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[Photographs: David Straight]

The rain starts falling and we find ourselves drawn to this little shop on a windswept stretch of Symonds Street. We go there in summer and it is good then too, but there is something about this joint that just suits the winter. Part surf shack, part fish restaurant – “sakanaya” actually means fish shop, though you can’t buy wet fish here – it is woodsy and homely, with surfboards and handwritten signs.

The specials menu is the best bit; it changes regularly depending on what chef-owner Yuji Minagawa can source the freshest. There is usually a grilled kingfish or hapuku wing ($18) on the menu, not to mention grilled fish heads, which as anyone who loves fish knows are the best bits: beautifully salty, unctuous and the fatty-salty mix is undercut by pickled ginger. Recently, we ordered a wing and to our delight a head came too.

There is also excellent sushi (“chef selection”, $18.80) – which includes an oyster, in season; they’re happy to remove the tuna. There is tako wasabi ($7.50), which is octopus leg marinated in wasabi: weird, but good. And there is ochazuke ($7.50-$10), home-style rice in stock, topped with pickled plums or salmon or snapper. Homely and comforting, perfect for warming up.

HOURS Lunch Monday to Friday, 12pm to 2pm. Dinner Monday to Saturday from 6pm.

ADDRESS 160 Symonds Street, Grafton, ph 309-1965.

IMPORTANT DETAILS There is parking around the back, with an entry through the kitchen.


  1. Ben Green wrote:

    I love that you regularly use the word unctuous to describe when something is slightly fatty and deliciously good. I’ve introduced it into my dialect as a result.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink
  2. SFG wrote:

    Ha! Didn’t even realise I was doing it that regularly. It is an excellent word, agreed.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink
  3. James Murray wrote:

    Hi Simon

    Why would removing the tuna be something that is praiseworthy? Just out of interest. Tuna is often my favourite part of the sashimi experience!


    Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 2:30 am | Permalink
  4. SFG wrote:

    Hi James, because tuna is – mostly – not sustainably managed. There are a few varieties that are okay but most of the fish used for sushi is overfished. There’s a good guide here:

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink
  5. tom w wrote:

    Has this place changed hands recently? It was a favourite jaunt a couple of years back, but went there recently and the decor appeared to have been scaled back and the service was useless. The food didn’t really seem to pop like it used to. Maybe we just went on a bad day?

    Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:04 am | Permalink
  6. SFG wrote:

    Hi Tom, not sure – thank you for the feedback. Not sure if it has changed hands but the website hasn’t changed… Sad if it has declined.

    Monday, February 10, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

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