Kazuya (Auckland)

193 Symonds St, Eden Terrace, ph: 09-377 8537

by Michael Hooper | Cuisine issue #155 | Wednesday, 28 November, 2012
RATING:
It is one thing to be impressed by food; another to be salved and restored by the spirit and gentle engagement of a cohesive, empathetic restaurant experience. Kazuya can deliver this with humility and delicacy.Dropped unobtrusively into the CBD fringe among Indian takeaways, a cobbler and a wedding dress shop, Kazuya’s exterior reveals little. Inside, the softly lit dark wood, frosted glass screens and high ceiling create a quietly theatrical dimension – a recessive canvas lifted by jade-toned, spotlit artworks by Naomi Nakama.

Auckland has been blessed with a reinvigoration of “new style” Japanese cuisine, but chef Kazuya Yamauchi offers fusion through the looking glass, presenting a short, ostensibly European menu in a kimono. There’s a choice of just four main courses: duck, lamb, fish and Wakanui beef, served in the Japanese style. The menu is perhaps a little too short, but as this is just a 23-seater restaurant and freshness is implicit, the equation is clear: more options could compromise quality.

We chose to start with a selection from the Bluff oyster menu, of which the star was the 20-second poached, chilled oyster with a yuzu jelly (although a filmy prosciutto-wrapped version came a close second). On a second visit, oysters were unavailable, but Yamauchi appeared with an apology in the form of a foamy, soft-poached New Caledonian “paradise” prawn cocktail with yuzu jelly. It was impressive that the sommelier, Mojo Horiuchi, could provide every detail of the dish.

Over the two visits I enjoyed “colour of New Zealand”, an aesthetically arranged mini salad, and “texture” – a vegetable theme park of 30 varieties with smears of puree and wisps of prosciutto, black olive powder and colourful confettis. An element of Kabuki materialised with the confit of Aoraki smoked salmon, which came in a tumbler capped by a dish of golden-fried polenta, garnished with salmon skin. On lifting the dish, Aladdin-like wisps of perfumed smoke arose.

Two large Hokkaido scallops were undercooked to perfection, with bulghur wheat and a cloak of buttery, airy kina and cauliflower mousse conveying a perfectly judged presence of urchin, which can so easily be overpowering.

Fish on both occasions was perfectly cooked, on the knife-edge of translucent to opaque, using less common varieties such as trevally and moist alfonsino with crispy-spiced skin, and with interesting accompaniments such as a shawl of crispy burdoch root, and a kosho (chilli) and yuzu mayonnaise. Duck breast also demonstrated skill – roasted rare but with a perfectly crisped skin.

A small dessert selection included freeze-dried mandarin segments adding a blast of flavour to a ricotta mousse; and a smooth ice-cream that cleverly evoked the flavour of puff pastry, its richness foiled by crisp apple slices.

Horiuchi’s passion for French wines, off-stage New Zealand wineries and sake easily engaged us. With 16 wines by the glass, along with novelties such as a sparkling roussanne-viognier, and house Champagnes from Billecarte-Salmon, the wine list is at once intelligent and intriguing.

Kazuya is a box of wonderful contrasts: respectful intimacy, hushed enthusiasm and professional warmth. The team seems like a family, all of whom delight in revealing the mastery of their chef’s creations.

Kazuya
193 Symonds St, Eden Terrace,
ph: 09-377 8537, kazuya.co.nz
Lunch Thurs-Fri, dinner Tues-Sat
Mains $35-$40

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