Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In the Heart of Queenstown

Named after the lake in South Island, the Wakatipu Roll is a refreshing one, with its cargo of salmon, cucumber and imitation crab, crown of avocado slices and creamy Japanese mayonnaise. 

For some strange reason, the sushi rolls at Hikari Japanese Restaurant (not to be confused with Hikari Sushi Takeaways) sometimes arrive in odd numbers of five and seven pieces, and it says so on the menu. There are four rolls that come in six pieces, and the rest are five- or seven-piece maki.

The direction in which a maki gets rolled is often determined by how much you’re going to stuff in its center; soft-shell crab rolls, because of their heft, are almost always rolled in such a way that it yields about five large pieces, six at most (in which case you get skinny slices with a whole lot of soft-shell crab pushing out). But I’ve never before seen so many sushi rolls on a menu listed as being seven-piece rolls, which I found oddly amusing. Sushi chefs, as I understand, are trained to cut the long rolls down the middle so they can split them in equal parts after combining two halves, which results in six or eight pieces. So it’s either just another foreign puzzle, or the chef here has an extremely sharp eye to be able to discern exactly where to cut.

Another strange detail of this restaurant is that there appeared to be an unused sushi bar; the patrons were all seated in the dining room at tables, and the chefs were in the kitchen. In one section of the glass cases on the bar sat some vegetables and a few seafood items, whereas the rest of the case was starkly empty.  

But despite its vagaries, the victuals here were pretty decent and fresh. I enjoyed a crunchy Tempura Prawn and Avocado Hand Roll, after specifying that I wanted Japanese mayonnaise and tobiko inside it. The Aburi Sake Toro nigiri, or “Flamed Salmon,” as it was written on their menu, came as a single buttery piece with a slice of lemon for NZ $5, and it was perfectly torched to a lustrous golden hue.

Hikari Japanese Restaurant
5 Beach Street, Queenstown, New Zealand
+64 3 442 7767

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