Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

New Auckland restaurant takes top prize

Recently opened Japanese eatery impresses judges as 'sophisticated yet informal'.

Nic Watt's Japanese eatery Masu has won the 2014 Restaurant of the Year. Photo / Michael Bradley
Nic Watt's Japanese eatery Masu has won the 2014 Restaurant of the Year. Photo / Michael Bradley

In just six months, Japanese eatery Masu by Nic Watt has outshone local competitors to be served the supreme award in the 2014 Restaurant of the Year Awards.

Watt beat competition stalwarts to receive top honours at a ceremony at Shed 10 on Queen's Wharf last night, where Masu also took out the Best New Restaurant and Best Smart Dining categories in the Metro awards.

He told the Herald he strived to deliver exquisite food in a casual atmosphere, a concerted bid to depart from formal dining.

"I wanted to bring back a casual informal atmospheric dining scene where people come to the restaurant and have exquisite food and knowledgeable service but in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.

"When they leave they can say they have had amazing food and amazing service but they have also had a good night with a lot of fun and laughter."

Masu opened in Sky City's Federal St dining precinct upon Watt's return from offshore. He spent eight years with the Roka group, a family of robatayaki-style (where food is barbecued on skewers) restaurants in London, Hong Kong, Macau and Arizona.

Support of clientele had been overwhelming, he said.

"It's enormous. It's a new team and a young team and such a new restaurant so we're pretty happy that the public is behind us and we are able to get there, it's fantastic."

Metro editor and judge Simon Wilson said Masu was a "most impressive" addition to Auckland's restaurant scene.

"It's sophisticated and yet informal," he said.

"The food is magnificent but the atmosphere is lively. And we really love the Japanese menu.

"These are the things Aucklanders are embracing when we go out to eat. We want to have a really good time and we want to do that without sacrificing anything in standards of food and service."

Watt also ticked all the boxes of what judges have identified as up-and-coming trends in the local dining scene, with judges noting four new styles emerging from the city's highest calibre establishments.

The casualisation of dining, a move toward shared plates, top Kiwi chefs from around the world and the loss of traditional meal times were all named as new dining habits.

Masu beat out runners-up The Engine Room in Northcote Point and Ponsonby fine-dining restaurant Sidart, with last year's supreme winner The French Cafe taking the Best Service category.

A team of nine judges decided this year's awards, but public votes named Gatlin Avery of Depot as Restaurant Personality of the Year.

Photo: Masu wins Restaurant of the Year

2014 Metro Restaurant of the Year Awards

SUPREME WINNER
Masu
Co-runner ups: The Engine Room and Sidart

BEST FINE DINING
Sidart
Runner up: The Grove

BEST UPMARKET BISTRO
The Engine Room
Runner up: Baduzzi

BEST SMART DINING
Masu
Runner up: Clooney

BEST CASUAL BISTRO
Orphans Kitchen
Runner up: Coco's Cantina

RESTAURATEUR OF THE YEAR
Michael Dearth, The Grove/Baduzzi

BEST DEGUSTATION
Clooney
Runner up: Kazuya

BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Masu

BEST CHEF
Sid Sahrawat, Sidart
Finalists: Makoto Tokuyama (Cocoro), Nic Watt (Masu), Ben Bayly (The Grove / Baduzzi), Des Harris (Clooney), Michael Meredith (Merediths), Kazuya Yamauchi (Kazuya).

BEST NEW TALENT
Tom Hishon and Josh Helm, Orphans Kitchen

BEST SERVICE
The French Café
Finalists: The Engine Room, Sidart, Clooney, Kazuya and Coco's Cantina

BEST RENEWAL
Cazador
Runner up: The Engine Room

BEST RURAL
The Shed, Te Motu
Runner up: Bracu

BEST VALUE FOR MONEY
Ima and The Refreshment Room (joint winners)

BEST DRINKS LIST
Cocoro
Finalists: Andiamo, Clooney, Masu and O'Connell St Bistro

BEST MID-SIZE DRINKS LIST
Ponsonby Road Bistro
Finalists: Baduzzi and Moochowchow

BEST SHORT DRINKS LIST
Eight.Two
Finalists: Merediths and Stafford Rd Wine Bar

PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR
Gatlin Avery (Depot).

nzherald.co.nz

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