Masu brings contemporary Japanese dining to SKYCITY’S Federal Street Dining Precinct
Loved by celebrities Kate Moss and Coldplay's Chris Martin and revered by Michelin star chefs, Heston Blumenthal and Michel Roux Jr, Nic Watt’s restaurants are about glamour, celebrity and style as well as world-class contemporary Japanese food.
Nic’s latest venture Masu Japanese Robata Restaurant & Bar opens its doors on Wednesday October 16. Located opposite The Grill by Sean Connolly and beside the lobby of SKYCITY’s Grand Hotel, it joins New Zealand’s finest line-up of prestige restaurants in Auckland’s cosmopolitan Federal Street Dining Precinct.
The heart of Masu is the robata cooking hearth where diners can see the chefs creating food-laden skewers and slowly rotating them over hot coals. Robata literally means ‘fireside cooking’ and originates from a centuries-old, country style method developed by northern Japanese fishermen around a communal hearth.
Guests can perch at the sake and shochu bar. Drinks are chilled with hand chipped ice cubes made from clear, deoxygenated ice to avoid diluting the beverage.
Masu regulars can purchase their own Kume jars which are filled with bespoke shochu blends.
These are then displayed on shelves throughout the restaurant and made available to the owner at each visit. Nic Watt says the idea links back to the Japanese bar custom of patrons having their own bottle to imbibe from every time they visit.
The Masu menu is impressive. A sneak preview reveals several signature dishes. They include tartar of salmon and tuna with house made rice cracker, tempura yellow belly flounder with chili ponzu and lamb cutlets, gochujang hot pepper, pickled onions and carrot.
“Each serving is about a single dish that stands alone of its own accord, making its own statement,” Nic says. “That single dish presents itself as memorable but alone, set apart from although entirely complementary to the other dishes presented.
“It’s all about having passion for flavour and dedication to detail.”
Nic returned to his homeland late last year from London and a stellar career as chief operating officer of one of the most highly regarded Japanese restaurant groups Roka, younger sibling to Zuma Restaurant Group.
At Masu, he is supported by head chef Darren Johnson – who worked with Nic at Roka - and restaurant manager Matthew Aitchison, formerly at The French Café.
“We’ve been working hard with all of the planning and preparation – now comes the exciting stage where everything comes to fruition,” Nic says. “As we count down to October 16 we’re very much focused on ensuring everyone involved is primed to provide an excellent experience for our guests.”
SKYCITY CEO Nigel Morrison says Masu is a fantastic addition to Federal Street’s Dining Precinct.
“I was first introduced to Nic by Peter Gordon at Peter’s charity fundraising event ‘Dining for a Difference’ at SKYCITY in 2010. Since then I have been trying to persuade Nic to open a world-class Japanese restaurant at SKYCITY. This is finally a reality.
“Masu perfectly complements Federal Street’s other world-class restaurants The Grill, Depot, Bellota, the recently opened Federal Delicatessen and The Sugar Club up the Sky Tower. Nic is in great company joining Federal Street’s other award winning chefs Sean Connolly, Al Brown and Peter Gordon.
“While this is a very important restaurant for our international guests, I have no doubt it will be embraced and loved by Aucklanders,” he says.
Nic says it’s all about the natural flavour retained by grilling the food rather than the accoutrements added to a pan. The method is similar to a barbecue where items of food on skewers – seafood, meat and poultry with vegetables – are slow-grilled over hot charcoal.
Masu is unashamedly open plan. Between earthy entrance foyer and glass-enclosed private dining area called The Obi Room, there are only two pillars in the entire restaurant. Masu seats 18 in the private dining room, 100 in the restaurant and 16 around the open charcoal hearth.
The restaurant wine list reflects the high standards set throughout with Masu-branded sake supported by 40 other brands, possibly the most comprehensive range of the popular Japanese liquor in the country.
True to his Kiwi heritage, Nic insists the still wine list be 100 per cent New Zealand while Champagne is available by the glass.
· Perfectly timed to coincide with the opening of Masu is TV3’s fresh new cooking show Testing the Menu. The show sees Nic Watt delve into the Kiwi palate and the Kiwi psyche. He looks at what we love about our favourite Kiwi dishes and then gives them his own Japanese twist. Fish & chips, spaghetti bolognese, pizza, BBQ and Sunday roast all get a Japanese makeover. But which of Nic’s creations will the public like the most, and which one will end up on the Masu menu? Testing the Menu premieres on TV3, Oct 12th at 7pm.
Meaning of Masu
Masu is named after the Japanese symbol for prosperity and good fortune. Masu boxes have been in use for 1300 years and traditionally the square container was used to ration rice when it was a form of currency.
For the Japanese people, the Masu was as valuable and important as the rice it contained and this tradition remains an essential part of their lives. Today, the Masu has become widely used as a vessel
for serving sake as well as a symbol of good fortune and abundance.
Celebrated New Zealand chef Nic Watt brings his passion for flavour and dedication to detail to Auckland with Masu, the Japanese robata restaurant and bar in the Federal Street Dining Precinct and beside the SKYCITY Grand Hotel. The restaurant draws on Nic’s exceptional pedigree, experience he has gained from running highly successful robata restaurants in London, Macau, Hong Kong and America. Robata is contemporary Japanese cuisine cooked over a charcoal grill where theatre and ambience are as much of the process as the eating. Masu’s philosophy is based on the enhancement of natural ingredients, letting the food and the presentation speak for themselves while at the same time making each dish taste sensational. More at www.masu.co.nz
Masu Japanese Robata Restaurant & Bar
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner
90 Federal Street, Auckland City
Reservations (09) 363 6278