The charismatic Wood had no plans to open a Japanese restaurant or to stay when he flew into Cape Town in the late 90s with the intention of buying a Land Rover and exploring southern Africa. Like so many visitors, however, he returned to the city, captivated by its beauty, opportunity and “a house up in Tamboerskloof with its ‘Mulholland Drive’ views”.
He is a true global citizen who has lived all over the world and when prompted has many colourful stories and insights. His first introduction to sushi was in the mid-70s when he went on a date to Little Tokyo in downtown LA. “There was nothing in Malibu or Santa Monica. It was only in the 80s when Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa opened his first restaurant Matsuhisa in West Hollywood that Japanese cuisine became fashionable.” At 11 Lower Kloofnek Road he designed himself a “peaceful and quiet” space, which although looking every bit the part, “was not meant to look Japanese”.
It is challenging in SA to specialise in single-dish-dining as they do in Japan, but expect only the most masterfully prepared tempura, sushi, soups, udon or ramen. Only the best ingredients will do and this does of course come at a premium. As much as possible is source locally. “We are very close to Antartica so the line fish is amazing here. Yellowtail, Kabeljou, Cape Salmon,” says Wood. Oysters are from Saldana and Lüderitz and one of the best squids in the world comes from Port Elizabeth. “The mussels are also from Saldana and are amazing. Scallops have to come from New England and Canada. There is always something new like the delicious Blue Angle Prawns. Lovely and sweet. Langoustines are from Mozambique, which we serve raw.”