Ramenhead Opens in Cape Town

Ramen lovers in Cape Town can now eat handmade noodles and tip back bowlfuls of the finest, most authentic broth this side of Japan as Ramenhead, led by chefs Peter Tempelhoff and Ashley Moss, the duo behind award-winning Japanese-fusion restaurant FYN, is now open.

Downstairs from its elegant older sibling at Speakers Corner in the city centre, Ramenhead might be considered FYN’s cool little brother. Thanks to designer Tristan du Plessis’ Studio A, who were responsible for FYN’s celebrated interiors, Ramenhead is vibey, casual and playful, with indoor and outdoor tables, bar seating, an open ‘finishing’ kitchen where patrons can watch each bowl assembled to perfection and a noodle lab complete with white-coated production chefs manning the African continent’s only Yamamoto Noodle Machine.

The low-hydration noodle-making machine was purchased in Japan, when Tempelhoff and Moss, both deeply passionate about Japanese food and culture, went on a 10-day ramen-tasting odyssey through Osaka and Tokyo in 2022. Their mission was to gather supplies and track down the best representative ramen styles and techniques (at times tasting up to 16 ramen a day) to inform and inspire their new venture.

“Ramen is very technical in its creation …  some ramen houses in Japan are super serious and don’t even allow talking while eating!” exclaims Tempelhoff. “But that delicate balance of ingredients — bone nutrients, lean proteins and amino acids— working together give ramen its umami, making it highly addictive and creating a feeling of euphoria.

“Ashley has that very technical side to him, so the ramen will be as authentic as possible,” he adds. “Ultimately, ramen should be fast, cheap, filling, restorative and fun, and we will bring all those components into play for a Cape Town audience.”

For Moss, the opening of Ramenhead is yet another chapter in a long-held fascination with Japanese culture that started in his childhood.

“I checked out a book on Japanese writing from the library at my Kommetjie primary school when I was a kid,” he says. “I became interested in the culture and watched Japanese anime all the time. I’ve tried to learn all I can about the country, including the language, and this last trip gave me a lot of insights into ramen’s origins and the various regional styles.”

Moss is joined in the kitchen by Chef Julia du Toit, who leaves her position as head chef of Tempelhoff’s beyond restaurant at Buitenverwachting.

In addition to several different ramen offerings, including classic pork broth, pork-free chicken broth and vegetarian broth, as well as seasonal variations and frequent specials, Ramenhead offers both traditional and gluten-free noodles. The menu also features Japanese snacks like fried chicken karaage and gyoza dumplings and a curated selection of wines, beers and cocktails. The street-food-inspired eatery is open for lunch and dinner daily, except Sundays and Mondays, and will not take reservations, much like its counterparts in Japan.

The opening of Ramenhead comes mere months after Tempelhoff’s Japan-meets-South Africa fine dining establishment FYN was named Best Restaurant in Africa and number 37 in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Here’s 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.

Peter Tempelhoff, Jennifer Hugé and Ashley Moss

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 for lunch and dinner daily except Sundays and Mondays and remember, no reservations and no cash.



Ground Floor

Speakers Corner

37 Parliament Street

Cape Town, South Africa


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