Sawaddee review

Many people tell me that the sushi at Willoughby’s is the best in Cape Town. I’ve eaten at Willoughby’s many times, and while I enjoy their seafood dishes, I’m not a fan of their sushi purely because the pieces are too big. You can read more in my review here. So I was very excited to be informed that the sushi chef at Sawadee is actually from Willoughby’s and it seems to be true because the sushi is similar but thankfully the pieces are much smaller. The result of all this is that I really enjoyed the sushi at Sawaddee. The prices are really reasonable too. We had a Hot Rock & Roll (R42), Prawn & Avo California Roll (R35), Volcano Sandwich (R40) , Prawn Tempura Roll (R42), Spicy Rainbow Reloaded (R42) and the chef’s special (R50) . All of the sushi was great.

We also had some hot food. I must admit I was tempted to just stick to sushi, not only because the sushi is so good but because I know that Sawadee is a Chef Pon restaurant and I really, really don’t like Chef Pon’s Asian kitchen. It’s dirty, the food is terrible and if you complain they tell you it is meant to be like that. I don’t even go there if I’m invited to a function. So I was worried that the food at Sawaddee might be similar but actually it was really good. I had the Aromatic Crispy Duck (R85), someone else had the Seared Salmon Salad (R65), we tried a Sesame Chicken (R65) and someone had another starter of Prawn Toast (R30). All of the food was of a high standard and as you can see the prices are really reasonable.

The service was attentive and friendly. They can speak English quite well which takes away that potential for frustration. To drink we had the Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc (R100) and The Wolf Trap blend (R90). The wine list is not extensive but very reasonably priced. This is the sort of place you can go for a good quality meal at reasonable prices. I’m quite pleased to have found it (yes, I know it’s been there for ages). I would recommend booking as we were lucky to get a table on a Thursday night.

It’s a casual dining place, while they have made some effort with the decor, it doesn’t attract your attention in a good or a bad way. You can go dressed quite casually too. If I lived nearby, I reckon I would be there quite regularly.

Chef Pon’s Sawaddee
Rheede Street Mall, CBD
Tel: 021 422 1633


  1. Cathy May 27, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Cannot agree with you more about Chef Pons. We went there a few years ago just after it got a top 10 Eat Out award or something similar (must have been the category voted by customers cos I sincerely hope the reviewers wouldn’t have rated it that highly!). I have never had such a sorry-assed, gloop-laden, sugar-filled excuse for a Chinese meal. Absolutely beyond me why anyone would pay for that – rather stay at home, sneeze on your food and add sugar. xx

  2. Gareth June 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Dax

    I think you have the wrong story about this place and Chef Pons. This is the original chef from Chef Pons who started Chef Pons with Larry and they split up and he opened this in competition. His name is Chef Pon. Agree with all about Chef Pons now that it has gone down the tube.

    1. Dax June 1, 2010 at 11:07 pm

      I see, well that does make sense because Asian Kitchen had quite a following a while back.

  3. Bubbles June 23, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Chef Pons and sawadee are def connected – They advertise each other in the restaurant and on the phone when you ring to make a booking.
    Anyway. Chef pons is ridiculous – the owner is so rude if you complain- because you got something different to what you ordered – i had to send it back three times – eventually i just left.
    Sawaddee on the other hand – not so keen of its location – never been a fan of Mall style restaurants (I’m British!)The food is phenominal. especially the sushi. I am not a big fan of ordinary sushi – I get a bit bored – but this sushi is so inventive; and you can see the guy is a pro – he is a real sweetheart as well – We always have a jaggie with him afterwards – sometimes he buys sometimes we buy. That would be reason enough to go there often, as i do live close! Love it love it love it!

  4. Dax July 1, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Had dinner at Sawaddee again last night. The place was full, apparently all walk ins. This was the reason the food took quite long to arrive.

    I had the volcano sandwich sushi (R40) to start, which was great. My partner had the salmon maki (R35), mine was definitely more exciting. Mains for me was Thai chilli fish (R75) and rice (R12), for her it was the veg spring roll starter (R28).

    The Thai chilli fish was really spicy (my mouth was on fire) and quite rich because it is deep fried. The food was great and good value.

    David Kramer was seated at the table next to us and we chatted with him about the good old days of VW bus ads and the marvels of YouTube.

  5. Steph November 15, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Chef Pon sold Pon’s Asian Kitchen to his managerpartner Larry.
    He now has nothing to do with this restaurant.
    Sawadee is his restaurant and is run by him and his wife. Eeb.
    The chefs are from Thailand and cook ‘Thai style spicey’ so if you want it mild ask for ‘Farang Spicy’ (Foreigner)
    One of my favourite restaurants.

  6. lisa malcomess December 4, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I’m not sure why but after all these years Sawadee is still relatively unknown amongst Capetonians. Maybe it’s the name; it did take me about a year until I stopped calling it Pon’s Place. The first word that comes to mind when eating there is FRESH. Rather a vital word for Asian restaurants. From the early months when we were only one of a handful of people in the restaurant, to now when it’s doubled in size and you still need to book. The service is warm and welcoming and the take-away service is ridiculously fast. It’s the first restaurant that has ever come close to making Sweet and Sour Chicken like at the Chinese Restaurant when we were kids. The food is delicious and I just can’t stop myself saying FRESH whenever I take my first bite. .

  7. taryn December 29, 2010 at 8:25 am

    we ate there last night. Told them from the beginning we don’t eat fish sauce and were assured the Miso soup didnt have. Afterwards I ordered the ‘vegetarian’ green curry. Halfway through the meal I started having an allergic reaction and they finally admitted the Miso soup and curry was made with fish sauce. the waitress was apologetic, not the owner. In fact, they still charged us for the Miso soup. And i’m still not feeling great. the food was good but it could have done with a bit of care and honesty.

  8. Edward August 18, 2013 at 11:40 am

    The food is good, but the service is dreadful. The food came 45 minutes late because the waiter who took our order forgot about our table. The customers who had arrived after us had already received their food and had finished eating. This may have been understandable as the restaurant was busy. However, the worst part of the experience was that the waiter who admitted he had forgotten our order did not even apologise AND had an attitude problem. For example: Whilst telling him we are not satisfied with the long delay. He interrupting abruptly, and then said, “I was only asking about the food.” He then rolled his eyes in front of us.He only apologised when we demanded an apology from him in front of the owner.