The redevelopment of the corner block down at the bottom of Anzac Avenue has tidied up what used to be one of the less pleasant parts of the CBD. A widened footpath, new palm trees and a building redevelopment has poshed up the street side and the area seems to have been given a new lease on life, the little eateries there - including a curry takeaway and raamen bar - see more traffic than before. We were here to try Japa Deli, one of the new entrants to the block, which had been recommended by a friend.
The shopfront and indeed the interior is stylishly decorated with warm woods, soft lights and brick walls contrasting the shiny espresso machine and cafe counter. The restaurant interior was much the same, with polished floors and dark wood tables with beautiful flowers and candles. Though it was 8 o'clock on a Thursday evening, the place was still half full - mostly couples. Soft jazz, pop and cafe beats played in the background. It seems Momo Interior Design company did a great job laying this place out for an inviting and casual atmosphere.
The Cake Cabinet.
Though it's pretty late and near the end of the day, there are still sweets left in the glass display at the front. I spy coffee jelly (!!!), baked cheesecake, strawberry cream sponge cake and cream puffs. The cakes are looking a little sad from sitting in the cabinet all day. I hope they nom these overnight and don't leave them there for tomorrow's customers, but I'm sure with their 'A' grade hygiene rating they wouldn't even contemplate such a thing! I'd love to come back and try some of these during the day time - there are special combo deals for coffee + cake or even coffee + hotdog displayed on the cafe menu.
Salmon Hand Roll.
I was pleasantly surprised to see hand rolls on the menu (here called "corn rolls" what?) as you don't often see these in sushi shops in Auckland. I chose the salmon roll ($4), which was quite plain, consisting of a baton of salmon and one slice of avocado, that tried and true combination. The salmon was passable, and the avocado in prime condition - ripe, creamy and flavoursome. The rice, though, was a little stodgy, and the seaweed soft, as opposed to crispy as fresh nori should be, making the whole ensemble clumpy and sticky in the mouth.
Tempura Prawn Roll.
The prawn in this roll was actually panko crumbed as opposed to tempura battered, and reminiscent of the frozen type. However, it was large, and with the lettuce and mayo to complement, was not half bad. Unfortunately, the same story with the rice and nori was repeated here, letting it down.
These fried buckwheat noodles were served steaming and sizzling on a hot plate. The smells wafting from it were so tempting! Pieces of glistening fried pork belly lent a richness that was offset by the tiny sour pieces of pickled ginger. I can't really say much more about this dish - it was so simple yet deeply satisfying and really brought back memories of streetside stalls in Japan.
Prawn and Pork Okonomiyaki.
Again, I was surprised to see this on the menu as its not something I've eaten in Auckland before. Okonomiyaki is a traditional Osaka dish somewhat like a savoury pancake. Okonomi means "what you like" and "yaki" means grilled or fried, but traditional fillings include cabbage, octopus, prawns and pork. The pancake is then topped with mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce (like a sweet thick worcestershire sauce) seaweed bonito flakes. This one was filled with small prawns and slices of fried belly pork mmm!! The flavours and textures here were deemed delicious by all. I thought it could have been crispier and the batter was a bit floury in places, but as it's the only place I can get this right now, I can't complain too much.
I'm a sucker for anything deepfried and so order the karaage chicken set meal which comes with a dish of perfectly golden fried chicken pieces, a small salad, rice and miso soup. The chicken was tender and juicy, it could have been a little crunchier. The relatively tasteless batter was helped by two sauces - natto (fermented soybean paste) and sweet soya sauce. Overall, not bad though.
J had the teriyaki chicken set and again the chicken pieces were very juicy. There seems to be a myriad of ways to cook teriyaki chicken - this one was simply wok-fried bite-sized pieces of chicken doused in sauce. The sauce was great - sweet but with enough of a salty kick to make it very moreish. A sprinkling of sesame seeds and spring onions added great texture, along with the dollop of creamy mayonnaise for dipping.
This thick, rich curry was delicately sweet in the Japanese style - but also with a deep complex taste of tumeric and cumin. A pleasant surprise was that, in addition to the standard potatoes and onions, the curry was also chock full of soft stewed pork, falling apart from extended simmering. I didn't try the katsu but it looked great - very crispy and golden! Highly recommend this curry!
This small placard on the table enticed us with its Engrishy declaration: "Moisturize your stressed heart as well!" And really, who isn't in need of a good heart-moisturizing?!
We were instructed to shake the tiny can ($10) thoroughly before opening, which we did with caution - it looked like a soda! Instead, what came out was a fizzy, peach-flavoured sake jelly! The texture is hard to describe - its something like a not-quite-set jelly, or one that has been made with a higher water ratio - neither solid nor liquid and perfect for drinking! The fizz made it taste like champagne, and the peach flavours rounded off to a light summery finish on the tongue!
Though the menu was not long, I will definitely be back here to try what we missed. Pleasant service, a range of authentic Japanese dishes - and not to mention the great company - made for a relaxing evening out.
Value for Money: 7/10
1-5 Anzac Ave
+64 9 303 3924
Value for Money: 7/10
1-5 Anzac Ave
+64 9 303 3924