Auckland Restaurant Review: Remuera’s Japanese Spot Wakuwaku Is Bigger, Sharper & An Absolute Must-Book

By Jesse Mulligan
Japanese restaurant Wakuwaku has a stunning array of sashimi, snacks and katsu pork. Photo / Babiche Martens


Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 1D/415 Remuera Rd, Remuera

Phone: (09) 520 0243

Drinks: Fully licensed

Reservations: Accepted

From the menu: Taste of Wakuwaku, $75

Rating: 18/20

Score: 0-7 Steer clear. 8-12 Disappointing, give it a miss. 13-15 Good, give it a go. 16-18 Great, plan a

If you haven’t been to Remuera’s “Village Green” complex for a while I really recommend it, even if you haven’t quite worked out which one of their excellent restaurants you’re going to eat at before you get there. Wandering around in the early evening sunshine browsing menus is part of the fun, and it’ll also allow you to get a feel for each place before you commit.

We had our eye on the new steakhouse that has just been opened by the lovely Spiga people but, like Spiga it was full with pre-Christmas carousal and although the courtyard is open for walk-ins, I got a bit of a “smokers’ corner” vibe from it and repaired instead to the new wing of Wakuwaku, a restaurant I reviewed 18 months ago when it was a smaller space, describing the experience as “jaw-droppingly delicious”.

Well, nothing has changed on that front but the restaurant itself has improved markedly by stretching into the large new dining room across the alleyway.

Wakuwaku’s new glass-walled dining pavilion is delineated by floor-length black curtains. Photo / Babiche Martens
Wakuwaku’s new glass-walled dining pavilion is delineated by floor-length black curtains. Photo / Babiche Martens

They still do the cooking in the original room (it’s also the best spot for groups), which is dark and kitchen-dominated, but the new space feels like more fun. And although there’s a bit of late-day sunstrike, which is intensified by a large mirror (the guy pulling the curtain across could barely keep up with the variously angled death rays he was charged with masking), natural light is a great match for the Japanese aesthetic — as in the country itself, everything here is beautiful and deliberately chosen, from the cutlery to the foliage.

The only food prep done in the new room is at a sashimi counter, where a knife master stands at attention, looking comfortable and assured even when he’s doing nothing. From time to time somebody hands him an order and he goes to work, picking up a precisely cut fillet of fish and exacting an even more precise slice.

You can either sit at the counter and watch his artistry, as we did, or choose a table away from the action, and either is good. He was cutting tuna, salmon, Dory, snapper and kingfish on the night we visited, and eating a plate of it fresh off the knife is a super way to begin your meal.

A glass of sparkling saké seemed a great idea too (the wine list has loads of treats like this and you should take the opportunity to explore something different), so I ordered one and the waiter said, “You had that last time”. He didn’t say it in a reproachful way, just as an observation, and I mention it because a guy remembering what drink you ordered in July 2022 is a pretty good indication that the people employed to look after you really care about that job.

The saké was hazy, interesting and delicious and from there you could pick the albarino and stick with it or do what we did and order a cold Asahi to match the hot stuff to come (the Japanese chardonnay looked cool too, though I wasn’t up for $34 a glass).

The six-entree platter on the menu at Japanese restaurant Wakuwaku in Remuera. Photo / Babiche Martens
The six-entree platter on the menu at Japanese restaurant Wakuwaku in Remuera. Photo / Babiche Martens

Wakuwaku has an extremely good-value set menu and I have to wonder why you’d go any other way. For the price of an entree plus main in any other high-end restauraunt you get a bowl of edamame and a pastry shell salmon tartare snack, then some of Auckland’s best sashimi, then a plated montage of six different excellent entrees followed by the main course of your choice (and it’s very hard to choose).

The meal is finished with a cup of vanilla-scented tea and mango sorbet with chocolate wafer and deep-fried pancake crumb. For $75!

Highlights from that plate of entrees included a compressed cucumber salad and an oyster mushroom tempura with dark mushroom and butter puree. Five of the six dishes were pescatarian-friendly but the duck tempura might have been my favourite — like posh chicken drumsticks with a mayonnaise (like last time there were a lot of mayos, with a few subtle variances between them).

Wakuwaku’s tonkatsu with karashi Japanese mustard and parmesan creme fraiche. Photo / Babiche Martens
Wakuwaku’s tonkatsu with karashi Japanese mustard and parmesan creme fraiche. Photo / Babiche Martens

I had tonkatsu for my main — fancier than the classic Tokyo pork cutlet but the protein was mostly the same, pre-sliced with a sesame sauce (they offered rice but for once I saw sense and declined with thanks) and two condiments, a very spicy karashi Japanese mustard and a lovely sort of parmesan creme fraiche.

The cabbage usually comes raw with katsu but this cooked-down savoy cabbage was a lovely bistro twist on that, making it feel more like Remuera and less like the back streets of Shinjuku.

My dining partner’s snapper was hot and juicy — served with a saké lees so fermented and funky it almost hit like blue cheese.

It’s no doubt a reflection of my peer group but it feels like everybody I know has been skiing in Japan over summer. When they come back, penniless but smitten with that beautiful country, an evening at Wakuwaku will be the perfect way to recapture some of that holiday travel magic.

From dining out editor Jesse Mulligan.

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