Dahlia on Regent, in the heart of Sea Point’s buzz, is a relative newcomer and yet is already making waves on the foodie scene. Run by young gun Damian Dafel, who previously cut his teeth at the famed La Colombe, Foxcroft and La Tete, the Dahlia had just opened their doors before being forced to shut due to COVID. However, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Dafel and his team have resurfaced from the COVID closure with seemingly a new lease on life and a fresh concept.
Shifting away from their original contemporary cuisine idea, the current Dahlia offering focuses on Asian-inspired, streetfood style dishes. The exciting menu is made up of pickles, hand-pulled noodles, fiery chicken-wings and, if you’re lucky, a fried chicken katsu sandwich. For starters, there’s a smashed cucumber salad, a satisfying mix of texture and acidity coming from the rice vinegar dressing, perfect for picking at while you peruse the rest of the menu. Then, the turnip cake, a common feature in traditional Chinese dim sum, which comes topped with mushrooms and edamame. This dish also masterfully mixes textures and sweet and savoury notes, and the umami-rich ingredients create an altogether more-ish result. The tuna salad, however, is equally scene-stealing. Cubes of fresh tuna are tumbled together with a spicy mayo, pickled daikon and radish, and comes topped with baby gem lettuce leaves – intended for scooping up the contents of the salad into a handheld, crisp boat.
Proceeding to mains, there’s no mistake that Dafel’s hand-pulled noodle dishes are the star of the show. Dahlia on Regent offers two distinct types of handmade noodles, the first being biang biang, a thick, belt-like noodle commonly found in Northern China. The second type is dan dan, a thinner, more commonly recognised noodle, often dressed in a dark spicy sauce. Meat-eaters are spoiled for choice, with braised short rib and lamb noodle dishes, and Taiwanese beef noodle soup. But vegetarians certainly aren’t left out in the cold. The crispy ginger tofu biang biang noodles are, quite simply, excellent. Featuring generous squares of fried tofu and a punchy, somewhat salty yet nutty dressing, this dish is comfort food personified. Those who enjoy thinner noodle will love the dan dan noodles with a peanut-heavy sauce and meltingly tender miso-glazed aubergine – this delivers richness and heart.
If you’ve got space for dessert, you have one simple option – a chocolate and coconut tart finished with a caramelised coconut crumble. The drinks here are a good mix of local beers, including some craft choices and a well-rounded list showcasing easy-drinking South African wines and MCCs.
All in all, Dahlia on Regent is a welcome addition to Sea Point’s sunset strip and already feels wise beyond its years. The food might seem unfamiliar at first, but once a bowl of handmade noodles is plopped in front of you, you’ll soon see how approachable Dafel’s food is. The restaurant doesn’t take itself too seriously either, with Chinese-themed accents and poppy nods to Asian culture in the form of movie posters. This place is a breath of fresh air, with food that is fun and clever (without trying too hard to be either). Go there with a big appetite, a hunger to try something new, and make sure to wear dark clothing – or risk slurp stains all over your top from the ‘noods’ – but just make sure you go.
Highlights: The Dahlia on Regent
Cost for average meal | Starters R65. Mains R115.
Type of cuisine | Asian-inspired
Overall rating out of 10 | 9
Address | 77 Regent Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town
Phone | 087 470 0296