It’s not often that one can say one has had a spectacular meal, not just good, not just excellent, but spectacular. Just such an occasion arose last weekend in Franschhoek at the Japanese restaurant owned by Ryan Shell called Oku. The room is calm and relaxing as one would expect from a Japanese environment, without any fancy lanterns and tassels which would detract from the moment.

Calm and inviting

There are two ways to eat here, the first being a tasting menu called Kaiseki. This consists of 14 small dishes immaculately presented, each one building on the flavour of the last.

Bao bun

Obviously Japanese influences prevail, using things like duck, prawns, salmon and even pork belly to magnificent effect. If you find the idea of this somewhat daunting you can choose four or five dishes from an a la carte offering,  or eat a la carte.

Beef tataki

Either way you are in a win-win situation and will definitely be bowled over by the flavours.

Kare Udon

The dishes are all accompanied by recommended wines and the kaiseki offering has a wine pairing option available should you want it.

Salmon sashimi

The one important thing which Oku has learnt to perfection is that there are three senses involved in eating.

Lotus root

Firstly the way the plate looks when it arrives at the table, secondly the magnificent aromas which greet the nostrils, and thirdly, of course, what happens in the mouth when you start to eat.

Japanese cheesecake

There are some magnificent sake wines to be had, as well as superb wines from this famous wine making area. The staff is more than knowledgeable, extremely friendly and professional– I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Oyster Oku style


As can be expected, this is not a fast-food establishment and lunch took us more than three hours, but they were some of the best hours I have ever spent in a restaurant. Google the menu for yourself, get onto their website, decide how you would like to eat, make a booking and get there– you will love it.

Pork belly like you’ve never had it