Tokara Restaurant – Putting Fine Cuisine on the Map
Richard Carstens joined the Tokara team in October 2010. This 5 star Chef got his start in 1992 where he trained under his mentor, Ralph van Pletzen, known for his eponymous restaurant Ralph’s in Stellenbosch. Over the next two decades he would build up a repertoire that most up and coming chefs could only dream of, putting Chamonix and Monneaux on his resumé as well as executive chef at Nova Restaurant in 2009. He was also involved as a consultant chef at various leading restaurants such as Ginga, Roots and Reubens.
We were invited to a Winter’s lunch to sample what tantalizing dishes Richard had on offer. Upon arrival you could take a gander at some of the artwork on display, mostly provided by the Stellenbosch students and painted with wine. There is a sculpture which catches the eye before entering the restaurant – Where would Woodstock stock wood if Wooodstock would stock wood by Julia Meintjies.
The view is spectacular, over looking the hills draped in vineyards as well as False Bay laying on the horizon. We were seated in a stylish setting and a nice touch was the different cultivars etched in the wooden framing of the seats in the restaurant. Our waitress (the rose amongst the thorns), Leoni, gave us a gracious welcome and prepared us for what was to come.
A 7 course meal is what laid ahead of us beginning with 2 amuse-bouches. The first being a frozen butternut dome (similar to sorbet) with fennel emulsion and whole grain mustard flavours, interesting and refreshing. The 2nd was a show stopper for me, crayfish and parsnip, lightly fried in a potato batter served with a Dushy sauce (Thin based cheese and lemon zest sauce) and topped with dried beetroot and bonito flakes (fishy flavoured). This dish brought new meaning to the word morish and I personally could have eaten 2 more plates of it alone!
Their famous signature dish, The Baked Alaska – “Salmon baked in a meringue crust, topped wih Salmon ice-cream, salmon caviar with ginger wasabi and soy sauce” was what I had chosen for my starter. The flavours bursting on my palate with the salty, sweet and savoury marrying in perfect harmony! This was paired with the Raka unwooded Chenin ’09 which complimented the dish to perfection.
For my main course I opted for the Peppered Springbok topped with an Hibiscus Jus , potato croquets, mash, beetroot as well as beetroot and rocket emulsion. The tender Springbok cut like a hot knife through butter while the peppered crust gave it a nice little spicy kick. Paired with the Bordeaux styled Myles Mossop Max ’07 (Myles Mossop being the name of the winemaker and Max, the name of his son) - this wine with its firm tannin structure and darkened berries flavour was a match made in heaven with the cut of meat.
The palate cleanser was a refreshing banana ice-cream (tasting of real bananas, not that generic, syrupy knock-off!) and pea and wasabi emulsion.
Ending of with my sweet tooth I opted for a dessert that I will not be soon forgetting. Weis beer poached pears, almond parfait, honey ice-ceam, honey comb with streusel and lemongrass – Quite possibly the best dessert I’ve eaten in my entire life!
The experience left me beyond satisfied and content with my senses still trying to comprehend all the pleasures they had just experienced. We were joined by Jaap Henk – Sommelier/Restaurant Manager – who engaged us with pleasant conversation and a bit of a background with regards to the restaurant and Estate. We were fortunate enough to enjoy the view first hand by taking a walk through the garden, breathtaking with beautiful warm weather aiding us on our mini “trek”.
Tokara is offering a winter special menu (set) for R250 per person consisting of a starter, main and dessert including a glass of wine, definite bargain! For all those with a little extra “ching” in their back pocket, not only can they enjoy the selection of Tokara wines but they can partake of actual Bordeaux wine from the region with the top 2 bottles priced at R4500/R6000.
If you are ever in the area be sure to pop on by, Richard will provide you with an eating experience that will not only delight the taste buds, it will warm the heart too !!!… ;p