Contemporary Japanese restaurant Masu proves a culinary force to be reckoned with.
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Named after the Japanese symbol for prosperity and good fortune, contemporary Japanese restaurant Masu proves a force to be reckoned with and a memorable character that can hold its own amongst the other culinary greats of Federal Street’s dynamic restaurant scene.
Sitting in the middle of Masu’s unashamedly open plan space is a robata-cooking hearth; around which diners can sit and watch the chefs slow-cook their dishes over open coals. Inspired by the centuries-old method of Japanese fisherman, the robata method, which literally means ‘fireside cooking’, makes for some cool entertainment during conversation lulls and is almost as valuable in its ambience as it is in the food it provides – and boy does it turn out some food.
We tried the tasting menu that featured an array of dishes destined to become beloved signatures of chef Nic Watt, particularly the scampi tempura balls with coriander and chilli, lamb cutlets with vinegared shallots and the dessert tasting platter, which now resides on a golden throne in my memory.
In truth, the dessert platter is deserving of a whole review unto itself. Balanced on slabs of ice lay chilli pineapple soaked in rum, chocolate fondant topped with green tea dust and a tropical sort of tiramisu laden with mango, coconut and pomegranate seeds, surrounded by a selection of fresh fruit and sorbet. This thing had people doing double takes as they walked through the restaurant and strangers interrupting us in our sugar trance to ask what it was.
From the colossal 40-strong sake list and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of Nic Watt’s John Dory to the aroma of the hand soap in the women’s bathroom, Masu is a rare gem that understands the devil is in the detail, bringing together these small facets of allure to form one hell of a restaurant experience that more than earns its stripes on Auckland’s most prestigious dining strip.