Phone: (09) 377 8537
Rating out of 10: Food: 9, Service: 9, Value: 8, Ambience: 8
The old cliche says you can take the man out of his birthplace but you can't take the birthplace out of the man. Kazuya Yamauchi hails from Japan and while his food may be described as modern Pacific rim, the Japanese influence in his restaurant is all-pervasive, from the serene simplicity of the black and white decor to the elegance of the tableware, the meticulous attention to detail, the impeccable technique and the exquisite courtesy of the service.
This restaurant has accumulated a swag of awards and our dinner confirmed that they are well merited. There has been no falling-off in standard since its lauded early days and the food is a constant surprise and pleasure.
The standard was set in the amuse bouche, which preceded our choice of the signature seven-course set menu. A spoon arrived loaded with a glistening ball of jelly. In the mouth it exploded to deliver a stunning mouthful of chilled potato and truffle oil soup.
At the end of the meal, the autumn promenade dessert was presented as an image of the season of mellow fruitfulness with a facsimile of fallen leaves covering a rich array of almond semifreddo, pistachio icecream and caramelised chestnuts.
An exposition of the details of all the courses would exhaust our space on the page, as each had an abundance of grace notes. Listing them all might convey the impression that the dishes are fussy but each addition, while it may be tiny, is more than decorative and adds something to the whole.
The signature dish of more than 30 seasonal vegetables remains the outstanding showpiece of technique but it has been different every time I have had it, reflecting its seasonal nature, and the prosciutto adds flavour.
It's not all delicacy. The sesame seed roll and the bread, which might have caused palpitations in some as it heretically boasted extra gluten, were simple and robust. The accompaniment to the yellowfin tuna, however, was almost ethereal, with the merest hint of beetroot sauce and a sliver of ratatouille.
Reliving the memorable experience later we were unable to single out a favourite. The mingling of mimolette French cheese and miso broth, and a pasta tinted with aubergine skin which came with the Hokkaido scallop and prawn, were nothing short of exquisite.
The snapper was well-nigh perfect in itself and beautifully matched with a sweet clam and pumpkin puree and white gourd. The chewy black garlic with the melting duck breast and shitake mushrooms was a revelation.
As you might expect, the sequencing of the courses is carefully calculated, with a vibrant little feijoa sorbet arriving as a refresher. Although the dishes individually look small, you arrive at the end of the meal feeling more than adequately fed. In fact, I rather regretted indulging so wholeheartedly in the bread, as it meant I had to forego the optional cheese course, which is presented with such enthusiasm.
The excellent wine list receives similar treatment and all of the service is designed to flatter, soothe and add pleasure to one of Auckland's very best dining out experiences.
Our meal: $251 for two seven-course tasting menus and four glasses of wine.
Wine list: An eclectic wine list with French, United States and Italian wines alongside the dominating New Zealand varieties.
Verdict: Once you get past the less-than-lovely street setting, you enter a charmed world of elegance. It's difficult to imagine anyone leaving here not feeling pampered.