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.
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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.
Eat Out reviewers dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Click here to read our editorial policy.
Richard Carstens, one of South Africa’s most adventurous chefs, is renowned for his creative fare, which draws on contemporary Japanese, French and Spanish influences, and cutting-edge culinary techniques. Explore the fifth flavour of umami on a menu inspired by classic flavour and texture combinations, accompanied by sublime sauces, relishes, purées and emulsions, like a yuzu buttermilk or turnip sauce.
The attention to detail is evident from the start with a breadbasket and Tokara’s superb olive oil on arrival, and is carried through to staff brushing crumbs from the table between courses. Guests can expect delightful surprises like springbok in black pepper and hibiscus juice, or duck in coconut tamarind sauce.
The chef’s compositions may be complex in preparation, but are clean and uncluttered, and deceptively simple on the plate. Some signature dishes always remain on the seasonal menus: try a Franco-Japanese interpretation of seafood, like ponzu-glazed line fish with sushi rice and wasabi, or miso beef with pickled mushroom and ginger sauce.
The treatment of the main ingredient is always delicate, with layers of taste and texture. Never fussy or complicated, the presentation is elegant and artful without signs of artifice on the plate. Vegetarians can go for a walk on the wild side with this menu, from starters through to mains, sides and sweets.
An excellent wine list goes beyond Tokara’s own cellar wines by the glass and bottle to more of the Cape’s top labels.
On the ball and well heeled, with in-depth knowledge on ingredients and the composition of dishes. Expect excellent sommelier advice on food and wine pairings.
This showpiece glass, steel and stone cellar restaurant atop Helshoogte is all that is cool and contemporary. Sit back and watch the action in the gleaming open glass kitchen.
Enjoy a pre-prandial wine at the new bar looking into the kitchen. On a sunny day, book a table on the deck to appreciate the spectacular vistas of vineyards as far as the eye can see.
A glorious setting, fabulous food, good service and value for money put Tokara on the must-go-again list. Chef Richard Carstens’s love of combining French and Asian flavour and experimenting with new techniques and ideas is evident in all his dishes. Innovative his food may be, but overcomplicated it never is – this is modern cuisine with clean flavours. The plating style remains simple and beautiful, with the menu sporting expertly cooked dishes like roasted cob with mussels, calamari, lemon cream and squid-ink brioche. The calamari perfectly accentuates the fish and plump mussels, while the brioche and lemon sauce bring a depth of flavour. Wonderfully tender grilled char sui beef is matched with celeriac purée, demonstrating Richard’s passion for Asian flavours, while the vanilla crème with caramel apples, sorrel ice cream and buttermilk brings the meal to an elegant and well-composed end.
Refreshingly, not all of the pairing suggestions made by sommelier Jaap-Henk Koelewijn were for Tokara wines. The list is quite small, but there are one or two interesting options, including the odd wine from the coastal regions. Some cool beers and a nice cocktail list round off the experience.
Top notch. Service is brisk and efficient, but also attentive and informal, which complements the playful novelty of the food.
Perched on a hillside overlooking the vineyards, the restaurant shares the building of glass, brick and steel with the Tokara wine tasting rooms. With an industrial chic feel and a heavy emphasis on art, the venue is as polished as ever, yet remains unpretentious and intimate.
We had a superb anniversary lunch at Tokara on 22nd October. The food created by Richard Carstens and his team was exceptional and made the experience even more enjoyable – Char siu beef fillet and baked Alaska salmon trout special were particularly good. Couple that with the beautiful views from Tokara and the exquisite restaurant, and you cannot go wrong for any special occasion. Thank you for a memorable afternoon!
A decidedly below average food experience, service and location excellent.
We treated ourselves to the latest Tokara winter menu on 24 May...and it was worth every bit of the anticipation! The butternut soup with shitake mushrooms is inspired. It could have done with a touch more seasoning, or more mushrooms which did well to compliment the soup. The 62 degree egg won't be everyone's cup of tea, but the crispy linefish was delicious. We both cleaned our plates when served the sirloin, parsnip purée, caramelized onion, garlic and green peppercorn sauce. Yum! And then still koeksister ice cream, almond parfait, malva pudding and honeycomb. Let's be clear - there was no more space after that. Service was impeccable and always attentive. Tokara wins again.
A great last minute escape to Tokara was a delight.
We were treated to sample 3 of the winter menu dishes and I will most definitely be back to eat the tartare dish, it was the most exxciting dish I have had to taste in a long time!
Great views and atmosphere.
Lunch on 30 Dec. Starters delicious. Only one fish dish available out of 6 main courses - kingklip was extremely bland. Really uninspiring. This was the main reason for the afternoon to be a disappointment.
Decor has a very poor fit with glass, wood and concrete structure of restaurant. The wooden tables and upholstered chairs look as if it would be better suited to an old style inn. Carpet dirty. Service efficient.
All in all 5 out 10.
Todays Sunday lunch was perfect and our Swiss guests impressed.
Its all about the view. Great lunch at Tokara but it was the wine, view, company and service that made it memorable.