with fresh verve underscored by a greater focus on seasonality and new menus. Currently marking their second anniversary, the popular duo has become the Asian dining destinations in a Cape winelands town that is long famous as South Africa’s culinary capital.
The restaurants both opened in 2020, in the wake of the global pandemic. At the time, they were unique to Franschhoek in their Asian offering. Ōku offers formal dining and is complemented by the casual style at neighbouring Yama.
Now, chef proprietor Ryan Shell has brought new impetus through an increased frequency of changes to dishes spurred by a seasonal focus. To accompany the refreshed and refined Kaiseki set menu, a second experience also launches at Ōku in December that offers a set menu of four or five courses with options on every course.
“This is an exciting time for us, and we look forward to sharing the results of the journey with our regulars and out-of-town guests,” says Ryan. “For us, the wonderful part of the story was to see the team’s excitement at the opportunity from the very start to cook and serve Asian food.
“They’ve been amazing, every decision we have made has been a collaborative one. That has been a huge part of our success.”
Ōku Asian Eatery
Ōku is Japanese for oak, a majestic species that like Southeast Asian culture evokes a deep sense of history and spirituality. The Kaiseki menu at Ōku has been the heart of the experience and includes the option of a dedicated vegetarian selection. Each line-up features a variety of finely crafted dishes.
Each plate stands out on the backdrop of Ōku’s typically minimalist Japanese aesthetic. Among the latest menu items are beef tataki served with nori, wasabi mayo and pickled ginger; roasted edamame, Chinese cabbage, crispy squid, sesame and sriracha; prawn bao bun, cabbage kimchi, black bean chili and ponzu; and, Japanese cheesecake, with apple, ginger and sunflower seeds. Accompanying them is a drinks menu that includes cocktails, a showcase of local wineries; and, various fine sakes.
Yama Sushi Emporium
The name Yama means mountain and reflects stature as well as the natural, awe-inspiring amphitheatre in which Franschhoek is located. Dining is available in a landscaped courtyard or indoors – both decorated with minimalist elegance.
Here, the options provide diners with greater flexibility – from enjoying a quick lunch to a full dinner spread. Its high-quality, precision-made sushi menu accompanies an Asian-themed à la carte menu that employs fresh seasonal ingredients.
“Sushi comes from a great tradition that we strive to honour consistently and, in every way,” says Ryan. “Making sure that the ingredients are the best available is where the journey begins for us.”
On offer are a selection of appetisers or “zensai”; dumplings of sweet potato, prawn, duck, pork and beef; noodle bowls; poke bowls; bao; and, broths. The choice of sides includes noodles, corn rice, braised baby cabbage. For sweets, there are among others, a delectable mugi-chai coconut custard and the traditional frozen dessert, Shābetto.
Stay in touch
Both restaurants are open Monday to Sunday, with the first seating at 12:00 and last seating, 21:00. Online orders can be made for delivery and take-aways at both Oku and Yama.
Ōku and Yama are both situated at Heritage Square, 9 Huguenot Rd – Franschhoek’s high street.