Tokara Restaurant

Tokara Restaurant
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Groups, Quick meals, Special occasions
Fine-dining food, French, Modern, South African
Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Graham Howe

Richard Carstens, one of South Africa’s top chefs, is renowned for his original creations grounded in a brilliant blend of classic and contemporary culinary techniques. Two decades on, this chef at the forefront of the renaissance of winelands cuisine in the 1990s continues to delight followers with innovative compositions which bear his signature of balance, subtlety and simplicity.

A handful of signature dishes from his own gastronomic journey remain on a tempting seasonal menu – like his renowned Franco-Japanese interpretation of seafood or peppered springbok with beetroot and sherry gastrique. Classic South African ingredients are enhanced with truly sublime sauces, jus, purées and dressings. Attention to detail starts with a moreish bread basket dipped in Tokara’s home-grown olive oils brought to table on arrival, and carries through to the finish like Tokara’s acclaimed dessert wine.

Earthy flavours are kept clean, pure and deceptively simple in seamless combinations with a savoury Asian twist of umami; try the smoky home-cured duck breast with pickled shiitake mushrooms, pears and black-vinegar chilli, or signature fire-roasted beef with kombu (kelp) cream and truffle jus. Vegetarians will enjoy an exotic starter of broccoli and goat’s milk cheese with eringi mushrooms and miso honey-mustard dressing, and mains of soya-glazed mushrooms with tempeh and buckwheat. Never fussy or fiddly, the plating is elegant.

Make sure you leave room for dessert: fabulous layered compositions which are variations on a theme, like orange-and-polenta cake with candied orange and orange crème, or caramelised poached pears with Tokara brandy caramel cream, honeycomb and lemon ice cream as fragrant as a walk in a citrus orchard.

A five-star wine list tempts with Tokara’s own acclaimed wines by glass and bottle, plus more options from beyond the farm. Allow the sommelier to guide you.

Sleek and impeccable, well-informed on signature dishes, and excellent sommelier advice on food and wine pairing.

Sophisticated in a contemporary space with views into the open glass kitchen at this showpiece glass, steel and stone cellar eyrie atop Helshoogte.

Enjoy a wine tasting in the spectacular cellar, and post-prandial walk around the art gallery. Lunch on the deck offers spectacular views of the vineyards.

(October 2017)

Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

  • Ambience
  • Service
  • Food
  • Linda Scarborough

    The cooking of chef Richard Carstens is characterised by bold flavour combinations, often bringing local and Asian-inspired ingredients together, and precise techniques. This year the dishes seem to pop off the plate – innovative, well seasoned and delicious.

    Starters tempt with the likes of beef tartare spiced with cumin and coriander, beetroot done three ways, and Richard’s trademark smoked and cured trout with sushi rice. You might instead opt for the mushroom ravioli, which is silky and beautifully seasoned, singing with the flavours of garlic, lemon, parmesan and truffle; or the quail, which delivers with golden crispy skin and umami flavour, with the high notes of Asian notes of ginger, radish and tamari playing nicely with earthy brown-butter crème.

    For mains, the roasted duck with aubergine is superbly cooked and layered with rich, comforting tastes of parsnip purée and tender eggplant with a bright gooseberry sauce, but the addition of sushi rice feels a little out of place.

    The portion of smoky fire-roasted miso beef is faultless, with complementary sweet-potato purée, mushrooms, spinach and buckwheat. Other appealing options include peppery springbok with pomme purée, turnips and pears, the line fish of the day, and fried tempeh for the vegetarians.

    If you want to snack on some extra sides, try the triple-cooked chips with ponzu and a little dish of tangy homemade ketchup.

    The sweet ending of caramel-poached pears with honeycomb and lemon ice cream is masterful, with the sweet familiarity of the fruit slivers lifted by the quenelle of surprising, fresh citrus creaminess. The olive oil cake with gruyère ice cream and white balsamic gel is bold but less successful, while a chocolate mousse with coffee ice cream should please most palates.

    Start with a glass of perfectly pink Silverthorn Genie brut rosé and then be guided by the able staff. Wines made by Tokara and other local producers make the offering a rich one with opportunity for surprises and spoils. The Tokara Reserve Collection chardonnay and sauvignon blanc go down a treat.

    A friendly welcome at the front desk sets the tone. Waiters are solicitous but discreet and knowledgeable about the dishes’ compositions. Sommelier Jaap-Henk Koelewijn is deeply knowledgeable and passionate about the wares on offer, gives wise advice, and has perfected the art of reading what a table needs.

    The deck overlooks the curve of the vineyards over the rise to your right and the sprawl of lush farmlands towards the mother city in the distance. It’s simply spectacular. Tokara’s interior is modern and bright, with glass on two sides, elegant wooden furniture and futuristic light fittings reminiscent of constellations of stars. Everything feels cool and effortless. Try to get a sneak into the pristine kitchen on your way past the front desk. If you’re an art lover, be sure to examine the pieces dotted around, in the tasting room, the cellar, and at Tokara Delicatessen. You can’t miss the silver word-trees as you enter the main building.

    Be sure to stop at the Tokara Delicatessen on your way out to stock up on estate’s famous olive oil, kalamata olives and olive paste, local SA cheeses, charcuterie, coffee and chocolate truffles – all of the highest quality.

    (September 2016)

    Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.

    • Ambience
    • Service
    • Food

User reviews

  • Exceptional fine dining experience, one of my favourite restaurants in Stellenbosch.
    • Ambience
    • Service
    • Food


Set menu - Tokara - Updated August 2017


  • Accepts credit cards
  • Booking required
  • Child friendly
  • Cocktails
  • Dinner
  • Fireplace
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Takeaways
  • Vegetarian
  • Wheelchair

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