18 September 2013 by Denise Slabbert

#MeetSouthAfrica: Vusi Kunene

Vusi Kunene is a born entrepreneur who had a dream of opening his own African-inspired sushi restaurant. The Blackanese Sushi & Wine Bar in Maboneng is the realisation of this dream (complete with biltong sushi on the menu).

Vusi Kunene

The Blackanese Sushi & Wine bar is a vibrant sushi eatery (and bar) situated in the trendy Maboneng Precinct. It is the brainchild of Vusi Kunene, who fell in love with sushi a few years ago and wanted to create a unique African-type sushi restaurant where people could hang out and enjoy his style of sushi. 

The Blackanese is now making waves with foodies in Johannesburg (and further afield), and the good news is that it also has a stand at the ever-popular Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein every Saturday.

Vusi Kunene hard at work at the Neighbourgoods Market

Kunene is originally from rural Mpumalanga and did a number of menial jobs – including being a car guard and a waiter – before realising his dream of owning a restaurant. At first, he battled to find anyone to teach him the art of sushi-making, so immersed himself in the culture of sushi and read up voraciously on the subject, trying to find out everything he could. He also started a mobile sushi van, which ended up giving him the means to start his own restaurant. 

His hard work paid off, and Kunene is now pretty adept at making fresh and fabulous sushi, and has passed on this knowledge to his chefs. He is now something of a foodie celebrity and is asked to do cooking shows and demonstrations all over the place – in-between running a rather busy shop and organising cooking classes for customers who want to learn how to make their own sushi.

Says Kunene: 'I didn't want to open your everyday sushi bar. Blackanese is different – it's an Asian-African restaurant.'

We explain to our guests what we put on the plate, and that it’s something a little different. A lot of love and creativity goes into it.

The menu is quite simple (apart from a few variations you won't find on a sushi menu anywhere else). There are California rolls; sashimi; hand rolls; sushi platters; teardrop maki; and sushi specialities: wasabi parcel, spicy prawn bean curd, spicy salmon bean curd, veg bean curd and, of course, biltong sushi.

'We explain to our guests what we put on the plate, and that it's something a little different. A lot of love and creativity goes into it,' says Kunene.

For those wanting something warm, there are a number of hot meals on the menu, including chicken and pork stir fries, chicken and beef chow mein, red and yellow chicken curries, and a real special – a prawn braai with Thai rice on a Sunday. The wine menu has some lovely South African wines at decent enough prices, and you can also get wine by the glass.

While he may have grown up on pap and vleis (porridge and meat), Kunene's sushi star continues to rise. And one thing is for sure – you'll be hard-pressed to find biltong sushi anywhere else in Johannesburg.

The Blackanese Sushi & Wine Bar is situated at 20 Kruger Street, Main Change, Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg. Tel: +27 (0)78 210 9671.

Sushi from The Blackanese. Images Ryan James/Darling Lama Productions

Category: Food & Wine

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