Review: Sakimoto, Cathedral Junction

TRACKSIDE: Prime spot for a newly opened Japanese bistro.
TRACKSIDE: Prime spot for a newly opened Japanese bistro.

Sakimoto opened in early February in the atrium area of Cathedral Junction.

The new restaurant traces some lineage back to the old Cashel St Cookai Restaurant but here with nothing bigger than entree-sized plates, you are looking at a tapas-style evening with everyone sharing.

We wanted a 6.30pm booking but Sakimoto preferred either 6pm or 8pm - apparently working in two sittings during the evening. This is a clear hint that: a) it's a busy spot; and b) it would be a rapid meal.

There was no hint of shoving you along, which some other Christchurch restaurants have taken to doing, but it felt like the clock was ticking, which isn't so relaxing.

The menu encompasses standard Japanese dishes. Sushi, sashimi, tempura, udon, and a big emphasis on seafood, as it should.

Edamame beans are always a must, and were nicely creamy and salty. A "Japanese-style"omelette came as four cubes of solid egg on skewers with a heavy sweet soy sauce. It looked great but didn't wow. The egg was too set in its ways.

Our sashimi plate featured white fish (species unknown), salmon and cooked prawn. Cooked prawn? The slices were thickish and the salmon had been very thinly skinned, leaving a whitish, slightly tough edge.

Our slow-cooked pork belly was soft, fatty and jellyish in a tasty sauce, so beware if you expect slow-cooked pork to be served with crispy skin.

Teriyaki chicken was superb. Tender thigh meat chunks came in a sweet miso sauce and we really liked this.

"Baby whitebait" was a dish of tiny white Japanese fish which added a delicate fishy taste to the soft tofu and green salad. The tofu was too chilled.

Roast rolled pork came atop a green salad, with chopped almonds for texture and a thick sesame-influenced sauce that our table decided was the best of the sauces which appeared during the evening. The dish got "best equal" vote with the teriyaki chicken.

I had had canned sardines on toast for lunch and, for some strange reason, ordered the "sardines with garlic soy". What appeared were dead ringers for my canned version but they were now sitting in sizzling hot oil. I burnt my tongue and couldn't taste garlic or soy.

A vegetable tempura, featuring kumara, carrot, zucchini and beans, was a good crunchy example with a nice sweet miso sauce.

By 7pm, the restaurant was getting swamped. We had been slightly overwhelmed at times with dishes coming in flurries every 10 minutes even when we still had some to eat. But, after 7pm, we hit a dead patch as the spotlight turned to other tables. We asked for a dessert tasting plate ($12). Nine courses had arrived in an hour, but this one took 45 minutes - and a polite query from us on whether we had been forgotten - to arrive.

Sakimoto was busy and cheerful. The staff were polite and helpful but ultimately overwhelmed because, I suspect, most orders incorporate so many dishes.

The wine and beer list is limited and there's only one choice of hot sake, which is a must for me at a Japanese restaurant. But I enjoyed their Syochikubai and a bottle of Asahi Super Dry Black from the tiny drinks menu. You can bring your own wine. Corkage is $6 a bottle.

Sakimoto Shop 16a Cathedral Junction, Worcester Street

Ph: 379 0652

Cost: Starters $6.50-$8.50; all other dishes entree size, up to $14. Upside: Bright, airy, buzzy new premises

Downside: The sardine dish.

The Press