Willoughby & Co review

If you ask 10 people which is the best restaurant for sushi in Cape Town, 5 of them will probably say Willoughby’s in the Waterfront. I have eaten at this restaurant quite a few times as my family likes to eat there when they visit from PE. However, as they haven’t visited for a while, I haven’t been to Willoughby’s for a while. In fact I haven’t been since they renovated, which is quite some time. So, seeing as I was at the Waterfront this evening I thought I would test this famous sushi.

I’ve actually never had sushi at Willoughby’s before. I normally have the calamari starter and the linefish main (R95) (or the combo) because they are always excellent. My mother loves the clam chowder and for good reason. The seafood is fresh and well prepared and the portions are generous. This time I sat at the funky new sushi bar and had the Rainbow Nation Roll (R79 – 8 pieces) and the Salmon Roses (R36 – 2 pieces). I washed it all down with a glass of the Goats do Roam white blend (R24). I quite like the way they have numbered the wine varietals and then used the numbers to recommend wines for each dish. The fish was fresh and the sushi looked well made, but I didn’t really enjoy it. The pieces of rainbow roll were so big I looked like I was trying to blow up an invisible balloon each time I put a piece in my mouth. Which also meant that it took ages to chew the sushi enough to swallow. I realised then that I don’t really like having sushi in my mouth for longer than a few seconds. The salmon roses were a more reasonable size, very salmony, only a little rice which is how some people like them. I would have preferred a bit more rice, and a bit less salmon.

Everyone has different taste when it comes to sushi. I’m not saying the sushi wasn’t good because it was, I’m just saying it wasn’t the way I like it. I love the sushi at Just Sushi in Simonstown and the sushi at Wakame, so use that as a gauge for yourself. While we are on the topic of sushi, I want to talk about the ubiquitous Kikkoman soya sauce. Most of the bottles near me were the green capped low sodium variety, so I asked them to bring me the red capped one. I was then informed that they are all the same, they refill them with one type but she wasn’t sure which one they used. I know a lot of people like to use the low sodium soya sauce, but do they realise the low sodium one contains preservatives while the normal one is preserved by the sodium? If you’re worried about the amount of sodium you are consuming, use less soya sauce! By the way, is soya sauce made from GM soy (I see there are organic soya sauces available on supermarket shelves)?

Also on the topic of sushi, did you know that disposable chopsticks are one of the major causes of deforestation? Hundreds of millions of chopsticks are used around the world every day. Asian countries have been trying to get the population to carry their own plastic or stainless steel chopsticks around with them. With the rising popularity of sushi and Asian food here, we need to be aware of this. I see that Wakame has changed from disposable chopsticks to funky looking red chopsticks. I wonder if this is for environmental reasons, cost reasons or just to be different?

Back to Willoughby & Co, after my meal I took a little walk around to see what they had done with the renovations. They have expanded the inside massively and it now contains counter seating for quite a few people, several kitchens, a starter buffet and a deli. Some of the foods on the buffet looked quite appetizing, I think they were charged at around R35 per 100g. The deli had some appealing items but not much that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. They had some spanish chorizo (Portuguese chorizo is easy to find and much cheaper, but not as nice), edamame beans and scallops, all of which are quite difficult to find. There was also a large selection of frozen and fresh seafood and shellfish.

Sitting at the counters inside is not as comfortable as sitting at a table and it is quite cramped, but at least you are removed from the bustle of shoppers walking by. That is the big disadvantage of Willoughby’s, that the seating is located in the middle of the walkway. But then again, some people like the hustle and bustle. It doesn’t really bother me too much unless I am wanting something intimate.

Willoughby & Co
V&A Waterfront
021 418 6115

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14 Responses

  1. walshie says:

    Willoughby is definitely one of our favourites… now that we have 2 kids it’s getting harder & harder to get out to ‘proper’ restaurants regularly, so if putting up with being in the mall is our penance for good sushi & fast, efficient service (read ‘hurry up & eat before the kids go mad’), we’ll take it!

  2. Candice says:

    Hi Dax

    On the soy and GM topic… yes, it’s practically impossible to get hold of NON-GM soy products anywhere in the world! I have heard that almost 90% of soy products worldwide are from GM soy and this is confirmed by Wikipedia: In 1997, about 8% of all soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States were genetically modified. In 2006, the figure was 89%.

    SAFEAGE has published a list of soya products in SA which have tested positive for GM soy: http://www.safeage.org/GM%20Free%20Food%20List%20Campaign/safeage_fact_sheet_no.htm

  3. Dax says:

    But the organic Soya Sauce I see on the supermarket shelves must be non GM?

  4. Bella says:

    Hello!

    I definitely have something to say about Willoughby’s, or more specifically about sushi: I don’t think Willoughby’s is that great, and I don’t know why people love going there so much…I think their location accounts for most of their customers, not their sushi. Cape Town has many good sushi places to offer. My mother is 4th generation born and bred in Japan, and I – although not having grown up in Japan myself – started eating sushi right after breast milk (kind of…). So we all love sushi and we go out for sushi a lot as a family. The only problem is, my mum is SUPER pedantic, and old-fashioned, about her sushi. Having spent much of her life in Japan, she knows what real sushi is.

    ANYWAY, I don’t want to bore everyone with my family history and my mother’s eating habits! BUT I do want to say this: many places in Cape Town offer sushi, many of which are expensive, some of which are overpriced…some are good, same are bad.

