At its best, the New Zealand style of restaurant service, casual and approachable but efficient, can be very appealing. But there are times when a more formal mode suits the mood. Few achieve this sense of order better than the Japanese and at Kazuya, one of Auckland's newer venues, the sophistication of the service fits the rest of the evening's offering like a well-tailored suit.
Kazuya is not, in fact, a Japanese restaurant. Under the helm of Kazuya Yamauchi, formerly of Rice and Cibo, its cuisine is what I think of as Western art food. But the Japanese influence remains the distinguishing note.
The decor, dominated by black and white, has that characteristic cool minimalism and the trimmings are restrained and delicate. The chopstick rests that came with one course were little floral ceramic gems. The napkin rings are of burnished steel and some of the plates were even more eye-catching than the food on them. And the food is true quality.
Kazuya offers a small a la carte menu, a degustation menu that must be ordered in advance, a five-course seasonal menu and a seven-course job at the reasonable price of $85 a head.
We opted for this latter with a little trepidation at not being particularly hungry, but it was a decision we did not regret. My companion was not a meat eater and required a couple of substitutions but this presented no problem.
It would be both too long for the space allowed for this review and definitely too boring to provide a full description of every course. But there was nothing that disappointed and much that impressed. Rarely was the "how did they do that?" question replaced by the "why on earth did they do that?" which can happen at the more rarefied levels of the culinary art school.
The salmon confit was magical, with the lid of the dish being opened at the last minute to allow the perfumed smoke to escape. My fondness for New Zealand scallops has been celebrated often in these pages but here the Hokkaido scallop was a revelation, seared but not caramelised and sashimi-like in texture with a subtlety of flavour underscored by the crispy risotto. In one dish, the dreaded brussels sprout came hollowed out and filled with a miso emulsion.
The 30-vegetable dish, in my case enhanced by prosciutto, was a masterpiece of technique and selection, each element handled with surgical precision.
What could be considered my main course, the Wakanui beef, looked uncooked but was, in fact, slowly roasted. It was not as meltingly tender as I had expected but had a superb flavour.
The dessert was a deconstructed tarte tatin, in which one constituent was a remarkable pastry icecream - I'm not sure it improved on the original "real" version but it was certainly a talking point for some time.
There is also a cheese board, the quality of which was a standing rebuke to those other places that care little for either the selection or maintenance of this meal option. The details of the cheeses and the descriptions of the other courses as they arrived showed that all the staff had a thorough understanding of what they were serving.
The website, which is one of the more charmingly worded examples of the genre, talks of their hopes that you will "leave our restaurant with a big smile at the end, just like when you leave a theatre after a great movie".
I'm not sure about that comparison but when we left, warmly ushered on our way by the staff, we had enjoyed a memorable evening.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $232 for two seven-course tasting menus, four glasses of wine and a cheese selection.
Our wine: A beautifully presented list and not over-priced. Our wines by the glass were a sound Kerpen riesling 2009 and a smooth Howard Park Miamup Margaret River cabernet sauvignon.
Verdict: Elegance and style in food and service combined with a warm welcome.