Here’s Cape Town’s stylish new gay-owned sushi and Asian eatery

If sushi and Asian cuisine is your thing, look no further. Ben Wei, meaning “Original Taste”, recently opened its doors at the highly popular Wembley Square centre in Gardens, Cape Town.

This new gay-owned eatery offers a variety of sushi, Thai curies and Chinese dishes, amongst some other original culinary delights. And it’s already getting rave reviews.

The Inside Guide has named it one of the hottest new restaurants in Cape Town while the Pretty Please Charlie blog wrote: “The outstanding food is the most important reason for visiting this fabulous eatery, but add the friendly staff and stunning decor to the mix and it’s no wonder that this place is so popular.”

Ben Wei is owned by (business and life) partners, chef Jim Dai and entrepreneur Ian McMahon, and is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. So what makes it so special? Apart from a unique spin on these familiar dishes made with the freshest fish and ingredients, the extensive, vintage designed menu even includes Banting and vegetarian options. Carefully selected wines available will perfectly complement any order and satisfy the most distinguished palates. Think sushi or Asian food, and brace yourself to be pleasantly surprised.

Apart from the extensive sushi offering, other highlights on the menu include Miso or Tom Kha Gai soups, salads like the Tuna Tataki salad, peanut chicken satay and Panko calamari (starters). Mains include curries (Ben Wei red curry and Thai green curry), spicy beef, beef and oyster sauce stir fry, or wok fried Douchi (beef or chicken). Desserts range from deep fried ice cream or banana to classic dessert drinks like Kahlua coffee and Dom Pedro.

At Ben Wei you can forget about the typical Asian red and black design associated with this type of restaurant. A massive rebrand (Fugu restaurant was previously located here), renovation and revamp were undertaken. Philip Tyers from Lyon & Tyres designed a bespoke interior, pulling reflections from green and blue acid colours, with Hertex material-clad benches and Imperial design wall coverings. Picking up on the hidden LED lights, Francois Mostert from Robin Sprong Bespoke Wallpaper designed a specific focal centre wall design masterpiece that brings all the colours and interiors together.

Now, if the name of co-owner Ian McMahon sounds strangely familiar, don’t be surprised. He is the mastermind behind the highly successful Crew Bar (still the most popular gay club in the Mother City after nine years), as well as MCQP (co-owner) – the biggest costume party in Africa.

McMahon however started his career in restaurants as a 15-year-old waiter at Spur. This progressed, thanks to his highly motivated spirit, to McMahon moving around the country operating Spur Steak Ranches, Hard Rock Cafes and a host of affiliated chains. He then joined Spur Head Office and eventually worked himself up to director level.

To this day he still owns a Spur franchise together with his brother in Robertson. And as if all this is not enough, McMahon is also the owner of Radiomac Retail Radio Solutions – providing music to chains such as Hussar Grill, RocoMamas, Spur, Panarottis and Tiger’s Milk, to name but a few. Believing in always giving back, he is also the chairperson of the Pride Shelter Trust.

Jim Dai and Ian McMahon

However, at Ben Wei, it is chef and co-owner Jim Dai who carves up delightful sushi and Asian dishes for its patrons. He moved to South Africa from China in 2007 and has been a sushi chef at notable establishments like The Alphen Hotel since then. At Fugu he took the restaurant to the top 15 list of sushi restaurants before joining The Vineyard Hotel. And now he is putting his 10 years’ experience to best use at Ben Wei.

The menu is reasonably priced despite the outstanding food and fun, vibey atmosphere, and although walk-ins are welcomed, making a booking is recommended at this highly popular spot. So if it is for a sweet and sour chicken, a plate of delicious sushi or even a glass of Wembley Square brewed Stone Circle Weiss draught beer, make a booking (email: eat@benwei.co.za – call: 021 – 461 2966).

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