Venues

Tokara

Tokara
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  • Location 021 885 2550
  • Phone Number Tokara, R310 towards Franschhoek, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch, Western Cape
  • email reservations@tokara.com
  • Website URL http://www.tokararestaurant.co.za
  • Opening Hours

    Lunch: Winter - Tuesday to Saturday 12noon to 3pm; Sundays 12noon to 3pm; Summer - Monday to Sunday 12noon to 3pm

    Dinner: Winter - Tuesday to Saturday 6.30pm to 10pm

Cost
R180 avg main meal off à la carte menu
Ambience
Classic elegance, Family friendly
Food
Fine-dining food, French, Modern, South African, Vegetarian
Payment
Mastercard, Visa
500
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Critic's review

Linda Scarborough

Food
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.

Drinks
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.

Service
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.

Ambience
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.

And…
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.

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  • Graham Howe

    Food
    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.

    Drinks
    An excellent wine list goes beyond Tokara’s own cellar wines by the glass and bottle to more of the Cape’s top labels.

    Service
    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.

    Ambience
    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.

    And…
    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.

    (September 2015)

  • Eat Out

    Food
    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.

    Wine
    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.

    Service
    Top notch. Service is brisk and efficient, but also attentive and informal, which complements the playful novelty of the food.

    Ambience
    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.

    (August 2014)

  • Food
    Chef extraordinaire Richard Carstens (Eat Out Chef of the Year in 2005), has experience in Asia and Australia and it shows in his imaginative cuisine – always delicious, sometimes surprising, great to look at and even better to eat. Starters include the dish of roasted salt-crusted sweet potato with butternut, goat’s cheese, orange, yoghurt and wasabi, a fascinating melange of flavours and textures. The pan-fried calamari with crisp prawn, risotto, almond gazpacho and parsnip and vanilla veloute sounds as if it won’t work, but does, brilliantly. Richard’s wonderful take on slow-roasted pork belly is paired with sushi rice, apple pickle and tamarind coconut sauce. Pan-fried springbok with parsnip purée, turnip, pear and teriyaki butter will bring a tear to a carnivore’s eye. Chocolate pavé with Cointreau ice cream, confit orange and vanilla is a match made in heaven for this famous liqueur.

    Wine
    The excellent Tokara wines take centre stage. Sommelier Jaap-Henk Koelewijn is on-hand to guide you through it all.

    Service
    Smooth and seamless from a dedicated team who know their stuff.

    Ambience
    Very industrial chic with some serious artworks thrown in for good measure. The view from the deck is worth the price of admission.

    And...
    Do a wine tasting before your meal to see which wines please you.(Greg Landman, September 2013)

User reviews

  • We were so lucky to have found this beautiful gem of a restaurant & estate while driving around looking for our Wedding Venue. We ended up falling in love with Tokara and had our Wedding Reception there last year, just after their stunning renovations! We also used their Wine Tasting Area as our venue for 'Cocktails and Canapés' for our guests while we had our photos taken. Top class food, beautifully presented.... Chef Richard can be very proud of himself and his team. Every dinner and lunch we have ever had here was fantastic. Beautiful surroundings... vineyards, art and beautiful modern decor. Our only 'crit' would be that the 'drinks menu' lacked a few ordinary drinks (like Appletizer and 'coolers', etc.), especially on a hot day during lunch time... but Tokara Wine is fantastic and goes down well with any meal. We look forward to having many "Anniversary Dinners" at Tokara in the future.
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  • The View and service were excellent. We're big fans of Richard, setting us off with high expectations. The trout and Asparagus Broccoli starters were fresh and perfectly balanced flavours - light and filling to pre-empt the main event. Tokara Sauvignon Blanc was an outstanding companion. Worth a mention. Springbok Main was perfect in many ways, flavour, texture, hidden little jus and ice cream. Take a bow. Then unfortunately all of this was let down by the fish of the day that was clearly defrosted fish, very glassy in texture and overtly fishy in smell - a let down for the standards we know the chef expects. We quite honestly agreed that we've had better fish at Ocean Basket - not to be rude, but honest. Yes we know the franchise can give you great value for money at times, but we expected Tokara to at least get the basics right, so we only had a quarter of that meal. Note that my partner and I love to share meals. All in all it was a wonderful meal, because of the view, staff, wine and the wonderful meals that preceded the disappointment. Definitely worth the visit - we'll be back to try more on the menu to complete our Tokara experience.
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  • i loved the Master Chefi food we had in Tokara , Stellenbosch. Such finesse , great presentation. was there to celebrate my daughter's birthday. We were treated with a glass of bubbly, on the house. and spoiled by the limitless views of green hills and amazing trees all around. Can't wait to go back. and treat my self and overseas guests to such a classy dining experience.
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  • Dinner at Tokara was fabulous. The setting and wine recommendations were amazing but the hero of the experience was the tasting menu. Presentation, technique, interesting and exciting food combinations, generous portions vs other top class tasting menus in Cape Town - this was a highlight in a week of gourmet dining in the Cape. Highly recommended.
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  • I've been to Tokara more than once, mostly on a Saturday afternoon with some friends. I was surprised to see food weighed, but it's all worth the price, and delicious too, so's the wine. Tokara is very welcoming, beautiful place and ambient, but everytime i go back there hoping it'll be different. My husband has said: NOMORE! We've decided not to go back there, because on 2 occasions we were turned away purely because there weren't any tables available. The Manager didn't even tell us that we were most welcome to sit on the leather couch and wait until a table becomes available. As we were about to leave, more than one became available, which gave us a choice,we quickly brought it to her attention, but sensed her negative body language. She discussed us with her staff and made us feel like barbarians, because now, we couldn't decide where to sit. The waiter was sweet, but its stuck in my head. Anyway we enjoyed the food and wine, but said never again. This has been on my mind ever since, and now I can move on.
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  • 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!