    Willoughby’s, to me, is good quality, but very expensive; Wakame is possibly better quality, but also quite pricy; Beluga’s sushi I think is good too, plus they still have the Blue Plate Special every day, great value for money; Salushi is also good, plus they have a good deal of 25% off on Sundays and Mondays; Saigon’s sushi is fantastic! But they are waiting on their new menus to arrive from printing, so prices are also going up there…Big bonus – according to my mother – is that Yoshisan at Saigon is Japanese…many sushi chefs these days are Chinese, but my mum still reckons that Japanese people make better sushi 😉 No bias from having grown up in Japan…! My all time favourite for sushi is still Kubo’s Little Japan in Riebeeck Street. Great value for money, excellent quality sushi – every night special of 20 pieces of nigiri and maki for an amazing R85!!! Now compare that to Willoughby’s, Wakame’s or Saigon’s prices…! The only catch – Kubo only serves traditional, old-school sushi (which is why my mother loves it so much). You won’t find any nouvelle cuisine there, no Crazy Boy Roll like at Tank in Cape Quarter. He does do Tuna Avo California for example, and Fashion Sandwiches, but don’t go there if you want rolls with cottage cheese, peppadews etc.

    So that’s what I have to say about sushi in Cape Town, aha! 😉

    Great website Dax!

    Bella

  5. Dax says:

    Hi Bella

    Thanks for your feedback on sushi in CT. Have you tried my favourite spot, Just Sushi in Simonstown?

    http://www.relax-with-dax.co.za/?p=186

    Kubo’s is a great spot, apart from the sushi, they offer some great food at reasonable prices. Read my review here

    http://www.relax-with-dax.co.za/?p=258

  6. Ren says:

    I’ll second Bella’s enthusiasm for Kubo, but my personal favourite still has to be Minato Sushi Restaurant in Buiten Street.

    I’ve been a regular for close to a decade, and never had less than an excellent meal. Easy on the wallet, too.

    The famously short-tempered Mr Muraoka, the hand-written signs and Manga/Swiss-Alpine decor (replete with sinister sounds issuing forth from the boombox in the corner) just add to the ambiance. (And if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to see the waitron with the stocking seams tattooed up the back of her legs.)

  7. Dax says:

    Ren, I heard that Mr Muraoka (is he the Douglass Green dude?) had sold the place, and that the sushi is not quite as good since his departure.

    Have you been there recently?

  8. Fiona says:

    Hey Dax,

    I went to Kubos fairly recently – two weeks ago in fact. I was really looking forward to it, as I’d heard much about their legendary sushi, and supposedly great sake. Well, the experience was a total let down and I will not go back again.

    The restaurant was empty so we thought we would have dedicated service. Well…the waitress managed to get the entire order wrong. Starters arrived after main courses, completely wrong dishes of sushi and tempura was delivered to the table, and all in all, it was a bit of a disaster. They also had no sake – a Japanese restaurant without sake?? That’s like an Italian restaurant without mozarella!

    To be fair, the waitress did try and sort out the food as best she could. The owner, was no where to be seen…but he then did re-emerge to tell the smokers in the restaurant, who were going outside for to smoke up until that point, that they could smoke INSIDE!!! I was gobsmacked that he could permit this in a small restaurant with the kitchen in such close proximity – totally unacceptable. That for me was the final straw. They won’t see me again for love or money!

    I do get the supposed ‘charm’ of Kubos and Minatos but their attitudes actually don’t do it for me. For a small, independent sushi restaurant, with charm, good service, authenticity and good value good quality sushi, I’d go to Silverfish anyday.

    Cheers,
    Fiona

  9. Dax says:

    oh my, that’s not a nice experience at all. I hope they’re not going downhill. What night were you there on? Perhaps some nights are better than others.

    I’d like to check out Silverfish, call me when you go next.

  10. Ren says:

    Dax, Mr Muraoka is indeed of “Douglas Gleen” and “Ohshiiii” (Mellow-Wood Brandy) fame. Yeah, I went there a week or two ago precisely to see if the rumours were true and, on the surface, nothing really appears to have changed. We each ordered our favourites from the menu (a good mix of maki, sashimi, tempura, and nigiri)to better gauge their quality against previous offerings, and we couldn’t pinpoint any noticeable difference. Time will tell, I guess. (We did miss the mutterings from the kitchen, though.)

    On your Kubo note, Fiona – I’ve consumed a fair amount of sake there, so I’m sure/sincerely hoping it was a temporary shortage. That said, the smoking thing *is* rather off-putting. I’ve noticed the waitress handing out ashtrays to patrons at the end of their meal without appearing to have been prompted. Great if you have lungs like coal, not so much for everyone else. Although, it has been a smoke-free zone for the majority of my visits.

  11. isobel says:

    i had sushi at ‘caveau’ in heritage square last weekend. it was a truly amazing experience, the best quality sushi i have tasted in a very long time. such joy 🙂

  12. Dax says:

    Yes, I recall now that Caveau has a new ‘raw’ menu which includes some sushi options. That’s the first comment on it I’ve heard, so thanks for that, I will bear it in mind when next I am there.

  13. isobel says:

    if you sit in the courtyard and find yourself not in the mood for sushi you can also order from hq which has two options on it’s menu sirloin or fillet with chips, sauce & side salad (R140) and how’s this… they come and top up your chips half way through the meal 🙂

    hello by the way

  14. Dax says:

    Hello indeed, lovely to have your comments Isobel. Hope you are well? (we should really do this by email).

    HQ offers only sirloin in fact, with Cafe de Paris butter. My review is sitting in drafts and will be posted next week.