FOODSTUFF: Richard Carstens finds a culinary home at Tokara

I’ve heard whispers, but as of Friday 30 July the news is official: chef Richard Carstens will run the kitchen of Tokara restaurant at the crest of the Helshoogte Pass, when it reopens in October. Current chef Etienne Bonthuis is retreating into Stellenbosch to start his own Dorp Street venture.

Tokara restaurant will be managed by Wilhelm Kühn, co-owner of Jardine Restaurant in Cape Town (the Bree Street restaurant is dispatching a team to provide hands-on operations).

Carstens made his name at Lynton Hall south of Durban, and was excited to set up a signature restaurant called Nova in Cape Town CBD. Unfortunately investors pulled the plug. Earlier in 2010, Carstens was involved in experimental recipe development at Roots at Homini restaurant outside Johannesburg. He’s been consulting to Chez d’Or in Franschhoek’s Huguenot Street on a temporary basis.

At Tokara Carstens promises “not too much molecular focus” as the restaurant will serve “terroir-focused contemporary cuisine” in an a la carte menu where each plate of food offers the diner a sense of the natural environment and location, while mindful of seasonal ingredients. The tasting menu will be for “more playful stuff”.

Although décor in the glass and steel space shouldn’t change dramatically, a new feature will include a bar in the foyer offering drinks with views of vineyards and valley, or of kitchen action alternatively.

The restaurant will serve lunch from Tuesday to Sunday, dinner from Tuesday to Saturday.