• Casey

Daruma Japanese Restaurant & Teppanyaki Bar

Despite a honeymoon in Hong Kong and a babymoon in Singapore, I’m NOT the biggest fan of Asian food. I’d drown myself in soy sauce but when it comes to actual meals I have a constant paranoia that there will be mysterious things I can see hidden under bamboo shoots (on honeymoon there was a WHOLE CHICKEN HEAD in my cashew nut chicken. I ate Mc Donald’s for every meal after that)

But, ironically, it’s my husbands favourite. So after letting this mama have a night out on Monday, I decided I’d be nice, and brave, and I booked for the new Japanese restaurant in Waterfall, Midrand. Their first question was did we want to sit at the teppanyaki bar and I was all “yeah sure cool” not knowing what that meant…

Upon arrival we drove around for at least 15 minutes to find parking. It was absolutely packed and frantic – cars everywhere. So arrive a bit early to fight the frenetic parking lot. The restaurant is the Clicks side of the centre (i.e. opposite side to Woolies) and we’ve been there many times, as it’s changed many times over the years. Walking in you’re instantly hit with heat and noise. Even at 6:30pm it was bustling (ah, all the takers of the good parking!) We were seated at this mysterious Teppanyaki bar and were glad to see it was a generously sized table area (and not the teeny shelf ala’sushi belt vibes) We were given menus and ordered drinks (my beloved margarita)

We had to have the teppanyaki (I mean we didn’t HAVE to but we were sitting there, taking up space, after all) so ordered and sat back to watch the show.

Our chefs name was Sipho (it said so on his head buff) and he was enthusiastically tossing around a pepper mill and gazing up to the heavens as he released plumes of steam our from under lids, housing veggies coated in butter (somewhat odd for Asian cuisine) and soy sauce. Now there was a super friendly man sitting to my right (not my husband; he was on my left and less friendly) and I am almost positive it was Herman Mashaba (our mayor) but the lady to our left said it wasn’t (either she’s wrong or I am, who’s to say?) who loved his prawn dish so much he ordered a second to take home. I’m a friendly person so I loved the atmosphere of sitting amongst strangers – and the 2 ladies were happily telling us that they’d driven there from Pretoria and although she was allergic to prawns, didn’t they look nice? (surely to her they looked like a lack of ability to breathe, but okay)

Starters came from the back – Agadashi tofu (we’d seen it on My Kitchen Rules) for my partner and the calamari heads for me; and tempura prawns to share (remember – prawns are life; although not to the stranger beside us) He proclaimed his starter light as a marshmellow and delicious; covered in a mountain of benito fish flakes (oh the things we learn watching reality TV) and my calamari was good; but the tempura prawns were excellent – probably the best I’ve had.

Starters and first drinks down and done.

The restaurant was now packed to capacity with every seat at the Teppanyaki bar taken up.

Finally it was our turn – seeing me happily snapping pics (Herman obviously isn’t an Instagrammer) Sipho put on a show of note. Spinning eggs and breaking them open with his knife; sauces flying and heat exploding off as he cooked my prawns; made our egg friend rice from scratch (and fashioned it into a heart); and seared my husbands tuna (I swear he chooses things I don’t like so he doesn’t have to share). Food presented, coated in butter, soy and garlic (again we questioned the butter at a Japanese restaurant, as well as no chopsticks but I digress) and my second margarita (salty, freezing cold and so sour my lips hurt – perfection!) We happily ate away; listening to the chaotic buzz around us. The food was phenomenal but let me tell you what we both liked the most – the vegetables! I can’t excactly pinpoint why but it was the mixture of caramelized veg and Asian sauces that made it so ridiculously delicious.

The man who may have been Herman said goodbye to me (would he say that if he was not my mayor; I think not) The lady beside us tried to tell me that Herman is our grandfathers age – she said OUR but she was older enough to be my mother so all in all it was a confusing reference and I still think I’m right (I just Googled and Herman is 59! She was about 45 so I question the amount of wine she drank before we sat down…)

The night ended with deep fried ice cream coated in coconut and a crepe filled with vanilla ice cream; as well as my usual decaf coffee (I like living on the wild side – I often don’t get given decaf and I’m up the whole night; but the tradition lives on) a goodbye to our side-strangers-who-have-no-concept-of-age-or-celebrity and we left; happy, warm and full; with a promise to come back with our 6 year old who will LOVE the experience.

All in all a stellar night out. A roaring 9/10. A point taken away for a slight delay in service and a big delay with drinks; but I’m sure it’s just a case of them getting into a rhythm with the unusual way of cooking (i.e. not in a kitchen at the back; and they’ve only been open 3 weeks) and no points taken off for, but a point to be made, that if you’re short, by the end of the night all the blood would’ve flown to your toes and they’ll ache. I couldn’t reach the floor so spent the whole evening with my toes suspend. Ouch. Margaritas numbed the pain.

And not a chicken head in sight (and I know because I watched them cook right in front of me!)

The Daruma Japanese Restaurant and Teppanyaki Bar is at Waterfall Corner, corner Woodmead and Waterfall Drive, Midrand. Call 010 109 0936 for a reservation (a Daruma doll is a talisman of good luck ; and good luck getting in without a reservation!)

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