Since opening towards the end of 2021, the Christopher brothers’ KōL Izakhaya remains the talk of the town when it comes to Joburg’s hottest restaurants. The Hyde Park Corner space breaks the mould of a “shopping centre restaurant”, thanks to the keen eye and expertise of interior designer du jour, Tristan du Plessis of Studio A.
The restaurant impresses with its grand design, which includes a living wall, hanging ceiling installations and an aged brass-clad bar area, all accentuated by green marble, wood and some seriously impressive lighting. It’s a visual aperitif before you’re shown to your table.
The menu is comprehensive and covers several pages, each for the most part dedicated to either a particular type of Japanese food or style of cooking. The majority though focus on izakaya dishes — a Japanese word which literally translates to “stay-drink-place” but is used to refer to the bar-lined alleyways of Tokyo and the types of food they serve.
Start with a selection of tsukidashi (quick snacks). The edamame beans with a lime salt — a simple yet effective twist to the soy legume — and the crispy fried squid with wasabi Mayo were both delicious, and best enjoyed with a few plates off the sushi menu.
The sushi, with imported Japanese rice, is served with real wasabi and naturally pickled ginger.
The signature sashimi isn’t to be missed; the expertly sliced salmon just caressed by the binchō-tan charcoal’s heat is sensational, served within a yuzu rich sauce. The California rolls contrast the soft and fatty salmon belly with crispy morsels of salmon skin, and the crayfish salad yubi sandoitchi (finger sandwiches) offers umami aplenty with its miso mayo, roe and soy dressing.
Next, it’s time for the main attraction, the izakaya, cooked on the robata grill — which forms the centrepiece of the restaurant — over binchō-tan coals. The tebasaki yakitori (teriyaki-coated chicken wings) were a treat, as were the coal-fired asparagus that arrived coated with yuzu butter. For good measure it’s worth including a few of their gyoza (potstickers) that pack plenty of flavour within the intricately folded fried dumplings.
Complete the “KōL trilogy” as they call it — robata, sushi and mixology — with a signature cocktail; the bar is in the capable hands of mixologist Jody Rahme, or opt for a bottle from their impressive wine list. Also noteworthy is the selection of sake and Japanese whiskies, in addition to a water menu — which features sparkling and still options from around the world.
An impressive and immersive dining experience, the brothers have gone above and beyond to source interesting ingredients, products, utensils, crockery and even the coal with which they bring this vision to life. Moreover, they’ve put it all together with refinement and elegance. It’s a superb addition to Joburg’s dining scene.
Hyde Park Corner Shopping Centre
Corner Jan Smuts & 6th Road, Hyde Park
For more information and reservations click here