First Look: Azabu

by Metro Magazine / 29 July, 2016


Words by Alice Harbourne, photos by Caitlin McKone.

Book now

Now here's somewhere really fun. You might have already heard about the new Peruvian/Japanese place on Ponsonby Rd - but you probably won't have heard as much about the alleyway bar off Maidstone Lane. The back entrance to Azabu is essentially a graffitied carpark, but let's suspend disbelief for a moment and act like it's a hidden Tokyo alleyway. That's what the designers of Roji bar (Japanese for "alleyway") did when they installed a free-to-play Pacman machine, placed low, round bar tables in elbow-touching distance along sleek brown leather banquettes, and put the volume up on party-vibes house and funk.

Walk the length of the bar and you'll find yourself at what the staff refer to as "the catwalk" -  possibly Auckland's longest line of dining tables (there's got to be some kind of Guinness acknowledgement for that) - which connects Roji with restaurant Azabu in a gratifyingly uniform manner. Yes, Paul Izzard Design is back at it again with the A+ hospitality fit-out; this one is possibly the sleekest yet, with inky walls, mushroom lighting and statement, glossy photo frames leaning along the main wall. The fact they're not precisely hung epitomises the formal nonchalence of Azabu, which is itself inspired by the cultural interactions that occurred in Peru following mass-Japanese immigration over a century ago.

It's said that before the Japanese arrived in Peru, locals - who had always been prolific fishermen - would simply discard octopus and eel. The Japanese made use of the abundant, discarded riches, saw synergies between traditional Peruvian ceviche and Japanese sashimi, developed an appreciation for yucca, corn and pepper, and a beautiful cuisine was born. It's called Nikkei, and it's Azabu's focus, which means tostadas, tiradito and scotch fillet with chimichurri. Of course, with Azabu co-owner and executive chef Yukio Ozeki at the helm, it's executed with finesse and an appreciation for texture. Ozeki draws on years of experience in New Zealand kitchens - most recently Ebisu - and Japan; he honed his formidable sushi skills at Tokyo's iconic Tsukiji fish market.

Restaurant manager Ken Toyota, like Ozeki and many of the other Azabu team members, has been with the Pondarosa restaurant group since Ebisu first opened in 2012. Never underestimate the power of familiarity: despite only opening a week ago, Azabu feels confident and assured thanks to obvious trust within the team.

If you're a fan of escapism and are willing to suspend - and then totally forget - your disbelief that Auckland could ever feel as cool as Tokyo, head through that graffitied carpark on Maidstone Lane and open the door.

26 Ponsonby Rd



The debate over the Serena Williams controversy was a dialogue of the deaf
96659 2018-09-22 00:00:00Z Sport

The debate over the Serena Williams controversy wa…

by Paul Thomas

Serena Williams’ US Open outburst was unbecoming but the umpire made a mess of his response.

Read more
The classical blokes saluting unsung women composers
96670 2018-09-21 14:16:06Z Music

The classical blokes saluting unsung women compose…

by The Listener

The suffrage celebrations get a soundtrack from all-male ensemble NZTrio.

Read more
Labour MPs stand behind Jacinda Ardern's action on Meka Whaitiri
96630 2018-09-21 07:31:30Z Politics

Labour MPs stand behind Jacinda Ardern's action on…

by Gia Garrick

The public will have to wait to see a report into an assault claim against MP Meka Whaitiri, who was yesterday stripped of her ministerial portfolios.

Read more
A year of dangerous thinking: What's really behind the free speech circus
96551 2018-09-21 00:00:00Z Social issues

A year of dangerous thinking: What's really behind…

by Anthony Byrt

Metro writer Anthony Byrt looks at how a handful of extremists and “public intellectuals” are making money from manufactured moral outrage.

Read more
Tom Scott's Avantdale Bowling Club is a sharp insight into life in Auckland
96621 2018-09-21 00:00:00Z Music

Tom Scott's Avantdale Bowling Club is a sharp insi…

by Gary Steel

Tom Scott's new album, Avantdale Bowling Club, is a celebration of a kind, an expansive paean to the place that raised him and where he belongs.

Read more
Breaking bread with The Dusty Apron: The secret to the perfect loaf
Does the Norton Core router deliver? Plus 5 tips for home network security
96675 2018-09-21 00:00:00Z Tech

Does the Norton Core router deliver? Plus 5 tips f…

by Peter Griffin

A look at the Norton Core secure router, and five tips for home network security.

Read more
Labour MP Meka Whaitiri stripped of ministerial portfolios
96626 2018-09-20 15:50:21Z Politics

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri stripped of ministerial po…

by Jo Moir

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri has been stripped of her ministerial portfolios but remains an MP.

Read more