Sommelier Shoot-out at Tokara

Recipe: Combine a Friday night with a stylish award-winning restaurant. Stir in 3 top sommeliers, mixing well after each addition. Pour in a few bottles of quality wine. Next, Throw in an unconventional, waggish chef and scatter with a generous dollop of eager guests.

Tokara’s first Sommelier shoot-out is the brain-child of its talented chef, Richard Carstens. After becoming tired of sommeliers asking him to make a dish to go with a certain wine, he decided that it was time he gave them a taste of their own medicine.

So he called upon his resident sommelier, Jaap-Henk Koelewijn, together with Josephine Gotentoft of Makaron and Higgo Jacobs, to find wines to go with with his food. Not just one dish, mind you, but a full 4-course menu. (Richard doesn’t play games). Have a look at the dishes in this gallery.

Each sommelier presented their chosen wine with each course, afterwhich guests were able to sniff, swirl, and sip to their hearts content before scoring which wine was deemed the best pairing for the dish.

Josephine – Stellenrust Barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc 2012
Higgo – Delaire Rosé 2011
Jaap-Henk – *Graham Beck Game Reserve Viognier 2010

Josephine – Haut Espoir Semillon 2006
Higgo – *Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2011
Jaap-Henk – Tokara Director’s Reserve White

Josephine – *Pegasus Cinsaut 2011
Higgo – Chrystallum Pinot Noir 2007
Jaap-Henk – Steenberg Nebbiolo

Josephine – Laibach Natural Sweet 2012
Higgo – *Graham Beck Demi-Sec N.V
Jaap-Henk – Paul Cluver Gewurztraminer 2012

Why you should book for the next ‘shoot-out’

Wine pairings like these become so subjective with lots of ‘agreeing to disagree’. But that’s part of the fun. It would be boring if everyone tasted the same thing.

It enables you to expand your knowledge of wine producers in a short space of time. Plus you are exposed to 3 experts who are more than happy to share information and chat about wine-related issues, like the problem with Pinotage or corkage in restaurants.

The winner of the inaugural ‘shoot-out’ was Higgo Jacobs and he graciously accepted a very polished and scholarly-looking trophy.

Whatever your reason for wanting to attend the next Sommelier Shoot-out , one thing’s certain – you can be sure of enjoying only the best wines, served by the most knowledgable people, while delighting in Richard Carstens’ playful and delicious food.

What’s not to like?

Oh, and I haven’t even gotten around to mentioning the quality of jaw-dropping eye-candy provided by Tokara’s waiters. Swoons!

(* indicates wines that – in my opinion, paired the best)


Tokara winter menu 2012

Richard Carstens

A rather last-minute change of events saw me sitting on the deck of Tokara restaurant yesterday sampling Richard Carstens’ new winter menu. It couldn’t have been a more perfect autumn day out in Stellenbosch. I love escaping town every once in a while and when I have cuisine like Richard’s to look forward to, well… you can imagine my excitement. I also love Tokara’s wine (I don’t know if that has anything to do with the fact that I won a bottle of Tokara Red 2003 in the most random lucky draw at WineEx one year?)

Anyway, onto the food!

We started off lunch with some bread (whoever baked it unfortunately forgot to add the salt. Eeep!) and garlicky herbed butter. The first starter came, brandished by the very slick and well-trained waiters. A duck liver parfait surrounded by a beetroot streusel, hibiscus and a pistachio sponge. Beautiful to look at and just as good on the palate! To accompany the parfait, we were served perfectly toasted squares of brioche which provided the ideal crispy, crunchy contrast to the creamy and smooth parfait.
The dish is paired with the Miles Mossop Saskia 2009.

Duck liver parfait, hibiscus, beetroot streusel, pistachio & rocket (R80)

The second starter was much lighter- turnip with pickled pear, celery, spinach, mozzarella, pumpkin seeds, parsley financier, dashi & bonito. This is paired with Raats Original Chenin blanc 2011. A fresher, brighter wine with lots of zesty acidity.

Turnip, pear, ponzu, celery, spinach, mozzarella cream, pumpkin seeds, garlic & bonito (R70)

The third starter (and conclusively my favourite), was the Togarashi beef “sashimi” with tartar, sushi rice, wasabi mayo, cashews, pancetta and spiced lemon emulsion. It definitely had a more savoury element to it than the first two but I think my taste buds were actually craving savoury yesterday.
This is served with the Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2010 (a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend). I was eager to compare it to the Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc which I sell and which also happens to be a blend of the two grapes. I don’t know which is better. They were both well-balanced in their own delicious way!

Togarashi spiced beef sashimi, tartar, sushi rice, wasabi mayo, cashews, sesame seeds, pancetta & spiced lemon emulsion (R80)

We sampled two main courses- half of the table tried beef while the rest had chicken. I had the beef which came with the cutest shimeji mushrooms, ginger carrot puree, a little potato fondant and the most lip-licking coffee miso sauce (made with Deluxe coffee). The pairing is the Tokara Director’s Reserve Red 2007.

Teriyake beef fillet, lemon glazed shimeji, carrot ginger purée,
confit potato & Deluxe miso sauce (R140)

The chicken (which unfortunately I didn’t get to taste- my own fault… tssssk, as I was too busy tweeting and listening to Sam talking about the allergic reactions to frozen, thawed and re-frozen yellowtail).

Chicken, tomato, garlic, parmesan velouté, gnocchi, capers & olives (R125)


I must just say that Richard is a wizard with desserts. We started with the “fallen apple” which is a whole baby apple, cooked for such a long time that it actually falls in on itself! The skin appeared to look like batter- as it was light and sort of “fluffy”-looking. Very clever. The apple was plated with a sprinkling of cinnamon streusel which gave it a play on traditional apple pie.

“Fallen Apple” with vanilla ice cream, mousse, pecan nuts & mint (R50)

The last dessert was SO may game! A chocolate chiboust. I just love that name, Chiboust. I feel so French saying it. “chiboust. chiboust. chiboust.”

The chiboust came with ice cream and a hazelnut darquise. (Side note: Chiboust was actually the name of a 19th Century pastry chef and that’s where the pastry cream gets its name. )

Chocolate chiboust, ice cream, cremeaux, hazelnut daquise,
orange & coffee sabayon (R55)

Both desserts are paired with the Tokara Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2010 which had amazing burnt orange and toasted almond flavours.


Find a time. Pick a person. Set a date. Go!

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