Businessman and hospitality entrepreneur Nicky Van Der Walt has put luxury Asian cuisine on the map with the opening of Tang, and it’s already one of the city’s hottest hangouts; a magnet for famous faces and serious sushi lovers. Occupying one of the iconic Nelson Mandela Square’s handsomest patches, this sexy new arrival spills out onto a cool, cosmopolitan terrace – one more reminiscent of New York or London than Joburg. A design lover’s dream, the 650m² cutting-edge space has been conceptualised by award-winning interior architect Tristan du Plessis of Studio A. It’s all smooth urban energy – a thrilling mash-up of Japanese zen and cosmopolitan cool with sleek tables and design-led chairs plus traditional Japanese aesthetics and designs interlaced with contemporary minimalism. The light-filled reception space flows naturally into a darker, moodier dimension – the high-ceilinged dining room cast with amber lighting with its glamorous crowd, pierced by a floor-to-ceiling wine cellar, Moët & Chandon champagne bar and a cherry blossom tree with breathtaking pink and ivory blooms.
While for brunch you can order some of the greatest hits like fresh oysters, miso soup, spring rolls, chicken wings, dim sum, sushi and tuna tacos with Asian slaw, chilli and mayo, it’s the main menu that gives head chef Lai Kuan Geo – nominated at the Eat Out Awards for Best Asian Restaurant and the American Express Platinum Fine Dining Award – along with seasoned chef de cuisine Wesley Chen and executive chef Vixa Kalenga the opportunity to shine. The dream-team partnership’s confident exploration of flavours, textures and cooking styles come in traditional izakaya (a type of informal Japanese bar that serves alcoholic drinks and snacks) style. Our advice is to come for dinner and max out on the heavenly small plates, including light and flavourful tuna tartare as well as gorgeous yellowtail ceviche that’s bursting with flavour. Kick things off by dabbling with a cocktail aperitivo, which have been thoughtfully curated by mixologist Pat Rowson, previously of Gaia in Dubai. Then, we strongly recommend concentrating on the comprehensive wine list, which can be paired to your dishes by top sommelier Tinashe Nyamudoka, previously of The Test Kitchen in Cape Town.
Flicking through the rich, playful menu, you’re spoilt for choice page after page, and the dishes are brought in succession throughout the meal. Seafood is a standout, particularly the delicate rock shrimp tempura – utter decadence fried in a barely-there batter that’s crispy on the outside, tossed in a creamy sauce with a spicy kick. Another highlight is the Peking duck; the fat crisp and salty, the pink interior still soft as satin. Presentation is equally considered – even the simplest rainbow reloaded rolls, made with salmon, tuna, prawn and a scattering of caviar, look so beautiful they ought to be framed on a wall. A number of South Africa’s best restaurants serve the infamous black cod and miso, but in our opinion, Tang’s is second to none. The miso marinade adds a sweetness to the silky, buttery white flesh that slips apart in perfect chunks to dip into a lavish hit of umami. You’ll spend a week’s salary in here, yet the cuisine feels almost underpriced – easy on the eye, uncompromisingly seasonal and ambitiously out-there in terms of flavours. It’s also worth it for the lingering taste of salted caramel chocolate fondant with a molten middle, served with vanilla bean ice cream. So good you’d be excused for ordering two. Tang is style and substance in equal measure.
Shop 120, Nelson Mandela Square, 5th Street, Sandton
010 447 4825