You may make all sorts of friends in Auckland but a denizen of it soon realizes that the weather will never be his pal. It is more fickle than most chicks in this land. At the height of this year's particularly intemperate winter, when I was searching for a stalwart bar, I came upon Sakebar Nippon in Epsom. And a batch of warm tidings soon came into my receipt.Their drinks menu has eclectic variety and economical prices- both hot and cold sake are presented in mild,medium and very dry varieties. Shochu (Japanese vodka at 25% alcohol) ,plum wine and various fruit-based non-alcoholic drinks round out the quaffing section.The food menu has commendable variety, listing dozens of both meat-based and vegetarian dishes that comprise mostly entrees and mains, and a much smaller dessert section.
For my first "sauced" meal, I sought privacy at a corner table tucked into the far end of this joint, but soon realized that the counter-side seats were the the hub of a hubbub which was steadily proving to be rather appealing. However, I was solaced by the fact that most of the dishes I ordered during that visit were above average.
A roasted whole Mackerel for $12 was seasoned with restraint and keenly revealed its piscine edge- it is better suited for serious seafood aficionados. Deep fried chunks of chicken (Karaage) were excellent bite-size morsels- delightfully crisp, not overly oily ,with its finely spiced coating that ensconced soft meat. As that evening and crowd were drawing to an ebb, and the previously hassled waitresses now had much more leisure, my service did not suffer.
The ambience with its Japanese artifacts,inscriptions and piped music, native staff dressed in traditional attire ,extensive wood panelling across the seating booths and counter-side griddle-cooked food all adds up to a busily redolent atmosphere.
The Pork skewers at $7 for a duo were a excellent deal -2 snappily rendered pieces of these were a pleasure to chew on and savour as they spunkily released their carnal flavours and slid down the palate. The same accolades cannot however be bestowed on their ginger-stirfried counterparts which slipped more into the category of regulation bar-food that calls little attention to itself.
150ml of hot sake (it was winter) at $12 ably manages to massage your cockles and whet the appetite. It has a fermented tinge to it,which many people soon get used to. When you're seated counter-side, it is more interesting to watch the preparation of the Fried Rice - an omelette created and chopped into the rice,prawns and veg-gobbets which are all tossed and coaxed into a snug boat-shaped hillock -rather than eat it. A famished mouth might wolf that Asian archetype down here, but more watchful palates will likely employ considerably less gusto .
My dessert ,served with two slices of that Japanese meal-ending favorite -grapefruit- was green tea ice-cream whose flavours spoke in whispers that did not inveigle..But on the whole, I was satisfied on finding this robustly run bar that provides good kick for money.And then there are the goofy frills- Many a time, whenever customers enter or leave this joint, the staff ,time and inclination permitting, will yell in Japanese while pounding on a drum to express a kind of jolly primal appreciation for your patronship. It's a welcome atavistic send-off compared to 'see ya later mate'...;)
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