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Weary of the Johannesburg scene and longing for a change of pace? Step into Cyrildene, where it’s easy to forget that Sandton is just a short drive away. Mandarin lettering features on everything from shopfronts to posters, there are no ATMs, stores are crammed with ingredients you probably won’t recognise, and you may well find that your waitress doesn’t speak English. It’s a thrilling – and very delicious – adventure, and it’s much cheaper than an air ticket to China. Here’s where to eat.
Chinese Northern Foods
Surely one of the most authentic restaurants in Johannesburg, this is one of Cyrildene’s most famous eateries – and with good reason. Don’t forget to order some of the marvellously chewy Pie Like Hat – a bread that you’d probably expect to find at an Indian restaurant rather than in the middle of Joburg’s Chinatown – to accompany delicacies like fried shredded beef with chilli or cumin beef. There are literally pages and pages of menu options, including some items strictly for the gastronomically intrepid – pork skin jelly with garlic sauce, anyone?
The Fisherman’s Plate
Another Cyrildene institution, the specialty here is, you guessed it, seafood. The crab dishes come highly recommended, as do the crispy prawns and calamari rings, prepared in a spicy ginger sauce. But don’t shy away from trying other dishes, like chicken in sechuan peppers. The excellent value for money at this unpretentious restaurant makes it fun to order a load of different dishes and share.
Shun De Chinese
In the mood for dim sum? This is your place. Shun De is well known for its yum cha buffet, offering a variety of smaller dishes. Watch out if you don’t eat pork, though, as many of the dishes contain some variety of this meat. You may also find yourself a little flummoxed if you don’t have an adventurous palate, because the restaurant’s version of Chinese staples is pretty much what a typical family would eat on a week night. Read: no fancy bao buns with fusion fillings!
Even before bubble tea became a craze, this unassuming kiosk was serving up real deal beverages. You may have to be in an experimental mood to try options like milk tea with red beans or coffee jelly, or taro tea with rainbow jelly, but I say a loud yes to caramel coffee.
Delicious Casserole Food
What I love most about this restaurant is not only that the food is tasty, but that it also offers a completely different dining experience. It’s a bit like an Alice in Wonderland moment – you’ll choose a little casserole dish from a pile stacked inside a giant clay pot, which could be filled with anything, from beef and green pepper with rice to seafood chow fun. Half the fun lies in finding out what’s for dinner.
While most restaurants on the Derrick Ave strip (Cyrildene’s answer to Parkhurst’s 4th Ave or Queens Street in Kensington) serve Chinese regional specialties, Sai Thai has won a number of awards for its Thai dishes, earning it a reputation as one of the cuisine’s best representatives in Joburg. It’s especially well known for its fresh flavours, which change regularly.
- Lisa Witepski