Food: 4.5 stars
Service: 4 stars
Ambiance: 3.5 stars
Many people do not know that Tinakori Bistro, a popular Thordon establishment, has been under new ownership since April 2016. The new owner Chef, Aaron Stott, is a globe trotter. He has worked in fine dining restaurants in Dubai, Moscow, St Petersburg as well as the world renowned Nobu in London. Many of the restaurants Aaron worked in has an Asian focus, and I am pleased to say that he is able to recreate the magic right here in Wellington. Aaron is able to subtly combine Asian flavours with classical western techniques. The key word here is ‘subtle’, as mastering Asian fusion cuisine requires a high level restraint. Once the line of balance is crossed, the dish can be completely thrown and diners leave unsatisfied without really knowing why.
The menu size is not huge but makes a satisfying read. It covers from beetroot tartare, grilled octopus and five spice duck salad for starters to smoked duck breast, roasted lamb rack to Korean fried chicken. Just about every type of meat is included as well as a vegetarian option for each course. I loved my starter dish – Grilled Octopus with Ink Dressing, Pickled Red Onions, Mizuna & Roasted Tomatoes. The octopus must have been braised in a rich, tasty broth over a long period of time and then finished on the grill. It was beautifully charred and every mouthful was heavenly. Although I felt the portion of the grilled focaccia that was served with the Chicken Liver & Port Parfait was overly generous, diners from other tables seem to have polished them off.For my main, I had Duck Breast, Smoked with Manuka & Green Tea, Duck Fat Potatoes & Ginger Jus.This, again, was a great hit for me. The fat on the duck skin was beautifully rendered, and there was just enough smokiness to add flavour but not to overpower. However, my husband would not swap his dish with mine – Grilled Beef Fillet with Smoked Mushrooms & Truffle Miso Butter. He asked for his beef medium rare. The execution was spot on.
For dessert, we had Macha Green Tea Creme Brulee with Black Sesame Powder and Coconut Sorbet. The dish was a beautiful balance of east and west, and it wouldn’t be out of place if it were served in Nobu.
Last but not least, the meal was finished with some of the best coffee in town.
I am very impressed with the chefs creativity – who would have thought to match spicy beef tartar with a sweet black sesame sponge? The weird and wonderful combinations are just delightful. On my two recent visits, the staff have always been attentive. My only negative feedback was that the seating arrangement was a bit too crowded. We were seated at a small table in front of a fire place right next to the stairs. The spacing was tight and I had to move every time someone wanted to go up stairs.