Wellington's newest pop-up, YakiSoda, takes its inspiration from the combination of Japanese and Peruvian cultures — known as Nikkei.
Bartender-owners Giancarlo Jesus and Kerry Burgess came up with the idea of pairing Peruvian street food and Japanese highballs after both of their lives and plans were uprooted with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"During lockdown it was a time for us to look back at what made us tick and excited about being in bars and restaurants. The drinks, atmosphere, music and food all added to the full experience. I (Gian) was born in Peru and my lockdown was spent with my family learning recipes and getting to know the Japanese side of my family."
With bartending experience spanning both London and Wellington, including Ortega and Hawthorn Lounge, the pair say that YakiSoda is a collection of their favourite things about the drinking/dining experience.
"The theatrics and flavours (of Nikkei) work well together. We want to give customers a new drinking experience and if they get hungry, they know that we have put the thought in to the food menu as much as the drinks."
They call the drinks list "a flavour journey," that begins with more session-able highballs and moves into more complex, bolder and boozier drinks. To start, that might mean you'll be knocking back a Peruvian pisco highball mixed with Albariño white wine, sake and bitterorange neroli soda. The whisky highball is there, too, only with notes of vanilla, Oloroso sherry and satsuma soda.
Italy's frothy dessert cocktail 'Sgroppino' is next, serving up a combination of yuzu, blanc de blanc, kaffir lime and apricot brandy. The 'Umami Old Fashioned' takes the classic four-ingredient cocktail and enhances it with black walnut, sake and chestnut, while further down the list is the 'Miso Milk Punch' with the intriguing combination of bourbon, miso, liquorice, citrus and clarified milk. Elsewhere, wines come listed simply as white, pink and red, and there's one nameless lager and cider.
For some sustenance between drinks, YakiSoda offers South America's toasted cancha corn with chilli, Japanese-style grilled rice balls with pork or eggplant, market fish ceviche, vegetable tempura, anticucho kebabs in either ox heart or mushroom, and a kakigōri shaved ice dessert.
While Giancarlo and Kerry are still looking for a permanent space to set up the full-blown YakiSoda experience, the cocktail bar is currently operating after-hours inside Victoria Street's salad bowl eatery, BOL.