Yatai Japanese Izakaya Restaurant
Tuesday6:00 – 9:00 pm.
Wednesday6:00 – 9:00 pm.
Thursday6:00 – 9:00 pm.
Friday6:00 – 9:00 pm.
Saturday6:00 – 9:00 pm.
316 Featherston Street
Just minutes from the heart of downtown Palmerston North you’ll find Yatai Japanese Izakaya. Tucked away off the street, this special restaurant will transport you and your taste buds to Japan in no time.
Owner and operator Barbara Taniyama, is often on site to greet diners and show them to their table in the restaurant, which has been designed and decorated in the way of a traditional Japanese home. The space is calming and welcoming all at once, the perfect preview of what's to come.
When Barabara, who is originally from Palmerston North, and husband Atsushi, from Japan, first opened Yatai in 1998, it took the form of a food caravan. Neither had any hospitality experience but Atsushi, a Navy Diver turned head chef, taught himself and mastered everything from Japanese curry to bentos to sashimi, with time.
Today the Yatai menu includes around 80 dishes, all of which have been carefully designed and utilize only the freshest ingredients - every fish used, for example, arrives whole and is filleted on site. While the food truck is no longer in operation, the restaurant has been going for seventeen years and its ambiance keeps regulars coming back for everything from casual meals to special occasions.
Sharing is encouraged at Yatai, as this is the traditional way to eat at Japanese pubs or izakaya. The menu pairs detailed photos with dish names and descriptions which make it easy to assess all of the options. The notable sashimi is, again, prepared from whole fish and sliced with extremely sharp knives to produce flawless and delicious pieces. The beef tataki, miso eggplant and karaage chicken are other favourites.
While the list goes on, the common theme running through the entire Yatai menu, is the care and quality that goes into each dish. The pork mince found inside Yatai’s tasty gyoza dumplings, is minced on site for maximum flavour and freshness. All pork, beef and chicken used is free range. Another favourite, the Ankake, is a traditional thickened fish stew made with dashi and soy for irresistible umami flavours. Whatever you order, you’re in for a treat.
The hospitality at Yatai is similarly excellent. Every visitor in for a special occasion gets a handwritten card, and Barbara even keeps a box of glasses on hand to ensure even those who forget their specs can order what they like. Children are also well looked after and cared for quickly, with a kids menu that is tasty and nutritious.
Over the last two decades Barbara and Atsushi have seen their customers' families grow up and you’ll soon see why this local business has won the hearts (and tummies) of so many over the years.
Words by Olivia Sisson & Photography by Anna Briggs
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316 Featherston Street
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