For the past few months we’ve heard the name “Masu” floating around here and there especially from the mouths of our so-called-foodie friends. This Masu hype started mid autumn after having been dubbed the restaurant of the year, so I wanted to experience for myself if Masu deserved all the attention and praise. I was initially sceptical of the concept of Japanese fusion on a fine dining level, but on the whole head chef Nic Watt has beautifully weaved both categories of dining to create a fresh concept that Auckland Central has long sought for.
So after waiting through two weeks of fully booked dinner time sessions, I walked into Masu with high expectations. Decorations and furniture reminiscent of Japan’s Edo era integrated strategically with shades of modern amber lighting created an atmosphere that shouted 21st century sophistication entwined with a love of tradition. At the peak hour of 7pm, there was a buzz of conversation filling the room but because of the generous spacing between tables it was still great that one could hear conversations across the table without having to shout. And boy did the kitchen look exciting! If you’re lucky enough to be seated near the complex three-sectioned open kitchen, you get to witness the sushi chefs wrapping away, the grilling chefs playing with fire or any of the other chefs working their magic.
Image Cred // Masu
If one thing was immaculate, I’d say it was the service. You know it’s the next level up of dining when waiters hand you a steaming hot hand towels before the meal. And there wasn’t a time where my glass of water was empty. The bar boasts an extensive list of Japanese beers, sakes and umeshus which act as the bases for an extensive Japanese cocktail list– impressive seeing as you can’t find these concoctions anywhere else than the bar at Masu. This is great if you’re just sick to death of your usual Cosmopolitan!
Finally to the section we were all waiting for, the food. All the dishes were presented like pieces of art, beautifully laid out with aesthetically pleasing colour themes achieved by various garnishes; so much to the point we cringe to destroy it with our chopsticks. But then how did it all taste? It was a rollercoaster ride, some dishes were heavenly, but some dishes were mediocre. The signature dish, the robata grilled deep sea cod lived up to its name, melting in your mouth with a flaky buttery texture and an aftertaste of miso balanced by the sourness of preserved radish. However the Alaskan king crab hotpot was like the congee you could get at the local takeaway shop except ten times the price! The sushi combinations were matches made in heaven. I recommend trying the soft shell crab Maki roll, which was the cream of the crop, a clever play of textures and flavours. The desserts again were really unique, exclusive to the Masu menu. Definitely points for creativity.
Masu tries to renew our take on Japanese fine dining, attempting exotic combinations of flavours (Salty miso ice-cream for one) at times succeeding in creating a masterpiece but at times missing the mark. So the verdict? Save Masu for a special occasion, it has a charm that leaves you dazzled (from the down to earth waiters, to the classy bar, to the picturesque dishes) but stick with the signature dishes to avoid disappointment and a bill that leaves you wondering if you just ate a diamond.
Title Image Cred // Masu