FYN Restaurant is a sublime fusion of South African and Japanese culinary tastes, textures, and techniques. We got to experience first-hand why the Cape Town fine-dining eatery has recently been voted the 37th best restaurant in the world.
On the fifth floor of a 19th-century silk factory on Speakers’ Corner, in the heart of the Mother City, you’ll find FYN Restaurant. Unique in its design, innovative in its menu, and simply put, a gastronomic experience like no other.
FYN (short for fynbos and pronounced ‘feign’, not ‘fine’, as some are led to believe) was recently voted the 37th best restaurant in the world (up from 92 last year). Not bad for a restaurant that has only been open since 2018. Its cuisine is described as Africanese, a fusion of South African and Japanese cultures, from the ingredients to the cooking techniques.
Visionary and founder Peter Tempelhoff attributes the restaurant’s accolades and general success to the fact that the judges (and diners in general) are looking for new experiences and trends. “I think what FYN has done is pique the interest of the people. You’ve got this very rugged African culture combined with this very refined Japanese symmetry. People want to see and experience how we’ve combined the two.”
And experience it, they do.
You’ve got this very rugged African culture combined with this very refined Japanese symmetry.
From left: Guinea fowl wonton tori paitan sea lettuce, Abalone in kelp, Robata pineapple rice ice-cream shichimi ginger
From left: Kaseiki tray of line-caught sashimi, chokka, KZN langoustine, Wagyu miso yaki hoba, Ostrich egg chawanmushi with black caviar
From left: Chef Peter Tempelhoff, Chef Ashley Moss
Upon entering the restaurant, you’re transported far from the bustle of city life and immediately enveloped in a sense of calm. The muted tones of the beautiful décor designed by the world-renowned Tristan Du Plessis set the scene for an afternoon or evening of top-tier fine dining without any of the usual pretentiousness.
The most striking feature is the hundreds of wooden discs suspended from the ceiling and filling the triple-volume space above you. Each table has its own bonsai tree, with the tableware unique yet elegant, down to the chopsticks’ rest. Boundaries are removed as kitchen and dining room are one, so patrons can literally witness the magic taking place as the dishes are painstakingly prepared and presented at your table.
THE FYN MENU — A MARRIAGE OF TWO CULTURES
The Lexus Life team experienced the lunch menu, which was a 7-course affair, each dish appearing before us more beautiful and delicious than the last. Tempelhoff describes the style of dining as kaiseki-style, referring to the typical Japanese multi-course meal consisting of a sequence of light dishes. Each dish is presented like a work of art, plated beautifully to suit the relevant cooking style or ingredient. Each mouthful is a taste extravaganza.
When asked about how he creates an Africanese dish, Tempelhoff explains: “We look at either the ingredient or the cooking technique and think about how we can fuse the two cultures. If it’s a typical Japanese cultural dish, we see how we can incorporate South African flavours into that, or if it’s a South African cultural dish, how we can execute it through Japanese eyes.”
As an example, he describes the Hoba grilled wagyu (one of Tempelhoff’s favourites – and mine too, incidentally.) Celebrating the typical Japanese way of “wrapped in nature”, African wagyu is rubbed with sorghum miso, wrapped in a hoba (Japanese for magnolia) leaf, and then grilled. “When the leaf starts cooking, it imparts this aroma with the miso into the meat that you can’t get any other way.” The combination of the leaf, the miso, and the wagyu, with some fresh wasabi, is nothing short of extraordinary.
Another of the Chef’s personal favourites is the bread course, which has been on the menu longer than any other dish. This comprises a Hokkaido milk bun served with burnt mushroom custard, which you ‘crack’ brûlée-style. I am still dreaming about it.
To dine at FYN is a celebration of the senses. Every dish is complex yet simple, unique, and surprising. Each course is paired with an exquisite choice of wine poured by exceptionally knowledgeable sommeliers. The passion and dedication of the staff did not go unnoticed. The service is impeccable under the watchful eye of general manager Jennifer Hugé.
FYN MENU HIGHLIGHTS
On top of the already-mentioned dishes, a few additional menu highlights include:
Obsiblue prawn hand roll (which you get to make yourself)
Tempura dune spinach, tentsuyu
Guinea fowl wonton, tori paitan, sea lettuce
Ostrich egg chawanmushi
Abalone braaied in kelp, kingklip, tomato, sea plants
Outeniqua springbok served with Hokkaidopumpkin and kabochasquash
Our meal was rounded off with Robata pineapple, rice ice-cream and shichimi, drizzled with ginger syrup.
The lunch menu is a pared-down version of the dinner menu, and there are pescatarian and plant-based options too.
The menu changes according to the seasons or if the chefs feel it’s time to change things up a bit. “There is one rule, however,” says Tempeloff. “If the next dish isn’t better than the last one, we don’t swap it. That’s how we keep innovating and challenging ourselves to improve.”
As the website says, leave all expectations of what you know about food at the door, and step into the FYN experience. However, while you might be lucky enough to get the odd table for lunch, you’ll need to plan a few months ahead for dinner, as the restaurant is fully booked until November.
Templehoff’s not one for resting on his laurels, so keep an eye out for his next venture, a ramen restaurant opening downstairs from FYN at the end of October. The menu will offer four different ramen bowls with a few sides.
A TASTE OF JAPAN AROUND THE WORLD
FYN is just one of the many Japanese-influenced restaurants around the world, each one bringing something unique to the table.
Starting with the source, Japan itself, Tempelhoff’s inspiration comes from the 2-Michelin starred Zeniya, situated in the capital city of Kanazawa. Spearheaded by world-renowned chef and Tempelhoff’s personal friend Chef Shinichiro Takagi, Zeniya is known for its service and stellar traditional cuisine.
Heading to Europe, Mory Sacko at Louis Vuitton in St Tropez, France, is another example of West meets East fusion. Michelin-starred French West African chef Mory Sacko reinvents traditional Japanese dishes and infuses them with African flavours, presenting them as gourmet bento-box-style meal kits called ekiben.
Midori is the only Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant in Portugal. Described as Japanese cooking with a Portuguese soul, Midori offers a culinary adventure against the breathtaking backdrop of the spectacular Sintra Mountains.
Further afield, a regular on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Maido in Lima, Peru fuses local and Japanese fare, coining the term Peruvian Nikkei cuisine.
Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) respects your privacy and is committed to protecting your personal information in line with global data protection standards. To understand how we process and protect your information we encourage you to read our Privacy Notice
By clicking subscribe you agree to TSAM processing your personal information for the purpose of this request.