Yes, murder detective. One must have only the most interesting lunch companions, especially in Joburg, where the vegetarian offering only really thrives in Cyrildene’s Chinatown and Fordsburg’s Indian community. And it’s not just Melville – the rest is a desert; a deep-fried, carbo-whoopee, mushroom steak desert.
But the new Asian fusion joint Love Me So is a bit of an oasis. Well, oasis is a stretch, but it’s no mirage, either. The restaurant, which no doubt aspires to expand to other areas (like its Mexican lite neighbours in Melville, Perron) is even safe for vegans, with numerous healthy enough dishes marked on a perfectly sized menu for the special snowflakes among us.
ALSO READ: A guide to dining in Joburg’s Cyrildene
Love Me So does trendy versions of mostly Japanese, Korean and Chinese dishes, specialising in ramen bowls that ramen lovers say are very good and generously flavoured. I didn’t order the miso tofu ramen with a shiitake mushroom broth, though, because I gave my heart to Downtown Ramen in Cape Town sometime in July.
Nor did my companion, lustily eyeing the sizzling Korean BBQ of aged beef sirloin (cooked on a coal griller at the table if there are two or more of you), which he proclaimed truly delicious. His reaction to his first taste of sake cheered me up greatly, as did the friendly, intuitive service from the waiter, who was recently displaced from Cape Town, but with a bold glint of optimism still intact. Loved him so. Especially when he insisted on a thorough tasting of the cocktail menu, starting with a very pleasing Mai Tai.
When it came to the food, I was treated like a whole customer instead of a visitor with special needs who brought this thing on himself in the first place. I tried an assortment of izakaya (Japanese shared plates) that ranged from a little bland (the spinach and sesame salad and the slightly ‘meh’ but beautiful to look at Korean sweet potato pancakes) to quite decadent korokke (Japanese panko-crumbed, deep fried potato croquettes with a tonkotsu dressing) to sublime the gyoza (Japanese dumplings, stuffed with the most delicately and deeply-flavoured shitake).
Dessert was the same. The matcha tea panna cotta could not deliver the flavours needed to match its perfect wobble, but the black sesame ice cream more than compensated for this. When I said I’d murder for another bowl, my companion just rolled his eyes.
This is the kind of place where you spend too much on cocktails – for a reason. The Mai Tai yielded to the Hidden Dragon, with its fresh basil, tequila, lemon, lime and pineapple. Then the bartender and my friend the waiter seemed intent on proving to me that Love Me So could master the perfect vodka martini and, in the end, they were right.
I suggest you go at Happy Hour, when the cocktails are half-price, and enjoy the last rays of the sun with a satisfying bowl of steaming ramen at a range of prices from reasonable to a bit steep. And bring me back some of the ice cream.
Blignaut was a guest of Love Me So. To make a booking, call 060 717 6728
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