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In the two and a half years since Tokyo Bay opened on the Takapuna beachfront, it’s built a well-deserved reputation as one of the must-eat restaurants in Takapuna.
Director Mark Smith describes Tokyo Bay as a “contemporary Japanese restaurant, typical of what you would see in finer establishments in Tokyo: traditionally-based but contemporary Japanese dishes in a minimalist, appealing and simple environment”.
He’s adamant that Tokyo Bay does not serve fusion food. “I was the first to open a fusion Japanese restaurant (Soto) in Auckland, but we don’t go down that angle at all here. We use high quality ingredients and [serve] good quantities. They are traditional-based recipes and we use traditional procedures but served in a modern manner, with good pricing.”
“We have a full kitchen of Japanese chefs,” he adds. He says head chef Chikara Sato is one of the highest skilled Japanese chefs to have worked in New Zealand. He’s a specialist in sushi and seafood, having trained under masters at Kyubey Restaurant in Ginza, one of Tokyo’s most famous sushi establishments. His restaurant pedigree includes Tokyo restaurant Seryna which specialises in Kobe beef and shabu-shabu. He is also a licensed blowfish (fugu) chef, though his skills in this regard are not required at Tokyo Bay.
Tokyo Bay, says Mark proudly, has been full every night since December. It goes without saying that bookings, which can be made online, are therefore essential. In addition to an extensive selection of sushi and sashimi, the dinner menu includes wagyu scotch yakinuku (premium Japanese black wagyu), teriyaki duck, salmon and bok choy moromiso, ginger pork belly and snapper shioyaki, among an extensive list. Mark says regulars have their favourite dishes but the menu is designed to tempt diners to select “a taste of what we offer, so they return and try something different”. Whatever people enjoy, he says, whether it’s beef, chicken, fish or vegetarian, there’s a wide selection to choose from. “Because the menu is so extensive,” Mark comments, “regulars can have their favourites and also try something different.”
The menu changes “all the time” he adds, not just seasonally, to make the most of available seafood and seasonal ingredients. Lunches are a bit more casual, and the menu covers “light share dishes”, donburi, bento box selections, as well as desserts. There are also set menu options for groups: “they are great value and there’s so much food”.
Mark, a trained chef, also has a background in hotel management, and has owned “numerous” cafés. In addition to running Tokyo Bay he and Sarasa previously owned Soto in St Mary’s Bay, and own Tokyo Club Restaurant in Ponsonby.
Sarasa is originally from Tokyo. She moved from a career in graphic design to international hotel management, and is a front of house specialist, well known through Soto and now Tokyo Club Restaurant as well as Tokyo Bay. Mark, a Westlake old boy, says they enjoy being in Takapuna, “our new neighbourhood”. And if you thought he might think there are enough restaurants in Takapuna now, you’d be mistaken. “We love Takapuna and we’d love to see more restaurants to make it a more quality dining destination. We’d welcome more good operators alongside ourselves to build Takapuna as a destination dining area.”
The aim at Tokyo Bay is to make quality Japanese dining affordable and approachable. For Mark and Sarasa quality does not mean formal or stuffy. Try heading along to Tokyo Bay for Friday lunch, when all the staff are in their SunWolves gear, and you’ll get a sense of the team’s passion for the newcomers to the Super Rugby competition, as well as a quality Japanese meal.
Tokyo Bay, 20 The Strand, Takapuna Beach 09 3907188
Bookings essential on www.tokyobay.co.nz
Open 12 noon until late 7 days.
Channel Magazine: Issue 76 May 2017