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  • A decidedly below average food experience, service and location excellent.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Todays Sunday lunch was perfect and our Swiss guests impressed.

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  • Its all about the view. Great lunch at Tokara but it was the wine, view, company and service that made it memorable.

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  • Magnificent food unlike anything you have ever had before, breath-taking views, well-priced and good service. A must visit for any foodie!
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  • What an unforgettable experience! Brilliant texture and flavor combinations. World class execution, truly a great mind behind it all. Wine was well matched to all the dishes,from the different starters, mains and the desserts. 8 courses later, it was particularly hard to choose a favorite. All the staff was very well informed, with a detailed explanation of all the dishes. I cannot wait for our next visit. The best meal I have ever had!
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  • From the moment you enter Tokara, you feel special and taken care of. I could listen to Jaap talk about wine all day long. His recommendations are spot on - he is a true professional. Wine chat can be a bit intimidating but not so with Jaap. The food is vibrant, colourful and fresh. It is exciting to eat and to guess what some of the mysterious ingredients are! Beautifully presented. I have never been a fan of presentation over taste but Richard does both equally well, so theres no sacrifice here. A bit more seasoning in the mash would have been nice. It also has the best view. Go, and youll want to go back.
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  • Richard is at it again! Exquisite food by the most creative chef in South Africa. Try the watermelon carpaccio - out of this world. Forget about the top ten - this is the real thing.
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  • Had lunch at the new Tokara yesterday. What a fantastic experience. Views are to die for and the food, oh the food ... simply out of this world! Flavours were wonderfully light, fresh and pure. Presentation was most creative with vibrant use of colour. Service was good and prices quite reasonable considering the exceptional quality of the fare. Well definitely be back!
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  • Brilliant Sunday lunch at Tokara Restaurant! Food, wine and service all sublime, and a view to die for! Food beautifully presented and with complex layers of flavours. Best of all filling, but light - not drenched in butter and heavy sauces as wed become accustomed to in the winelands. Only thing that detracted from a lovely day out was two elderly gentlemen sitting nearby who complained about everything while slurping glasses of Coke or going for another cigarette break. Dont put me close to them next time, garcon!!!!!
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  • Dear oh dear! We ate lunch today at the beautiful Tokara, but what a disapointment. There seemed to be a problem in the kitchen and our food arrived an hour after we had been sitting there. And it was luke-warm. It was the same with dessert. Although we complained, the manager did not come and explain, however they did present us with some wine as an apology. It would seem that they couldnt cope with the amount of people that they had booked in. I hope they sort out the problems as it really is a lovely restaurant.
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  • Spent Sunday afternoon at the new Tokara Deli . Beautiful setting, but thats where it ended. The food was tasteless, we waited 40 minutes for a glass of wine after ordering it 4 times , waiters kindly removed my chair to pack up ( we were the last of 3 tables ) while in the loo ! It made us feel very unwelcome and after calling the manager she just said .....nothing. We will NEVER go back. Pretty sad after all the press they have been getting. Nice setting but thats it I am afraid !
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  • From the terrace you can enjoy your sundowner and the legendary view of Table Mountain. The ambience of the dining room, which comes with a fireplace depending on the time of year, is very pleasant. What have been outstanding for the last nine years, are the sauces of Etienne Bonthuys. For me hes the king of sauces. His combinations are daring - oyster with banana and orange cream, kingklip with green-fig balsamico, honey and curry oil, ostrich with saffron sauce, springbok with lobster sauce and mint oil - but the results are absolutely fabulous. Its obvious that the sauces are accompanied by excellently prepared dishes. The quality has been top level for years and I am looking forward to my next visit to Etiennes.
