If we could pick any destination to go on a foodie exploration, Japan would undoubtedly be a top candidate. From sashimi and tempura to warm bowls of ramen and miso, Japanese food is some of the best in the world. Although frequent flights to Japan aren’t exactly possible, we can make the most of Auckland’s wide range of Japanese restaurants and dessert parlours. With many options to choose from, deciding where to eat can be an absolute mission. To make it a tad easier, here are our must-try Japanese spots.
Ramen Takara Japanese Noodle House
With over 40 years of history, you can trust that Ramen Takara will provide an authentic flavourful dish. As nearly every item is under $20, it comes as no surprise that they’ve received praise for years. By having two locations in both Browns and Ponsonby, as well as options to dine in or takeaway, their delicious food can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere.
Attention all matcha lovers, you’re going to want to add TSUJIRI to your list. Known for their fantastic matcha tea and matcha-infused treats, this spot is the perfect mid-day pick me up or evening dessert. From soft serve to parfait to shaved ice, your taste buds will certainly be satisfied.
Switch up your usual six-pack of St Pierre’s chicken teriyaki with a trip to &SUSHI. The modern vibe, precise presentation, and epic flavours make for a great Japanese lunch. Their delicious menu consists of donburi, soba, ramen, protein salads and yakisoba (stir-fry).
Hidden down the cosy Snickle Lane of downtown Auckland, Mad Samurai combines their speciality wagyu beef dishes with laid back shared plates. The meals are packed with flavour and can be washed down with delicious soba or green tea.
Haru No Yume
The only thing better than going to a Japanese restaurant is going to one that has an all-you-can-eat buffet. Every Friday and Saturday night at Haru No Yume, customers can enjoy unlimited sushi, sashimi, vegetables and more. While the buffet is exclusive to these two evenings, the regular menu is just as good with options such as poke bowls, noodles, and bento boxes.
Japanese Sashimi Bar Ajimi
With a Japanese sake (rice wine) list as long as their food menu, an outing to Ajimi is the perfect spot to fill your belly and catch up with friends. It can get pretty packed on the weekends, so if you’re a big group, it’s best to make a booking.
MASU by Nic Watt
For those special occasions, Sky City’s MASU Restaurant takes Japanese food to the next level with an elegant dining twist. The place is always packed with energetic customers enjoying incredible food such as crispy fried squid, prawn tempura, and wagyu beef. The drinks menu is just as unbelievable, with a cocktail list so long that they’ve separated it into sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (savoury).
Gion Japanese Restaurant
Run by Japanese trained sushi head chef Akria Kugue, you can expect to taste some top-notch food at Gion. The menu varies depending on seasonal availability of produce, (ensuring the freshest and highest quality ingredients are served) but all year round they've got the vege-eaters covered with an entire menu dedicated to vegetarian dishes.
A night spent at Ebisu will most certainly be one to remember. The lively energy, soft lighting and contemporary vibe is the perfect spot for a celebratory dinner or date night. Their food ranges anywhere from truffle beef rolls, edamame, chicken karaage, miso eggplant, to seared duck breast. Their high-quality meals do come with a higher price tag, but it’s so worth it!
Heizo Teppanyaki Restaurant
With it’s simple yet cosy interior, and tasty menu, Heizo is a superb spot to devour a plate or four of authentic Japanese dishes. Whether you’re in the mood for salmon, wagyu beef or chicken thigh and prawns, you’ll find it at Heizo.
“Cocoro” meaning ‘the heart and soul’ in Japanese is a truly fitting name for such a wholesome spot. Located in one of Ponsonby's historic brick-buildings, this is a perfect eatery to enjoy a delicious set lunch or dinner. With an appetizer, main dish and dessert, there’s no way you’ll leave this place feeling unsatisfied.
It may be small, but Ebisu’s brother cocktail and snack bar is a must-do. With low-lighting and a wide range of plum wines, Japanese whisky, and sake, Fukuko a perfect excuse to get a little tipsy and try out a new cuisine.
Following a tapas-style dining experience, Musashi get it right with their classic Japanese dishes made with love. From udon to tempura, everything is fresh and flavourful, pairing perfectly with one of their chilled sake or cocktails.
Tokyo Club is a trendy izakaya bar in Ponsonby with a new style of dining designed for several small dishes to be shared while drinking. The drink of choice will generally be a refreshing glass of Asahi beer – an iconic Japanese beverage. To share, grab some duck dumplings, karaage chicken, sashimi platters, and teppanyaki dishes!
You can find a more traditional Japanese treat further down Queen Street at Uncle Tetsu. Each day the Tetsu team bake Japanese cheesecakes and madeleines (small sponge cakes). Although the cheesecake’s fluffiness is always a hit, they're not a sugar-overload, so if you’re not a huge sweet tooth this could be the treat for you.
Satisfy those sweet cravings with a trip to Beard Papa on Queen Street. Their Japanese cream puffs are filled with a variety of flavours such as green tea cream and Nutella marshmallow. This dessert isn’t exactly authentic, but it originated in Japan and who can say no to Nutella morsels?