[Pictures: The very wonderful David Straight]
Somewhat disingenuously, Cocoro describes its dinner menu as “izakaya-style”. Cocoro could not be further from the bustling, steamy izakayas of Tokyo or even Auckland. It’s in a back street in Ponsonby, a beautiful bricky space with timber battens and touches of exposed concrete. There is one large table in the middle and classic wishbone chairs. You will not want to drink beer.
Service is sweet, but can be vague. The food? It’s good. Chef and owner Makoto Tokuyama has been feted, and rightly so. The man is a genius: he takes Japanese classics and twists them gently, politely even. They are still recognisable but utterly delightful. There is an izakaya menu (small, tapas-style plates to be shared), and a degustation menu. There is an excellent sake list which we suggest you explore.
Highlights? A wakame salad ($14) where the seaweed is interspersed with delicate, perfect microgreens – instead of being greasy and oily, it’s light and deft. Marinated octopus salad ($7) with Myoga ginger, tart and simple. Chawanmushi – an egg custard dish – with a deep sea scallop ($12). Duck cooked at 60º, served with fig. A surprising black sesame crème brûlée. Everything is very, very good, and – best of all – it’s not expensive. Go now. SFG
HOURS Tuesday to Saturday: lunch, 12 to 2pm; dinner 5.30pm to 10pm.
CONTACT DETAILS 56a Brown St, Ponsonby, ph 360-0927. www.cocoro.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS If you’re a walk-in, you can get the izakaya menu – make a booking and you’ll get the degustation.