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  • Fabulous setting, with a gorgeous view. Excellent service - understated and efficient, and unstuffy. Food was amazing - well balanced intense flavours and creative dishes.
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  • Yesterday evening I ate at Tokara restaurant which in a sentence could be summed up as lovely food shocking service. When paying just under R3,000 for a table of 4 I simply expect more and know I can get more elsewhere. Luckily my guests saw the funny side of the absence of our waitress on numerous occasions and the gathering of her friends in the restaurant towards the end of our meal. My wife and I on the other hand, as the hosts, did not find it that amusing. The giggling and cat calls by this group of friends along with the waitress sitting at the table with them, made me feel like we had over stayed our welcome and needed to move on, not something we would expect at any restaurant of any standing. The ambience of the restaurant and the quality of the staff just did not reconcile – perhaps that is why on a Friday evening they were almost empty. We will not go back!
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  • We were booked here by the guesthouse we were booked in. The setting high on a pass with incredible views was unfortunately obscured because of darkness. The balance of ingredients and flavours in our food was good without being exciting. I really enjoyed the Ostrich Fillet however found the citrus elements a little odd. Dessert was a little clumsy. The biggest drawback was the service which was very poor and embarrassingly clumsy at times. Couldnt fault the Hamilton Russell Chardonnay though.
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  • We had a fantastic lunch on the 23.1.08. Perfect Fois(e?) Gras, Quail, Samon tartare and Beef fillet. And the gravies, sauces or jus matching, just great. Nice to have chefs with consistency over years. Well trained friendly staff. And the best, you get your red wine served at 16°C, not like in a lot of top stablishements with untrained staff in the mothercity.
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  • FOR YEARS AND YEARS EB WAS OUR FAVOURITE CHEF BE IT ROSENFONTEIN, BUITNEVERWACHTING, FLORIS SMIT HUIS ETC. SO WE WERE DELIGHTED WHEN TOKARA APPEARED ON THE SCENE - AND IT STARTED SO WELL WHAT A VENUE AND THE SAME WONDERFUL FOOD DATING BACK TO ROSENFONTEIN IN PAARL DAYS - BUT OUR LAST TWO VISITS WERE DISASTOROUS TO SAY THE LEAST, APPALLING SERVICE, WAITING HOURS FOR THE FOOD AND A GENERAL LACK OF INTEREST AND PROFESSIONALISM. WE ARE GIVING IT A LAST CHANCE TOMORROW BUT READING THE REVIEWS ABOVE ARE DOING SO WITH MUCH TREPIDATION - WILL REPORT BACK!!!
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  • I had read a glowing review recently that said that this restaurant had been restored to its original culinary greatness of early days now that Etienne Bonthuys was head chef. How wrong it was. The service was appalling to say the least. We waited 30 minutes to be served and our starters took over an hour to arrive. No apologies, and even then the last two starters out of a table of six arrived 5 minutes later than the other four ! The main course was a good example of culinary confusion. The tastes and flavours clashed horribly and gave half the table a bad case of indigestion. Such an amazing venue deserves better.
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  • Recently went for a lunch with friends. I have to say the service here is very amater. Not really very polite. A simple welcome was missing. We were pointed to the table that was to be ours, a courtesy to be shown to the table is more in order for a restaurant such as Tokara.Food was a little uninspiring. Nothing wrong, just quite boring.Tokara White wine is amazing, but they only had to pull a cork on that.Table service a little bit haphazard.Oh, and the mens loos Im told were quite horrible with the stench of urine!!Tokara, you could do better.
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Facilities

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

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