On a short break in Auckland, Benny and I were looking to catch up with my friend El Puma over dinner. But where to go? Another friend raved about Tatsumi, so it was an obvious choice for three Japanese food lovers.
Tatsumi’s owners relocated to Auckland from Christchurch following the 2011 earthquakes. Its modest entrance can be easily overlooked, but venture inside and you will find a quiet and serene environment.
Hamachi yellow tail sashimi salad
The food is exquisite – its Japanese origins are clearly evident, but the chef has cleverly incorporated elements of Italian and other cuisines that lift the dishes into something unique.
The menu follows the modern trend of small and large share plates. A degustation menu is available but we weren’t feeling quite that hungry. And with only three of us, we were too few for the set meals. So we ordered a mix of small and large plates for sharing.
Next was Hamachi yellow tail sashimi salad – fresh raw Hamachi (a type of fish) slices, with an Umeboshi plum vinaigrette, lychees and cherry tomatoes (see first pic). Umeboshi is a pickled fruit (ume) that is sour and salty. We were puzzled over the lychees, but Tatsumi later informed us that the white and crisp elements sprinkled over the top were freeze dried lychees. The salad was an excellent match for the fish – the entire dish a celebration of the fresh ingredients.
After the three small plates, we had our two large plates.
The seafood platter comprised crispy Kadayif-wrapped blue cod, pan-seared scallops, grilled prawns, parsnip puree in a miso-infused white wine and butter sauce. Kadayif is a type of Turkish pastry, normally used in desserts, where the dough is shredded into thin threads. Tatsumi’s incarnation was savoury, with the crunchy pastry a strong textural contrast for the very soft cod. The dish was excellent, but we thought that the fish was overwhelmed with a bit too much pastry.
Our final dish was slow cooked braised beef cheek. This was served with Japanese taro gnocchi, pumpkin puree and Asian green vegetable. The beef was beautifully tender, in an intense dark sauce. It was a good thing this dish arrived last – the strong sauce might have over-powered some of the more delicate flavours of the earlier dishes. The sauce would go really well mixed in with some rice, but by this stage of the meal there was no way any of us could have managed even a small bowl of rice.
We very reluctantly had to forgo dessert after our share plates – they were more than enough for three.