The dining appetite is changing and Auckland’s top restaurant has met the challenge head on taking out the coveted prize for the city’s best.
Masu, the Japanese robata restaurant operated by Nic Watt has been named supreme winner in the 2014 Metro Restaurant of the Year Awards.
Opening only in October 2013, Masu has embraced the combination of a casual environment paired with exemplary food, according to Metro editor Simon Wilson.
He describes Masu as a “most impressive” addition to Auckland’s restaurant scene. “It’s sophisticated and yet informal. The food is magnificent but the atmosphere is lively. And we really love the Japanese menu.
“These are the things Aucklanders are embracing when we go out to eat. We want to have a really good time and we want to do that without sacrificing anything in standards of food and service,” says Wilson.
Nic Watt spent eight years with the Roka group, a family of robatayaki-style restaurants in London, Hong Kong, Macau and Arizona, bringing to Masu the worldly experience gained from those businesses.
Wilson says New Zealanders have become increasingly adventurous with cuisine.
“The fact this is a Japanese restaurant run by a New Zealander is symbolic of something much larger in this city: we’re comfortable in a cosmopolitan urban world.
“Nic Watt has created a restaurant that takes a real step forward for the city.”
However, the long stayers of the Auckland dining world have also continued to impress with the judges awarding two runners up: neighbourhood bistro The Engine Room in Northcote Point and Ponsonby fine-dining restaurant Sidart.
The Engine Room also takes out the Upmarket Bistro category. This restaurant has won its category every year since it opened nine years ago
Masu’s category awards are for Smart Dining – the winner of the category has never before taken out the supreme award – and Best New Restaurant. Sidart wins Fine Dining category, which it has never won. Owner Sid Sahrawat is also named Chef of the Year.
In 2014 there are four new awards.
Restaurateur of the Year is Michael Dearth for his efforts in establishing two five-spoon restaurants in the city, The Grove and Baduzzi. The five-spoon system is Metro’s unique method of rating restaurants.
Best New Talent goes to Chef Tom Hishon and front-of-house Josh Helm, owners of Ponsonby’s Orphans Kitchen.
Best Renewal goes to Mediterranean game-focused bistro Cazador on Dominion Rd and the restaurant with the best degustation menu is Clooney. The French Café again takes the accolade for best service, the fourth year in a row it has done so.
Best Value for Money Restaurant goes to Ima and Titirangi’s The Refreshment Room while Best Drinks List is won by Cocoro. Ponsonby Road Bistro is awarded Best Mid-Size Drinks List and Best Short Drinks List goes to Eight.Two.
Waiheke’s The Shed at Te Motu Vineyard takes home Best Rural Restaurant.
The 2014 winners have been chosen from 50 finalists and the awards have been announced at a special awards dinner at Shed 10 on Queens Wharf. All the winners feature in the May issue of Metro, on sale 29 April.
The category winners and finalists are:
SUPREME WINNER – Masu
Co-runner up – The Engine Room
Co-runner up – Sidart
BEST FINE DINING – Sidart
Runner up – The Grove
BEST UPMARKET BISTRO – The Engine Room
Runner up – Baduzzi
BEST SMART DINING – Masu
Runner up – Clooney
BEST CASUAL BISTRO – Orphans Kitchen
Runner up – Coco’s Cantina
RESTAURATEUR OF THE YEAR – Michael Dearth, The Grove/Baduzzi
BEST DEGUSTATION – Clooney
Runner up – Kazuya
BEST NEW RESTAURANT – Masu
BEST CHEF – Sid Sahrawat, Sidart
Makoto Tokuyama, Cocoro
Nic Watt, Masu
Ben Bayly, The Grove / Baduzzi
Des Harris, Clooney
Michael Meredith, Merediths
Kazuya Yamauchi, Kazuya
BEST NEW TALENT – Tom Hinson and Josh Helm, Orphans Kitchen
BEST SERVICE – The French Café
The Engine Room
BEST RENEWAL – Cazador
Runner up – The Engine Room
BEST RURAL – The Shed, Te Motu
Runner up – Bracu
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY – Ima and The Refreshment Room (joint winnners)
BEST DRINKS LIST – Cocoro
O’Connell St Bistro
BEST MID-SIZE DRINKS LIST – Ponsonby Road Bistro
BEST SHORT DRINKS LIST – Eight.Two
Stafford Rd Wine Bar
PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR – Gatlin Avery (Depot)
A team of nine judges including restaurateurs and food writers has decided this year’s awards. One of the awards, however, is open to public vote. The Metro Restaurant Personality of the Year honours front-of-house restaurant staff and votes were cast at metromag.co.nz and on Facebook.