Tucked away in the Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, you’ll find Postcard Café. Chef Mune Kimura is the one responsible for satiating the appetites of the restaurant’s guests. Read on to find out about Mune’s life in Japan before settling in South Africa, what his favourite meal is and why he prefers complaints over compliments.
Where did you learn how to cook?
I always loved cooking with my mum. Like many mums, she was always in the kitchen cooking up something. She grew up in a sushi restaurant. My grandfather was a sushi master, very strict, old school. She’s a very good cook, knows the basics very well. She had to help in the sushi restaurant. After the war Japan was very poor. There were three brothers and her. At the time in Japan, men were supposed to study and get a career, make money. Ladies were at the back working. She almost had no choice but to work in the restaurant.
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Who are your mentors?
My mum, Megumi, mostly. Raymond Blanc, was obviously my first boss.
What do you miss most about Japan?
We eat out a lot in Japan. Here, it’s like a special occasion kind of thing. In Japan it’s a daily thing almost. My brother eats out every day. The more people eat out, the cheaper the food will be.
As a child, what was your favourite food?
Apple pie, my mum would make the best apple pie.
What is your favourite food now?
My wife is also a very good cook, she picked up a lot of skills from my mum. She’s a home cook, not a restaurant cook. I like the South African food she cooks, samp and beans and stews. We bring a lot of noodles back from Japan, soba and udon, boil, stick it in stock. Simple things.
Favourite recipe book?
No, I don’t. I go through magazines, just to check out what is in season, what the trends are.
At the moment my kids are small so we go to a restaurant with a playground like Spur or Panarottis. We don’t eat out much. When we go to Japan, every day, but here, no.
Where do you get your ingredients?
Suppliers are very local. Veg we get from Neil Sauls here in Stellenbosch. The rest comes from Cape Town – Sacks butchery. Quite big on seafood, more than half the menu is seafood from Gordon’s Bay Fishery. All sustainable.
What has been your biggest disaster?
When working at Le Manoir aux Quatre’Saisons, Raymond Blanc happened to be in the kitchen with me. He put out a tray of 20 portions of fish and he dropped it. He picked it up and applied the ten second rule. Two-star Michelin. I just kept quiet, I could not believe what I saw.
Have you had any accidental successes?
All the time. I appreciate complaints from customers more than praise, because then I try to fix it and it often turns out to be better that way.
What is your favourite wine?
The Stark-Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon. It goes nicely with the beef cheek. Very smooth, very nice. I’m not a big drinker but that one I like very much.
What is your fantasy food holiday?
I would love to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market. I went there a very long time ago. They have sushi stalls and they also have ramen there. The fish doesn’t get fresher there. A holiday spent there going from stall to stall would be very nice.
Would that be your last supper?
My mum’s cooking at home in Japan with my family, my brother, my father, my wife and kids. I like noodles, especially udon noodles. It’s my favourite. Dashi stock, maybe some pork slices on top – we call it ‘niku udon’. And I would love to have that apple pie again.
Words Tudor Caradoc-Davies
Photography Francois Pistorius