What started as a therapeutic escape for chef Sepial Shim has blossomed into the opening of her new Cape Town restaurant, Allium. Following the success of her first restaurant, Sepial’s Kitchen — a 12-seater eatery in Salt River — and her presence at trendy gourmet markets, foodies could not get enough of her authentic Asian fare.
The Covid-19 pandemic fast-tracked the chef’s plans to move her restaurant to a bigger space in town, and in February this year, Allium welcomed its first diners at the CBD’s chic Speaker’s Corner.
Allium (named after the genus that includes garlic, onions, spring onions and leeks — all the vegetables that form the basis of Shim’s cooking) draws inspiration from North East Asian cuisines and includes some of Shim’s favourite Chinese and Japanese dishes in addition to the Korean dishes for which she has become known.
The menu is concise and includes two set menu options: the bibimbap set, and the Korean BBQ set (serves two, and requires booking 24 hours in advance) — plus, a small selection of extras. The wine list — a curated selection of five top-quality wines — prove a worthy accompaniment to the meal.
The bibimbap set is a superb exercise in menu composition, with each food component adding a unique taste and texture to the experience. From the bibimbap itself — which literally translates to “mixed rice” — with julienned vegetable toppings, to the chilled seaweed and cucumber broth, and homemade kimchi, every mouthful is packed with the most beautiful flavours. Add some of the chef’s signature Korean fried chicken, and an assortment of dumplings to your order to complete the meal.
For dessert (if on the menu), don’t pass up the green fig cheesecake. It’s light, silky smooth and wonderfully balanced — all the things a good dessert should be. A subtly sweet spoonful will perfectly round out the meal.
Ultimately, Allium is where authentic, good and honest Asian food comes to plate. Using the best ingredients, paired with a deep passion and understanding of flavours is what sets it apart. Fresh and vibrant cooking — you’d be forgiven for overindulging, and that’s encouraged — leaves you feeling comfortably nourished and eagerly anticipating your next visit.
Where: Ground Floor, 37 Parliament Street, Cape Town
2. THE UGLY DUMPLING
The Ugly Dumpling — a more casual offering from chef Sepial Shim, which was also launched during lockdown — is a market stall serving up fresh dumplings (with an array of fillings) and bao buns for takeaway and delivery. The menu changes often, and chef Shim is always working on recipes — whether new or improved versions of the old ones — all delicious. We recommend the pork dumplings (a real fan favourite), and the pakchoi and prawn, or fried spicy kimchi to start — before indulging in one of the filled steamed buns.
Where: At the V&A Waterfront Food Market, Cape Town
Craving even more of chef Shim’s Asian delights? We don’t blame you. At Cape Town’s market du jour, Oranjezicht Farmers Market, you’ll find her pop-up Sepial’s Kitchen. Make sure to try the famous Korean fried chicken, and stock up on Sepial’s kimchi while you’re there.
3. MOCHI MOCHI BY TORII
Mochi Mochi by Torii is a Japan-inspired dessert bar by the all-star team at Tjing Tjing house. Situated inside Longmarket Street’s Molten Toffee coffee shop, the pop-up is all about mochi — a popular Japanese rice cake — that is offered up in a host of exciting and innovative flavours. From toasted sesame and matcha to milk tart and lemon meringue, there’s sure to be a mochi to suit everyone’s taste.
In addition to the mochi, there’s also a tantalising selection of other desserts including the eatery’s famous Japanese cheesecake, and the heavenly miso caramel bun. In true Tjing Tjing style, the interior has been kitted out to match the theme — and includes giant stickers plastering the walls, featuring the bar’s cartoon character, Mochi, and Japan-inspired decals.
Where: 161 Longmarket St, Cape Town