Photographs: David Straight
Masu has serious pedigree. Chef Nic Watt is a master of the grill has cooked in robata all over the world. SkyCity spent many millions on the fitout. Matt Aitchison, formerly of The French Cafe, is the maître d. It bills itself as a robata – a Japanese grill – only it’s much more than this. The charcoal comes in from Japan. You can taste the difference.
It is an exercise in luxurious subtlety. There is a lot of blond timber, a massive unfinished slab of granite at the bar. There are beautiful chairs and beautiful timber tables and stunning ceramic plates. You feel excited walking up the front stairs. Sashimi is perfectly fresh, cut generously so you can actually taste it, served on massive chunks of hand-cut ice. There are Japanese craft beers. The chopsticks are lined up with lasers before service.
We’ve eaten an iceberg salad with a caramelized onion dressing ($7.30), which was restrained yet perfect. We’ve eaten Cloudy Bay clams ($22) cooked with garlic, green chilli and ponzu butter – daring, simple. We loved the tempura yellow belly flounder ($30.90), in which the fish had been delicately cut into chunks while still on the fish and then battered. We bloody love the robata grill – ignore the signature black cod (which is meltingly tender, admittedly) and head for the lamb cutlets with gochujang, pickled cucumber and carrot ($38) and the brocolini stems ($8.30) and the miso eggplant ($8.30). It is some of the most technically perfect Japanese food I’ve ever eaten.
And yet. Food aside, something leaves me cold. It is very large, and very noisy. It is at once too perfect and yet not perfect enough. It should have flawless service, but it doesn’t, not always and I don’t mean in that quirky Japanese way. The pricing irks me and not just because it is occasionally very expensive. Maybe it just needs some time. SFG
HOURS Lunch 12pm to 3pm daily, Dinner 5.30pm to late daily.
ADDRESS 90 Federal Street, City, ph 363-6278. skycityauckland.co.nz/restaurants/masu/
IMPORTANT DETAILS Get them to validate your parking for one of SkyCity’s carparks.