Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books


6 June 2013


Feb 2013

Sometimes, and I have to say they are exceedingly rare times, you encounter service that almost takes your breath away. In the past twelve months, I experienced two dining occasions in New Zealand where this happened. And it may well be significant that both were not your typical Kiwi experiences, nor delivered by locals.

The first was at Herzog, a stunning European-styled restaurant set amongst the vineyards and gardens of the Hans Herzog wine estate near Blenheim in the sunny but windy Marlborough region. The elegant restaurant offers a tasting menu that�s upmarket, completely delicious and perfectly pitched to match the stunning wines crafted by the owner Hans Herzog. Service was decidedly European too, and although kind of formal, the sommelier had a twinkle in his eye and that wry sense of humour. A great evening and as they say, it was �worth the detour.�

The second occasion of amazing service was totally on our doorstep, and �worth the detour� from the Ponsonby Strip, albeit just over to Symonds St. Symonds St, you say? Must be the French Café? (Actually the service is pretty exceptional there too, I must admit.) But no. It was at a small place with a totally unprepossessing street frontage in the strip of shops that extend from Newton Rd towards the Southern motorway where it crosses below Symonds St.

This occasion of amazing service was at Kazuya, and despite a couple of odd reviews, this restaurant remains one of Auckland�s better kept fine dining secrets. Owned by Japanese chef, Kazuya Yamauchi, the menu is French/European with hints of Asia, and a distinct Japanese influence is evident in every aspect of this stunning little restaurant. Kazuya only seats about 24 people, in fairly intimate spaces, and is staffed by very smart Japanese professionals, including the whizz-bang sommelier, Mojo Horiuchi. This is an oasis of style and sophistication where Mr Horiuchi adds a touch of theatre to his extensive knowledge of wine, beverage and food service. He�s gathered the best of French and local wines for an inspired and classy wine list that ups the ante on smart lists around the city.

I reckon that whatever you pay there for the meal, (more of that later) it�s worth going there to order a beer to start; just to see this clever sommelier deliver it, open it, check the clarity of the glass and the temperature, and then pour the golden liquid for you in front of your eyes with flair and panache. I guarantee you have never experienced such amazing attention to detail and style when being served a beer!

Chef Yamauchi offers three tasting menus; a simple $65 menu of five courses, the seasonal $85 menu and a degustation at $125 that must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance. I recommend choosing the seasonal menu, which kicks off with a play on Caprese salad; a delightful concoction of tomato, basil and mozzarella that�s full of textures and intrigue, signalling the care, attention and passion that is poured into every bite emerging from his kitchen.

�Textures� is the signature dish, and the large plate arrives, with more than 30 seasonal vegetables and herbs, artfully arranged and a total visual delight. If there�s anyone that tucks in immediately, they�re in the wrong place as this is like an artist�s palette produced by a chef with a superbly sensory palate. It needs serious viewing before devouring, like any good painting. Yet once started, every tiny bite is there for a reason and is not to be missed.

The menus include Cambridge duck, Wagyu beef, scallops sourced form the chef�s home town in Japan, the wonderful Cloudy Bay diamond clams, the freshest of fish and more. You could order from the á la carte menu, but you�d be crazy to do so. In the past few months I have read a couple of put-downs of dégustation menus by local chef/foodwriters who should know better. Actually, the chef in charge of any given restaurant does know best, and diners should put their appetites in the hands of the master in the kitchen. Kazuya�s menus are an example; perfectly pitched, perfectly balanced and perfectly paced. No-one could leave hungry, nor bursting, and all will have experienced a well-planned evening that includes a variety of carefully sourced and exquisitely treated food that will remain in your head for weeks.

I�m not sure if I would have appreciated my Kazuya experience so much if I hadn�t just returned from Tokyo. In Japan, in fine dining places, in sushi restaurants and even in every casual place we ate, it seemed that everything was ever so carefully and thoughtfully placed on my plate for a reason. So it is at Kazuya. From the moment I stepped in, I knew that this was as close as perfection as I could find. There�s an element of Japan about the place that will have me going back again and again.

Highly recommended for a very special and unforgettable experience.

Kazuya, 193 Symonds St, Newton T 09 377 8537 * First published Ponsonby News

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