460A New North Road,
(09) 815 0610
The ViewAuckland Review
4 out of 5 stars
On yet another monsoonal Auckland Saturday night, we approach Taiko just as a few green-jerseyed Manawatu rugby fans are eyeing up the Japanese bar and restaurant. They’re also under the weather in a different sense, and eventually weave around the corner to a few more drinks at the Kinsgslander pub. I shouldn’t have worried actually, because our prior reservation with Taiko has secured the last table in this buzzy spot.
I reckon there are two approaches when eating Japanese food. Either you order a bento box and get an array of teriyaki, sushi and sashimi, or you dive into the accompanying menu of smaller plates, and treat the whole experience a bit like Asian tapas. Taiko’s menu is nicely wide-ranging, so we take the small plate route.
Despite being full, service from both the wait staff and the kitchen is excellent - in fact, almost a bit too fast - and we’re soon trying a few dishes you definitely won’t find at the your local St Pierres Westfield outlet. A 700ml handle of Sapporo draft beer ($11) and a crisp Lake Hayes chardonnay ($10) ideally partner the different tastes. Five other Japanese beers, sake, and other well-priced Kiwi boutique wines are also available.
We kick off with Super Giant Squid ($8), actually whole baby squid filled with a delicately spicy peri-peri sauce. The warning “Caution: filling may be hot” is very apt, but they’re deliciously moreish. Prawn yakitori ($11) are good value with five skewers packed with prawns, and pork and chive gyoza (dumplings $7) are light without a hint of greasiness.
The most unusual dish of the night is Takowasabi, ($5) raw diced octopus in a zingy wasabi sauce. The octopus is not as tender as other places around town like Parnell’s Gion, but the wasabi fire in the dish has me seriously considering a second huge beer. We keep up the octopus theme with Takoyaki ($9). Octopus dumplings are a favourite Japanese street food and Taiko’s Auckland versions are light and fluffy. In between the small plates, a large platter of sashimi ($26) provides contrast, with the highlights being the salmon and a single, tender scallop.
We really should be full, but the very capable waitress convinces us to try Taiko’s home-made ice cream ($7). Carol’s Green Tea flavour is more successful than my quirky wasabi and ginger variant, but on a night where we’ve dived into other idiosyncratic Japanese tastes, I’m glad I tried it.
Next time at Taiko we’re going to come back with a larger group, or park ourselves as a couple at the funky bar and try even more flavours off the wide-ranging menu.
And remember, if it’s a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll probably want to book.
Taiko Japanese Restaurant & Bar has been reviewed by 3 users