A chat with the talented FYN trio Peter Tempelhoff, Ashley Moss and Jennifer Hugé on the launch of their new baby, Ramenhead. Expect authentic ramen with local twists and loads of attitude in a street-style eatery.
For those who know and love FYN, how does Ramenhead differ?
AM: We’re bringing our FYN finesse to the restaurant and the food, but Ramenhead (which is just downstairs) is a completely different dining experience. It’s fast, furious and fun. J-rock blazing through the speakers, people slurping down delicious bowls of ramen, craft beers and sake, the kitchen buzzing in the background and crazy cool vibes.
How will the atmosphere of a traditional ramen shop translate at Ramenhead?
PT: Conventionally, a ramen shop in Japan is really small and long, seating 7-10 people along a bar with no bookings. It’s intimate and vibrant, with guests encouraged to eat quickly so that the next group can take their seats. Ramenhead will emulate that with a long bar seating 10, banquette seating that overlooks Church Square and regular tables inside and out along our veranda. We’re bringing the same informal, high-octane energy and implore you to slurp with abandon.
What’s on the menu?
AM: We’re keeping it simple with a focus on 5 staple bowls of ramen plus a bowl of the week, all of them crafted to perfection. Each of our ramen takes after a traditional style like the deeply flavoured Tonkotsu or creamy chicken-based Tori Paitan – both signature broths. We’re applying our fine dining methodology to break the dish down and put it back together, while sourcing the very best ingredients from Japan, unless we can source the same here.
Add to that local additions like springbok and some of Ken Forrester’s wagyu for example. We’ll also have bowl boosters, dessert and Japanese snacks like our Karaage – Traditional Tokyo Fried Chicken with yuzu and green chilli aioli.
What are you offering thirsty patrons?
JH: A neat selection of wines, spirits and local craft beers chosen to complement the richness and umami flavours of our dishes. If you ask nicely, you might find a few bottles of hand-crafted wines tucked away behind the bar too. Our classic Japanese cocktails will play on the country’s local flavours and include favourites like the Highball, Sour and Martini alongside some premium Japanese whiskeys. There’ll be non-alcoholic cocktails and drinks on offer too.
Will there be sake?
JH: Of course! These will include an earthy and aromatic junmai, a samurai nippon (a Japan staple) and a junmai daiginjo to pair with the lighter ramen, among others. They’ll be served in the ritualistic way, where a small glass is placed inside a traditional square, wooden masu cup and filled until it overflows into the masu to signify generosity and kindness.
Let’s talk about the noodles themselves. You’re going all out, right?
AM: We are. We’ve imported the king of ramen noodle machines, the Yamato Richmen. All of the best handmade noodles in Japan are created using this machine which specifically produces fast cooking – low hydration noodles. Because the Richmen is something of a rockstar – and ours is the only one on the African continent – we’ve raised the machine on a plinth to add an element of theatre. Guests can come and view our ramen lab in action from behind a pane of glass or from their stools up at the bar. Similarly, our finishing kitchen is on full display so guests can watch myself, Chef Julia du Toit and the team assemble the final offering and get a taste of that energy.
What can guests expect of the restaurant design?
PT: As with our other restaurants, Studio A’s Tristan du Plessis has conceptualised the design. He has taken traditional elements of Japanese design and injected a fun and eclectic feel into the space. Using the ancient shou sugi ban method to charr and preserve our wood, you’ll see blackened panels of oak along the walls as well as a display of crafted ramen bowls by 7 local designers (7 being a lucky number in Japanese culture).
You’ll see kanji (Chinese characters) spelling out a few characteristic Japanese phrases, graphic anime-style posters by Jade Clara, a drop of noren curtains as you enter and quite possibly some anime or J-pop cast across a TV screen. To keep it cool and casual, we’ve done away with bookings as well as any set order of food arrival…so you might be slurping up your ramen when your snacks arrive.
Open from 13 December, for lunch and dinner daily except Sundays and Mondays and remember, no reservations and no cash.