For chef Darren Badenhorst of Franschhoek’s Le Coin Français and Le chêne, the closing of one door during lockdown meant the opening of another – specifically, the doors of brand new Ōku, the first Asian-inspired restaurant in a village known for its French-inspired fine-dining and modern tasting menus. “Ryan and I have been talking about [opening an Asian-style restaurant] for a while, waiting for the right time and the right location, and everything just came together for us during lockdown,” Darren explains. A continuation of Darren’s symbiotic relationship with Leeu Collection, Ōku (meaning “oak” in Japanese) has chef Ryan Shell manning the kitchen.
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In true Darren Badenhorst style, the exact same care that went into curating the menu was spent on designing the perfect interior. Bespoke tables and chairs by local chef-turned-carpenter Edmund Viljoen allow comfort and aesthetics to come together exactly as intended. “We wanted to create a calming space,” chef Ryan explains. “It’s almost like a bubble, and it allows you to really enjoy the entire experience.”
Darren and Ryan also shared their plans to branch out in December with their planned Yama Sushi Emporium. Located on the same property, Yama will offer sushi to be enjoyed on the adjoining patio, as well as everything from supplies for making your own sushi at home to ready-made or frozen dim sum from Ōku’s kitchen.