Review: Tokara restaurant

The kitchen at Tokara

As any child can tell you, there are three flavours of ice cream: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. And they are served as dessert.

The chef at Tokara had not mastered this basis of cooking, and went recklessly off course.

It was the first time I had visited this iconic Stellenbosch wine farm, perched atop a hill with all the majesty of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

There’s not much Bavarian charm about the Tokara restaurant and tasting room, although the view is stunning.

I found the room slightly stark and frosty, not helped by a draft which blew through the place throughout a chilly lunchtime. We were seated at the worst table in the place. Right by the door, in full target range of the draft.

They had a fire, and initially I thought they couldn’t afford to light it. But they did.  Sadly, it was too far away to warm us.

The air was infused with a slightly sour grapey aroma from the wine cellar, not that I was complaining. I like sniffing wine cellars, and would live in one if they didn’t keep evicting me.

The service was another matter. It was as attentive as one of those mothers who loses their kid in a store, and needs them to tannoy for its return.

It took a while to order our wine, as they were busy seating people, and the sommelier was busy preening himself somewhere off-stage.

Back to the ice cream….I opted for the Alaska salmon, which was not salmon from Alaska, but a witty take on a baked Alaska.

Some very, very raw salmon sat under a very unbaked slosh of meringue, which had been mildly browned. Alongside was a ball of salmon ice cream.

This was just strange. I liked the inventiveness but didn’t really get it. This apparently was the chef’s signature dish. Like a doctor’s signature, it was far too difficult to read.

Give me strawberry, chocolate and vanilla any day. Sorry.

My two chums had a very mean portion of linefish tempura, which was superb, and a beef tartare which was even superber.

Not knowing which wines I would choose, I had asked for extra time to order my main course, while the other two at our table were more decisive.

This turned out badly. The other two were served their dishes before I had been asked for my choice. The waiter refused to take their plates away to wait for me to catch up, and I was assured it would only take two minutes to prepare. It didn’t and I watched them munch away, only to be brought my main course once they had finished.

It was a lamb shank and was very tasty. But I had lost my appetite and didn’t eat much.

The pork belly had been delicious, with an excellent sauce, crunchy skin, and an impressive potato bake on the side.

The hake was also good, but was unpleasantly over-salted.

We had drunk a glass each of one of the estate’s sauvignon blanc, and later a Director’s Reserve red. Nothing to write home about, but OK.

Two of us ordered, and shared, a cheese platter, which was superb. Unfortunately neither the waiter nor the (acting) chef knew what all the cheeses were. The third musketeer had Gorgonzola ice cream, and loved it.

It emerged that the chef had buggered off for the weekend, leaving a sous-chef and some pretty inept waiting staff in charge.

We were three gentlemen, but they insisted on calling us “guys”. Strangely casual in what is supposed to be (but isn’t) one of the Cape’s finest restaurants.

My verdict: great view. But when it comes to food, and especially, service, they must try a hell of a lot harder.

The meal for three, with tip, came to R1895.  I tipped out of habit, not adulation.

My rating? 2.5*

Key to the Ratings….
1* Dog food is nicer
2*. Cat food is nicer
3*. Not bad if Woolworths is sold out of ready meals.
4*. I like it
5*. I love it. Not to be missed.

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