My partner and I have Japanese food on a regular basis – whether it’s Nishiki in Freeman’s Bay, Nippon on Manukau Road, or Sushi Train in Viaduct – we take pleasure in sharing small dishes which allows us to sample a bit of everything. We often chose Japanese cuisine as it is decently priced, casual and overall, the food is of good quality.

Last night, my partner and I visited Hokkaido in Mt. Wellington for our Valentine’s Day dinner. This year, we had opted not to have fine dining as we were on a tight budget so we decided to eat something that we know we will enjoy and not hurt our wallets. Being Valentine’s Day, the restaurant was busy and we had to wait, not only for our tables, but also for our drinks and food. However, we assumed this would be the case, and the service was actually faster than what I had expected, as they seemed rather short staffed. Their colourful menus filled with picture are similar to Nishiki and Nippon which makes ordering very easy for patrons that do not regularly have Japanese cuisine.

Anyhow, lets get on to the food.

We ordered a total of five dishes and the first to arrive was the vegetable tempura which included slices of sweet potato, carrots, mushrooms, courgettes and round beans coated with a thin crispy layer of batter. It was freshly deep-fried and were still piping hot when it reached our table. The portion was smaller than expected. Considering the dish only contained vegetables, a few more slices would have been appreciated.

The sukiyaki pot is cooked on your table with a small portable gas stove and takes around 15 minutes to fully cook. This allows you to control the softness of the vegetables in the pot as well as giving you the chance to cook the slices of beef to your liking. The small pot was full of ingredients and is quite a bargain compared to the other items on the menu. The soup however, is slightly too sweet and I would have preferred miso soup as base.

The cheesy prawn gyoza was disappointing as we couldn’t taste the cheese. These Japanese wontons lacked a decent filling and had somewhat cooled by the time it reached our table. I would have also preferred a side of mayonnaise on a separate plate rather than the sweet chili sauce that they casually placed on only two of the gyoza.

The crab salad was served in two ways. The one on the right is a simple garden salad with pieces of crab meat and salmon roe and the one on the left is a mixture of julienned cucumber with crab slivers in a creamy mayo sauce. The concept of having two different types of salad in one dish is smart as they act as a good contrast. The garden salad is light and fresh where as the cucumber salad is rich and creamy and both were delicious.

The highlight of the meal was the delicious soft shell crab sushi rolls coated with salmon roe. The crab was crispy and perfectly cooked with a thin layer of batter and the drizzle of mayonnaise completed the dish. Even though it was the last to arrive and by then I was full, my partner and I had no problems devouring it.

Although the food at Hokkaido was decent, I doubt it would be one of our regular Japanese dining restaurants. Taste-wise, the food were delicious but it is the small things, such as dipping sauce and portion size, that prevented Hokkaido from being an excellent restaurant. I am picky in terms of the finer details, but these small things can determine whether the dish is decent or exceptional.

Date: Tuesday 14th February, 2012 | Location: 71 Lunn Ave, Mt. Wellington | Food: Japanese


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