The only thing that bombs is the sake

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

The Food:

Daruma is a Queen­stown favourite re­cently men­tioned in in­ter­na­tional publi­ca­tion Where Chefs Eat, and is known as much for its lively at­mos­phere, zany Ja­panese staff and in­fa­mous sake bombs as it is for its food. We kicked off with Edamame beans ($5.50), which are pretty hard to screw up, and the per­fect opener. Next up was deep fried squid ($7) which was ten­der and crisp in all the right places. Next was a spe­cial of the day, deep fried egg­plant with miso mince. Not be­ing a fan of mince un­less it’s in pie form with lots of melted cheese, this was a great dis­cov­ery, and got me think­ing I might have to get amiso paste, mince and egg plant re­u­nion go­ing at home some­time soon. Next was a seafood trio of mostly great re­sults. This started with deep fried scal­lops ($5.50), went to teriyaki prawns for ($6) and ended with kabayaki eel ($12). The scal­lops were great, the eel, which was im­ported from Ja­pan, was in­ter­est­ing be­cause it was so small and soggy – not like a clas­sic Kiwi sil­ver belly eel crisply pan­fried in but­ter. Still it was in­ter­est­ing, and worth a crack. How­ever, the prawns, which are pretty easy to get right un­less you un­der cook them, were served slightly un­der cooked. Next was a big crispy serve of kaarage chicken ($10). Again this is a dish that’s hard to fault when cooked right, and this one was per­fect. In the last round of mains, we went for an­other spe­cial, shrimp cream cro­quette ($6). It was shrimpy and creamy with finely chopped gar­lic which came in a deep fried, crunchy shell. If this is on the day’s spe­cial list try it out. Round­ing things off was ice­cream with a ba­nana crepe ($5.50), and green tea ice­cream ($3.50), both of which were great. Dur­ing the meal we drank small glasses of cloudy sake from 600ml flasks ($9). I rate the weirdly chalky taste and tex­ture of cloudy sake as a top drink­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and was a bit gut­ted I had to drive that night.

The Ser­vice:

Ev­ery­one gets a loud, en­thu­si­as­tic ‘‘MoshiMoshi’’ (an in­for­mal Ja­panese greet­ing) on en­ter­ing, and the chat from the wait­ers is amaz­ing. They’re funny but highly pro­fes­sional and you really get the feel­ing pro­vid­ing great ser­vice is a real mat­ter of pride for them. At times I was crack­ing up with our con­ver­sa­tions of bro­ken English. Af­ter mak­ing a par­tic­u­lar mess of one dish, I was po­litely asked if I wanted a baby’s bib.

The At­mos­phere:

I would de­scribe Daruma as cosy with some nice Ja­panese art. Over­all good, but noth­ing amaz­ing. What makes ev­ery­thing work is the at­mos­phere gen­er­ated by the peo­ple work­ing there, who are lively, zany and at­ten­tive. Match that with the smells and sounds of the kitchen, cloudy sake and the prospect of sake bombs (sake shots ‘depth charged’ into beer) and I call that a win­ner.

Cul­tural: Ja­panese Sake Bar Daruma on Sho­tover Street.

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