Every so often, I crave Japanese food. Not for the healthy aspect, as all I seem to order are deep-fried and mayonnaise laden foods. I’m sure my appreciation for Japanese food may be the polar opposite of what the cuisine actually represents.
My favourite way of eating Japanese food is izakaya-style, in a cosy setting with tapas-sized servings of morsels of marinated meats or vegetables. Nishiki calls itself a ‘Robata-yaki bar’, which means an open grill where customers can sit around, though this technicality is lost in translation.
Nishiki has two branches in Auckland, in Freemans Bay (100 Wellington Street, Ph: 09-3767104) and in Botany (3/298 Torrens Road, Ph: 09-271 4428). Menus at the two branches differs slightly. Only the Botany branch is open for lunch, and they don’t take bookings.
The first thing that crosses your mind when you get the menus is ‘where to start?’ There are the usual categories of sushi, tempura, noodles, skewered grilled meats, etc and then add on the combinations or ‘sets’, and to top it off, there is the lunch special menu. The way to deal with this is to start with one category and keep going.
I’m a huge fan of unagi (grilled eel), I would love to learn how the Japanese cook eel to make it so sweet and soft, but still slightly crispy on the outside. We got the Mini Una Don set, which comes with cubes of unagi, atop a mound of juilienned omelette on rice with a small serving of udon in a soy based soup ($10). The Chicken Teriyaki set comes with a choice of rice and miso ($10) or rice, mini udon/soda and pickles for ($12)
We also had the Dragon roll, a delicious modern sushi interpretation with eel and teriyaki sauce rolled with fish shavings and decorated with stripes of mayonnaise ($8).
We ordered a couple of dishes from the Botany lunch special menu. The Rainbow set ($17) comes with a plethora of tastes: agedashi tofu, salmon and avocado roll, tempura chicken and prawn and miso soup. This was quite ordinary, but is a good choice for the indecisive ones amongst us.
We loved the Cha-Su Sandwich ($7); fatty slices of pork belly marinated in cha-siu sauce and served in a mantou (steamed chinese bun).
The Gyu-Tataki ($8.50) went down well, – lightly grilled beef slices served in a garlicky soy sauce. The Ika-Ring ($7) was somewhat dull, – deep-fried crumbed squid rings served with Worcester sauce.
The Tori Karaage ($7) is one of my go-to snack dishes. Who doesn’t like deep-fried chicken morsels, with their slightly salty crunchy outer giving way to succulent meat.
Nishiki is not a cheap way to eat, as the dishes do pile up, but it’s a fun way to indulge.
Nishiki Freemans Bay
Tues – Sun: 6 – 11pm (kitchen closes at 10pm)
Tues – Sun: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 6 – 10pm (kitchen closes at 9:30pm)