Tokyo on a Plate: Exploring Auckland's Best Japanese Cuisine

A hand holding a plate of food.

Delicious Japanese food in Auckland is not hard to come by, which is fortunate because it tends to be loved by Aucklanders all year round.

Words by: Nicole Mudgway 

Photos by:  Jerome Warburton

From delicately plated sashimi to sushi on the go, a bowl of steaming ramen to cosy up with in winter or on one of Auckland’s rare rainy days (yeah, right!), or some yakitori skewers straight from the grill, there really is a Japanese dish to suit all occasions. And the great thing about this is that Japanese food can cater to almost any budget and to many different dietary requirements. We’ve compiled a list of some of Auckland’s finest, featuring all of the aforementioned dishes and also a few worthy others. 

Azabu

Ponsonby and Mission Bay

One of Auckland’s favourite Japanese restaurants, but with a South American Twist. Executive Chef Yukio Ozeki has created a menu packed with punchy flavours from both Japan and Peru. Included are mouth-watering dishes such as lamb chuleta, tuna tostada, gyoza and tempura; it’s a menu planned to share in the beautifully designed space. Our recommendation: the volcano sushi roll.

Gurume

Shop12/282 Ponsonby Road

Often referred to as Auckland’s best sushi, it is not only fresh, convenient, filling AND healthy, it is also some of the most aesthetically pleasing sushi you will ever try. Gurume is tucked away in a back courtyard along Ponsonby Road, but when lunchtime arrives, so do the people. In addition to sushi, there are sashimi and donburi options - all made with the freshest, most quality ingredients. 

Tanuki’s Cave

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319b Queen Street

Another tucked away option (but this time underground) is Tanuki’s Cave. It’s fun, ambient and the perfect place to grab a bite before catching a show near Aotea Square. Build your own meal from the menu specialising in yakitori (assorted meat and vegetables grilled on skewers) and kushiage (deep-fried breadcrumbed skewers). Also don’t miss the chicken and cheese kushiage, or the mashed kumara with almond coating.

Zool Zool

405 Mount Eden Road

Extremely underrated, Zool Zool is one of our favourite spots to settle in, slurp noodles and watch the day go by. Specialising in ramen, the Zoolmen is something a little bit different to try - made up of noodles in a reduced broth with vegetables. The menu also features a fine range of Japanese whisky and sake, if you’re feeling that way inclined.

MASU by Nic Watt

90 Federal Street

Situated in the ever lively Federal Street dining precinct, MASU serves modern, innovative Japanese cuisine, embracing the traditional style of Japanese ‘robata’ cooking - that is, cooking over an open fire (or in this case, a charcoal grill). Take a seat at the robata grill, the sake and shochu bar, or at a table near the kitchen. 

Cocoro

56a Brown Street

Cocoro is Japanese for ‘heart and soul’ and diners can expect nothing less of the food at this classy outfit just off Ponsonby Road. Choose from one of three carefully crafted degustation menus, or opt for your favourite dishes from the a la carte menu. Pair each dish with an offering from the sake menu for a luxury experience.

Ebisu

116 – 118 Quay Street, Britomart

It’s trendy, it’s sophisticated and its contemporary take on Japanese cuisine will have you coming back for more. We love the Ebi Mayo Roll with prawns and crab, as well as the miso-glazed eggplant. Too hard to choose? Hand over the reins and opt for the seven course tasting menu, you won’t regret it! (which can be made vegan, so that no one misses out). Also, the sake menu is one worth checking out.

Ramen Takara

272 Ponsonby Road

There is nothing like an authentic bowl of ramen to soothe one’s soul and Ramen Takara offers just that. Offering more kinds of ramen than there are days of the week, this cosy little outfit will keep you coming back for more - especially once you try the karaage chicken and gyoza too. At Ramen Takara, there is a focus on crafting dishes with locally sourced, fresh ingredients, free of added MSG or additives. Yes please!

Neat Auckland Places

Allpress Auckland Roastery

A man working.
Place Auckland
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Coffee is the most important item on the Caffetteria’s menu, and it is some of the freshest in town.

Williams Eatery

Customers dining inside a brightly lit cafe.
Place Auckland
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Williams Eatery is one of the stalwart eateries of the centrally located Wynyard Quarter in Auckland.

Pici Pasta

Exterior image looking through the big glass windows into Pici Auckland.
Place Auckland
Bars key icon. Restaurants key icon.

Pasta fiends unite; you simply can’t miss a meal at Auckland institution, Pici.

Orphans Kitchen

Interior of restaurant.
Place Auckland
Bars key icon. Restaurants key icon.

Effortlessly cool and utterly lacking in pretension, Orphans Kitchen is one of the greatest contributions to the Ponsonby Road renaissance.