Phone: (09) 300 5097
We spent: $59.30 for two
Rating: 16 — Great
They make it sound like an afterthought. An optional extra. But the sushi at &Sushi is no postscript.
"It's like being in a Christmas shop," said the man in the queue in front of us.
He was talking about the exquisitely beautiful piles of exquisitely tasty food that had caused a human traffic jam all the way back to the asphalt entranceway.
Top tip: If you want to guarantee a table, go early.
&Sushi currently operates in Newmarket and the City Works Depot. We went to the latter for lunch but ate like it was dinner (they're open in the evenings, Thursday to Saturday).
It's a wooden stools and shared tables affair, with as many bags of Uber Eats pick-ups waiting for collection as there were office workers streaming in for take-outs in eco-friendly cardboard boxes.
Go for the sushi but stay for everything else. Larger dishes include udon and soba salads ($16-$18), donburi ($15-$17) and yakisoba ($15-$17).
I wasn't sure what to expect from the "something different" section of the menu, but seaweed as the new corn tortilla was an absolute delight. The salmon and avo taco ($20) arrived as a gleaming pile of cubed raw fish and perfectly pale green avocado on top of plump sushi rice. A smear of spicy gochujang added interest without overwhelming and I'm completely sold on thick, crisp nori sheets as a taco shell. It was sushi, but not as we had already had it.
I defy anyone to resist those display counters. At this lolly counter for grown-ups, we pick-and-mixed sushi rolls ($1.50-$2), inari boats ($3), nigari ($2-$3) and — my personal favourite — cucumber boats ($2.50-$3).
Let's talk about those thin, crunchy strips of summer rolled around gummy rice and flaky, creamy spoonfuls of crayfish. If I was getting married in spring with cherry blossom confetti in my hair and a glass of Champagne in one hand, this is definitely what I would want in the other. If the best crayfish I've ever eaten came wrapped in newspaper on a beach near Kaikoura, I did not expect the second best to come wrapped in cucumber at a petite eatery that faces a car park around the side of the City Works Depot.
There were, in fact, no real duds in our sushi selection. They do delicious things with enoki mushrooms and black rice, a barely seared slice of beef was mouth-wateringly tender and the work of art that was oyster mushrooms and five fingernail-sized tiles of avocado was that culinary cliche: practically too pretty to eat.
While I'm almost certain strawberry sushi shouldn't be a thing, if it's yours, they have it.
Purists will probably baulk at the bulgogi beef, cream cheese sauces and sriracha mayo, but I don't mind fusion if the flavour works.
Wash it all down with a big cup of organic green tea ($3). They're not licensed, but the water is Antipodes, the soda is Six Barrel and there's an "assortment" of kombucha. The soy comes in an eye dropper-stoppered bottle and the staff are serene and super-patient — the only person getting stressed is the person waiting behind you.
We were stuffed, but we had also ordered the yakisoba. Stir-fry, only better. Think springy buckwheat noodles, liberal use of vege (savoy cabbage, bean sprouts, mushrooms, et al) and a sweet-savoury-marmitey sauce. Go for lunch, come back for dinner.