Inside Tjing Tjing

WORDS Katherine Pope PHOTOS Kleinjan Groenewald

If you’re a Japanophile, the beautifully remodelled Tjing Tjing on Longmarket Street in Cape Town will have you dreaming of Harajuku and Omotesando in Tokyo.

Tjing Tjing, the shrine-red rooftop bar on Cape Town’s Longmarket Street, has always had a Japanese slant: Its mansard roof is papered with black-and-white photos from owner Ilse Koekemoer’s trip to Tokyo. But that Japanese influence has filtered down through the floors of this nearly 200-year-old building. After a major renovation, Tjing Tjing launched three striking new restaurant spaces in July: Torii, Momiji and Momiji Lounge.

Designer Francois du Plessis, who has been involved for the past eight years, introduced architect Suzanne Schekman of Untitled Design Hub for this ambitious project.

On the ground floor, neon lights in the shape of the Japanese character for torii (gates at the entrance to a Shinto shrine) announce the new location of the Japanese street food inspired restaurant.

Wallpaper designed by Terence Kitching and Kim Bischofberger and printed by Robin Sprong creates a vibrant layering of imagery from old Japan with modern pop culture references. Industrial designer Warren Franken designed the steel-and-wood bar that occupies the central space, the oak booths that line the wall and the oak bars that create a screen to shield diners from the passage.

Ceiling lights gradually change colour at the touch of an app, setting the scene for bento boxes, fluffy pancakes, milk bread croque monsieur and beautiful wagashi and pastries. Make it past the temptations to the first floor, and you’ll find two more new spaces to explore. Tjing Tjing Momiji is inspired by kaiseki dining, Japan’s answer to haute cuisine.

Here, chef Christi Semczyszyn demonstrates her skills with a 10- to 12-course tasting experience that recreates the rigour and ceremony of kaiseki menus. After the energy and bold reds of downstairs, it’s a calmer, sophisticated space.

Pale maple booths are contrasted with black cushions, a black staircase and carbon-stained ash screens.

The reservations-only Momiji Lounge offers a different vibe altogether. Sunken seats, dark-grey hues and a moodily lit bar set the scene for whimsical cocktails inspired by Japanese fairy tales. Sip a saki-and vodka- based Princess Kaguya (the moon princess who was born from a bamboo shoot on earth), or a Kitsune (named for a Japanese shape-shifting fox), which features shōchū, plum wine, Caperatif, shiso infusion and yuzu juice.

It’s enough to make you want to hop on a plane to Tokyo.

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