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Feast like the gods at ‘decadent’ Ukkō restaurant

Opened at the end of last year, the restaurant in the Nicolway Bryanston centre is sleek, sophisticated and oh-so-Instagram worthy

22 June 2022 - 17:48
Sushi and cocktails are favourites on the Ukkō menu.
Sushi and cocktails are favourites on the Ukkō menu.
Image: Supplied

I reckon the Finns knew a thing or two about throwing a proper party. According to Finnish folk religion it was customary to come together and eat and drink alcoholic beverages as a sacrifice to Ukko, one of the most important Finnish deities, to ensure good weather and a good harvest for the year ahead.

As the god of thunder, he was believed to control rainfall and would use his magical weapon, the anchor-hammer like Ukonvasara, to create lightning.

I’m not sure about the folklore behind the story, but like restaurateur Mun Manal, I can understand the allure behind it. Owner and founder of Ukkō restaurant in Bryanston, Manal has been in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years.

And with this, his latest venture, he says he wanted to create a space where people come together to celebrate special moments.

Roasted bone marrow pangrattato.
Roasted bone marrow pangrattato.
Image: Supplied
Baked chocolate with a Lindt centre and vanilla ice cream.
Baked chocolate with a Lindt centre and vanilla ice cream.
Image: Supplied

Located in the Nicolway Bryanston centre, Ukkō opened towards the end of last year and has since served as an Insta-worthy backdrop, the most recent occasion being a lunch to celebrate the top 10 finalists for Miss SA.

A star of the menu is their sushi offering, which includes both Ukkō signature sushi and classic sushi. While the signature dishes are apparently wildly popular, they feature many tempura-style bites and my taste is for the fresher, classic style of sushi — something they execute with ease.

On the menu you’ll find salads, large plates and side dishes, but the food is best enjoyed as a tapas-style offering from the tapas and Mediterr-Asian raw bar sections of the menu.

I couldn’t pass up the white fish ceviche prepared with a Peruvian dressing, lime, cucumber, coriander, avocado, grilled corn and red onion. Personally, I would’ve liked more dressing — and perhaps more of a pickle on the fish — but it's fresh and one of the rare occasions to enjoy the Peruvian-inspired dish in Gauteng.

We also tried the roasted bone marrow pangrattato with toasted sourdough. It’s absolutely decadent and one plate to share is plenty.

Other winter favourites on the menu include Camembert in phyllo pastry and soulful chicken dumplings. They also have a good selection of seafood tapas and large plates, but we settled on the fresh mussels prepared in white wine, herb butter, garlic and tomato. I found the mussels to be slightly overcooked, but the sauce delectable.

The best dish by far was the baked chocolate dessert with a Lindt centre and vanilla ice cream on the side. It is skilfully balanced: decadent and rich, every bit a mouthful of luxury without being overly sweet. Paired with a coffee or frangelico from the bar, it’s every bit the perfect ending to a sleek, sophisticated feast.

The décor is a highlight for me and features light wood elements, expansive spaces, powdery blue tones, beautiful macramé wall hangings and basket-like lamp shades reminiscent of the sea and the Mediterranean.

A view of the inside seating area and bar.
A view of the inside seating area and bar.
Image: Supplied
The decor features light wood elements, expansive spaces, powdery blue tones and beautiful macramé wall hangings.
The decor features light wood elements, expansive spaces, powdery blue tones and beautiful macramé wall hangings.
Image: Supplied

The bar is a centrepiece to the décor, but it is not only beautiful; from here flow gorgeous goblets containing bright cocktails with names such as Akka (Ukko’s wife, the Finnish goddess of fertility) and Ukkonen (the Finnish word for thunder). They looked tempting enough, but it’s the wine list that won me over in Johannesburg’s cold weather.

They have an intriguing selection of go-to trusted names and a number of surprising offerings such as the Thorne and Daughters Copperpot Pinot Noir (R115 per glass), a delicate, bright wine that paired joyously with our selection of tapas.

And to celebrate those special moments, as Manal has envisioned, they also offer a selection of champagne, prosecco and local MCC — the perfect accompaniment for your own festivities to make Ukko proud.

Ukkō is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 10pm and Sunday to Monday from 11am to 9pm. Reservations are recommended and can be made via the website.

• Oberholzer was a guest of Ukkō restaurant. 

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