A Japanese delight

Setting up in the 'burbs has been a good move for this great restaurant.
Setting up in the 'burbs has been a good move for this great restaurant.

A Japanese restaurant from Colombo St has found a new home in Bishopdale.

A fresh take

I never had the chance to try Sushi Dining Kinji in Colombo St before it fell victim to the February 2011 quake. It has since re-emerged as the simpler Kinji, named after its owner-chef, near the corner of Greers and Wairakei roads.

I admit I was dubious about trekking across town to dine in a restaurant tucked between a row of shops and Gerry Brownlee's electorate office, but my anxieties evaporated as I entered a cosy, upmarket haven with a dozen or so tables occupied by couples and small family groups.

Kinji's menu promises seafood harvested from our shores, locally grown organic vegetables and New Zealand meat. Its drinks list includes local wines, alongside a range of Japanese vodkas, sake and beers.

Feeling a bit work-weary, we opt for two glasses of Waipara West sauvignon blanc ($7). The menu rather temptingly begins with a selection of Japanese tapas, including deep-fried octopus, ginger squid and tofu salad, each $5 or $6.

My partner chooses two plates to share - the Cajun-spiced tuna and deep-fried octopus. He enjoys the unusual combo, but I find the Cajun flavourings overpower the tuna.

My tastes are well catered for elsewhere, as I excitedly spy a plate of blue-fin tuna sashimi ($18). I scarcely hesitate to order it, despite feeling a little guilty, knowing there are questions about the sustainability of this huge fish. The blue-fin comes simply as 10 evenly pink, supremely fresh morsels; their delicate flavour given zing with a dip in soy sauce and wasabi. No need for Cajun spices.

My partner declares his marbled beef carpaccio ($18) among the best he's had. Our waitress explains it comes from West Coast cattle, grain-fed for 150 days in Japanese tradition. The presentation is stunning, although the beef is devoured so quickly, I only catch a glimpse.

The more adventurous of my two children orders soft-shell crab and cauliflower tempura ($18) and is overjoyed at finding the deep-fried crab crunchy on the outside and appealingly soft inside.

His brother more cautiously chooses a chicken teppan sizzle ($30), which proves fun, as well as tasty, as his cubes of chicken are served raw on a hot stone, allowing him to stir-fry it at the table. The meal comes with a small bowl of rice, miso and a delicious sweet, salty sauce that sends him into raptures. The portion is small for this 11-year-old's appetite, so two extra bowls of rice are ordered and wolfed down, flavoured with the tasty chicken dipping sauce.

A small hitch - the arrival of a platter of raw meat in place of my "groper and tofu hot-pot" ($18) - is speedily and politely remedied by staff. The fish dish relies entirely on the natural flavours of its raw ingredients.

Sadly, we are too full to attempt dessert. While it is not a cheap night out ($176 to feed four, including drinks), I certainly hope to return.

Kinji's simple flavours and the absolute freshness of its ingredients are a true pleasure. It is a star return to post-quake Christchurch's dining scene.

Where: 279B Greers Rd, Bishopdale.
Service: Efficient, polite, welcoming.
Prices: $18 for a small main.
Ambience: Clean, simple, modern decor.