Monday, May 27, 2024
HomeDiningRestaurant review: the almost flawless 'Ukko Experience'

Restaurant review: the almost flawless ‘Ukko Experience’

Exceptional dining goes beyond serving quality food; it's one that creates a special connection with your patrons, making them feel valued and cared for. In this review, we unpack what we proudly call the 'Ukko Experience', a memorable dining experience which makes the famed Northern Johannesburg eatery in Bryanston a one of its kind.

When one hears the words ‘fine dining’, the first thing that comes to mind is often fancy restaurant dishes hard to pronounce at a price even harder to swallow. However, we seldom think of the actual wholesome dinning experience that comes with your chosen meal.

In this review, we unpack what we proudly call the almost flawless ‘Ukko Experience’. I can hear some of you now asking “what is ‘Ukko Experience?'”

Well, the extremely satisfying ‘Ukko Experience’ starts with the eyes. The moment you walk through the door of the MediterrAsian eatery – called Ukkō – in Nicoway (officially renamed the Winifred Mandela Precinct early April 2024) in Bryanston, you’re immediately greeted by the striking Mediterranean inspired design and colours; studio blue-green couches, nettle gold roof fixtures. As well are pure whites in the mix. Before you take your seat, unfailingly courteous member of the staff will assist you in finding your desired table.

In fine dinning, staff is rigorously trained to pay attention to what is happening in your table so you never have to spend your time flagging down your waiter. That was a big part about the ‘Ukko Experience’; the waiter’s ability to anticipate the needs of diners. Small details such as the waiter noticing your glass of water needs to refilled, and doing so as you gulp down the last sip. It makes one feel like the only guest in the establishment. That’s exactly how we felt the entire 2 and half hours we were there. My partner in crime, NOWinSA editor Tankiso Komane couldn’t stop gushing about our attentive and personable waiter Lefa, who was always willing to listen and politely answer probing questions about the menu and extensive wine list (though we eventually settled for a vodka cocktail and a glass of crisp refreshing Prosecco) – and he even obliged to our humble request to speak and interview the manager after our meal.

Spoilt for choice: a variety of dishes we settled for were of top quality and scrumptious, including this complimentary typical JapaneseTempura prawns.

Let’s get onto the menu. While patrons here are no doubt spoilt for choice with an extensive menu, and we couldn’t as well try everything of offer, we can tell you the variety of dishes we settled for were of top quality and absolutely scrumptious. So here is what we ordered:

Meditter-Asian Raw Bar: Signature Ukkō Prawn cocktail (R140), a lovely starter comprised of chilled prawns, avocado, spicy tomato radish and cucumber.

Tapas; marinated chickpea and celery with shaved percorino, olive oil and lemon (R60).

For our main servings, we chose the Beef Riblet (R110) and Baby Chicken (spatchcock chicken grilled with olive oil and peri-peri and cut into pieces) priced at R195.

The Ukkō Experience: food review

Starter & main dishes

One thing you will immediately notice is fresh crispy greens. Ukkō prides itself on same day fresh produce, meaning everything you see on your plate is fresh from the farm, the knowledgeable and good-natured restaurant manager Elijah Marumo cheerfully tells us – and is served within 24 to 48 hours.


The Prawn cocktail and the vegan-friendly Chickpeas-Celery salad were fresh and spicy; using ingredients such as radish and onion in the dishes respectively gave the prawns a good kicker and a healthy balance of freshness and desired spiciness. The prawns were neither over or under cooked, however shockingly enough were outshined by the various leafy crispy greens on our plates which were bursting with nutritious ingredients and delicious flavours.

Fresh off the farm: the Crispy Prawn cocktail and Chickpea dish offered a healthy balance of freshness and desired spiciness.

Main dishes

Beef Riblets; tender and juicy, one often measures the preparation of ribs by how much is left on the bone. Nobody wants to get their teeth involved in mortal combat trying to eat ribs. Now granted, Ukkō’s riblets did not fall off the bone, however they offered little resistance coming off the bone. One thing you will appreciate the most is the natural flavour that prevails. Most restaurants drown their ribs in spices and marinade so you taste more of the artificial flavors than the natural meet flavors. Not at Ukko. The kitchen staff are more dependent on their skills than they are on their ingredients.

Irresistible: granted, Ukkō ribs did not fall off the bone, however they offered little resistance coming off the bone.

The highlight for us however was the juicy and flavourful Baby Chicken. Well seasoned exterior, the lemon lingers in the background like adlibs of a song. No pinkess inside the chicken. Flame grilled but not burnt with the right kind of crispy.


Tiramisu; my only gripe with the dessert is that perhaps I’m getting too old and my taste buds can’t handle sweetness like they used to. Likewise, the Tiramisu was supposed to be on the lower end of sweetness, however still came across as way too sweet. However, it was very smooth and creamy without being overly soggy.
The skill it takes to find that balance is hard to come by, but perhaps it’s why you should be making your reservations right now.

Only for those with a sweet tooth: this luxuriously smooth textured Tiramisu will have been even better without being so sugary.

However, my suggestion would be to rather go for Sorbet, which light and often has the right natural amount of sweetness for aging taste buds like mine.


Beverage and alcoholic product reviews is our spillion at NOWinSA. Likewise, the cocktails – or at least my choice of Vodka, the velvety Aether martini – are well balanced, with great use of herbs. Warning; they do pack a punch so drink moderately or Uber home.

This review may somewhat feel biased because there isn’t much wrong with the most of the dishes we sampled at Ukkō. The exquisite and artfully presented dishes are perfectly complimented by the impeccable dining service and personalised approach. With all that, not to mention the unmistakable elegant ambiance, it makes it ever harder to find fault with either the restaurant or the tasteful meal choices you really enjoy sampling. With that said, here goes our rating:

Ukko Prawn Cocktail: 7/10
Marinated Chickpea & Celery salad: 10/10
Beef Riblets 8/10
Flame Grilled Baby Chicken: 9/10
Tiramisu: 7.5/10
Drinks: 9/10

Final thoughts

In a tough economy such as today’s, we often think that fine dining experience is priced out of our budget and that may be the case for some South Africans. However planning is important if you’re contemplating a special date night with your better half or a get together with long lost friends. With planning and a good budget, you’ll be amazed that a great, memorable dining experience like this cost you no more than R1 000.

And if you can afford it, stop what you are doing right now, go to the Ukkō website make that booking today and tell them NOWinSA sent you.

Temoso Mokoena
Temoso Mokoena
Temoso Mokoena is a tech and sneaker enthusiast who likes to stay neutral in all things.
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