Address: 7/12 Jellicoe St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland
Phone: (09) 379 3484
Cost: We spent $206 for two
Rating out of 10: Food: 7.5 Service: 9 Value: 7.5 Ambience: 7.5

If tuna poke is this summer's snapper ceviche, will it also be next spring's byword for a celebrity drug bust?

Why Auckland Police chose to codename a cocaine sting after a raw fish salad nobody can pronounce is anybody's guess. But in case this is an ongoing trend, be advised that "poke" is said "pokay".

The Hawaiian sesame and soy-cured raw tuna combo has been lurking on the edge of the city's food scene for a while. Referenced on catering menus and blogs, it's now starring at a Wynyard Quarter restaurant.

"It's becoming a signature dish," said our waitperson, as we took our reserved seats at Kindred, recently opened near the glittery new ASB Waterfront Theatre.

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A note about that exceptional waitperson. She was friendly, efficient, happy to bring two types of wine for tasting, and genuinely horrified when we refilled our own glasses (seriously, if there is one thing I'm good at, it's pouring wine). That kind of service - especially during set-menu, pre-theatre package sittings - will be crucial to Kindred's success.

We went a la carte, in the neutral blond room with comfortable American oak chairs. The menu is contemporary bistro. That means the cheesecake is made from soaked and ground-up cashews and the bill of fare is prone to over-reassuring - free-range this, grass-fed that. I resisted the smarmy temptation to check the cows hadn't (shock!) eaten silage over winter, and tried to remember what Forest and Bird's Best Fish Guide has to say about tuna (short answer: it depends on the species). Kindred's, for the record, is sourced from Fiji and is usually yellowfin or bigeye.

Texturally, the poke was quite gelatinous, with less of a toothy "bite" than ceviche. Sesame-mellow in flavour, the $17 serve was easily big enough to share. With the notable exception of the prawns (no amount of buttery, crispy caper dressing justifies a $7-a-piece price tag), Kindred's portions are uniformly generous.

An $18 pork belly was succulent and sticky, with a pleasant lemony undertone, and though labelled as small, worked as a main. We barely made a dent in the sides - kumara fries with a delicious, lighter than usual aioli, and green beans with a palate-cleansing chimichurri ($9 and $8, respectively). I wish we'd tried the house slaw with tahini and grapefruit dressing, because Kindred appears to be at its best when it employs citrus/sour flavours.

Despite the nods to ingredients du jour (chia seed, cacao nibs, kombucha) this is not a menu to scare the horses. Chicken, lamb and steak are all present and accounted for. If you're a vegetarian, however, and you don't eat tomatoes, you're screwed. They feature raw in an $18 spiced cheese dish (which a colleague reported was good, but not that spicy) and roasted, in a quinoa and kale pesto salad ($22).

Tuna Poke with Avocado, Wakame Seaweed, Brown Rice and a Chia Cracker at Kindred. Photo / Supplied
Tuna Poke with Avocado, Wakame Seaweed, Brown Rice and a Chia Cracker at Kindred. Photo / Supplied

I had the hapuku ($33). It was perfectly just-cooked. Sadly, a pile of accompanying fennel had been braised to a flavourless shadow of its former self.

We finished with a piece of that raw cashew cheesecake. So pretty, with its lemon and blueberry layers, but ultimately they all blended into one.

Safe, but not spectacular. Cheesecake as a metaphor?