review - Soto Japanese Garden Restaurant

Soto is constantly receiving positive reviews, so I figured I had better put my two cents worth in. We booked a table for two on a Saturday night.

On arrival, our reserved table was the worst in the house. You know the one; it was right in the middle. Everyone arriving, leaving, or waiting on tables has to brush past you. Your arm is jogged so many times you arrive home with bruises. I could understand being seated here if there was nowhere else, but there was and we had booked!

Next, try to order a drink or food from a very confused and nervous waitress who seems to be having trouble hearing, one of those situations where you are forced to order things twice. The thing is, I am sure we are the only table having these issues everyone else looks happy. As I was dining with a friend, we laughed it off and got ready to enjoy the highly praised food.

To start we both ordered the Sansai & Oriental Mushroom Suimono. This is a soup with bracken, mushrooms and fiddle-head fern, a pleasant change from good old miso. The Suimono was utterly delicious and a great light start that set our mouths watering for more of what Soto has to offer.

We then shared the large sushimi platter, a tofu and eggplant dish and a tempura platter. It wasn't long before an array of food was in front of us, with no side plates to make sharing more elegant we fought over the carefully presented spread with gusto. The sushimi platter was so wonderful I want to take the chef home and chain him to my chopping board. A delicately sliced selection of fish including scallops and scampi that begs to be eaten again and again. I don't even like tofu or eggplant, but somehow when teamed with a beautiful agadashi sauce I couldn't keep my chopsticks away. The tempura was also stunning, the delight of this dish was the large crystal prawns. This tempura was the best I have had in New Zealand, it was so nearly as good as the tempura bar I went to in Osaka. Nearly. If I have to say anything negative it would be that I found the dipping sauce a bit bland, but the dish didn't need it, so I didn't feel the loss.

My friend favours green tea ice cream, I went for the black sesame ice cream. These came in cute little wooden boxes and were amazing; the black sesame was so nutty and satisfying, please, please try it. The green tea ice cream was great apparently, if you like that sort of thing.

To follow this and finish our meal we decided against dargeeling (sic) tea and went with rice tea instead, much more authentic and it felt like a healthy digestive.

After such rocky service, I wasn't surprised when we failed to have the bill delivered to our table and ended up hovering at the end of the bar waiting to pay. I agree with Metro when they complain about restaurants seeming afraid to charge their customers.

The acclaimed restaurant that the chef trained at is actually called "Ubon by Nobu" not Udon as the menu states.

We drank two glasses of Vavasour Chardonnay, Antipodes water and a lime and soda.

13 St Marys Bay Road

360 0021

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