The Best Asian Food Experience in the Winelands

Some refer to it as the best Asian food experience in the Winelands. Ōku Asian Eatery and Yama Sushi Emporium are pioneering Asian restaurants in Franschhoek, a town that is long famous as South Africa’s culinary capital. With a greater focus on seasonality, the restaurants have added another set menu option to diners.

Minimalistic interior with a focus on food

Minimalistic interior with a focus on food

Formal vs Casual

Both restaurants also celebrated their second birthday recently. Ōku offers formal dining and is complemented by the casual style at neighbouring Yama, both situated at Heritage Square, 9 Huguenot Road – Franschhoek’s high street. The restaurant is surrounded by some of South Africa’s most famous winefarms, art galleries, boutique hotels and various historical monuments and the ideal breakaway. Read about another fantastic dining experience here.

A food adventure awaits

Heritage Square, 9 Huguenot Road

Chef Ryan Shell

Chef proprietor Ryan Shell has brought new impetus through an increased frequency of changes to dishes spurred by a seasonal focus. To accompany the refreshed and refined Kaiseki set menu, this second experience offers a set menu of four or five courses with options on every course and a wine list that features the best the Cape winelands has to offer. They also offer cocktails and various fine sakes.

“This is an exciting time for us, and we look forward to sharing the results of the journey with our regulars and out-of-town guests,” says Ryan. “For us, the wonderful part of the story was to see the team’s excitement at the opportunity from the very start to cook and serve Asian food.

Chef Ryan & manager Peter

Chef Ryan & manager Peter

The Wine List

“We have always sought to make sure that the structure and design of the wine list align as closely to our food philosophy as possible. Which is to: where possible to use local ingredients and suppliers, that said because of the nature of our menu, which is centred around Asian flavours we tend to put elegant and lightly wooded wines on the list. We found quite early on the Semillon and our food worked exceptionally well, and with Franschhoek producing such great Semillon we gave the varietal more prominence that we did any other wine,” says Ryan.

The wine lists is curated around the seasonal menu

The wine lists is curated around the seasonal menu


Ōku is Japanese for oak, a majestic species that like South East Asian culture evokes a deep sense of history and spirituality.

The Kaiseki menu at Ōku has been the heart of the experience and includes the option of a dedicated vegetarian selection. Each line-up features a variety of finely crafted dishes.

Each plate stands out on the backdrop of Ōku’s typically minimalist Japanese aesthetic. Among the latest menu items are beef tataki served with nori, wasabi mayo and pickled ginger; roasted edamame, Chinese cabbage, crispy squid, sesame and sriracha; prawn bao bun, cabbage kimchi, black bean chili and ponzu; and, Japanese cheesecake, with apple, ginger and sunflower seeds.

Delectable fair & team member Wendy

Delectable fair & team member Wendy


The name Yama means mountain and reflects stature as well as the natural, awe-inspiring amphitheatre in which Franschhoek is located. Dining is available in a landscaped courtyard or indoors – both decorated with minimalist elegance.

Here, the options provide diners with greater flexibility – from enjoying a quick lunch to a full dinner spread. Its high-quality, precision-made sushi menu accompanies an Asian-themed à la carte menu the employs fresh seasonal ingredients.

“Sushi comes from a great tradition that we strive to honour consistently and, in every way,” says Ryan. “Making sure that the ingredients are the best available is where the journey begins for us.”

On offer are a selection of appetisers or “zensai”; dumplings of sweet potato, prawn, duck, pork and beef; noodle bowls; poke bowls; bao; and broths. The choice of sides includes noodles, corn rice, braised baby cabbage. For sweets, there are among others, a delectable mugi-chai coconut custard and the traditional frozen dessert, Shābetto.

Award-winning Wines

Enjoy a wide selection of award-winning wines from premium South African wine farms such as Boekenhoutskloof, GlenWood, Haute Cabriere, Holden Manz, La Motte, Mullineux, Paserene, Pierre Jourdan and Warwick. The rarest wine on offer is the Haute Cabriere Pinot Reserve 2009. Read more about Hate Cabriere & Pierre Jordan here.

The Kaiseki menu has a wine pairing, which includes a few Sakes as well as unusual placement of wines – some reds are served before whites and rosé wines, but the focus is always on food and wine complementing each other.

Award winning wines & fantastic Asian inspired food

Award winning wines & fantastic Asian inspired food

The restaurants general manager, Peter Nyati has been with the restaurants since opening. “Our wine list is an important part of the restaurants’ offering because it reflects on Ōku’s Asian food style as well our values. I think our list rounds out the whole experience and leave a long lasting impression on our guests.”

Peter says they currently have 38 wines on their wine list.

The team constantly make small changes as some of the smaller suppliers run out of a vintage. The restaurants’s philosophy is then rather to move to a new wine, rather than just update the vintage. They make more substantial changes after Easter and before Spring.

“Every Friday in the winter a portion of our team goes to a different wine farm, to gather notes and suggestions. Ryan and I then make the final call on what we want to include and when.”

Ōku’s recipe for mouthwatering Beef Pho:

Beef Pho

Beef Pho

Makes 4 portions


1l beef stock​

100g onion​

20g ginger​

15g palm sugar​

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1g fennel seed

1g coriander seeds

1 clove

15ml fish sauce​

20ml oil​

200g Beef fillet​

50g beansprout​

10g mint​

10g basil​

10g coriander​

10g Red chilli (sliced)​


Heat a large pot, add the oil and fry onion, ginger, anise, fennel, coriander and cloves until the onion is clear. Add the remaining ingredients.

Bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for 2 hours. Strain, check the seasoning and place aside.

Clean the beef fillet and slice into thin slices. Split the beef slices evenly between the four bowls. Roughly chop the herbs and place into a mixing bowl with the bean sprouts and chillies. Place the beansprout salad on top of the fillet. When ready to serve, bring the broth to the boil, check the seasoning and scoop into the bowls.

A taste adventure awaits

A taste adventure awaits

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BY Maryke Roberts | March 3, 2023

Maryke is an award-winning, Cape Winelands based journalist who has been writing about local and international wine and travel for over three decades. When she's home, her days are almost exclusively concluded with a walk on the beach and a glass of South African fine wine or spirits.

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