54 Shotover Street, Queenstown, 9300, New Zealand

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The Daruma Yakitori Sake Bar, to give it its full name, is situated in central Queenstown in a clutch of restaurants and bars. It serves an eclectic mix of Japanese food, from sashimi to tempura, from yakitori to donburi. This is different from the situation in Japan, where restaurants generally specialise in one style or another, or even in just one ingredient, such as the restaurants in Tokyo that serve only eel. The bar had a wide assortment of sake bottles around the walls.

Katsu prawn was quite good, the prawn having some sweetness and being accurately cooked in its breadcrumb coating (easily 12/20). Karaage chicken was disappointing, the large lumps of chicken deep fried but overcooked and slathered in an indeterminate barbecue sauce (10/20). Much better was prawn tempura, the batter light and non-greasy, the prawns nicely cooked (13/20). Grilled scallops and mushrooms were decent, the scallops quite small but having some inherent sweetness, the mushrooms fine (11/20). Grilled vegetables on a skewer were similarly pleasant, a simple but enjoyable dish (11/20). Gyoza were not very good, cooked too long. An ideal gyoza is crisp on one side and soft on the other, but here the crisp side was hard, bordering on burnt, the dumplings containing lumps of grey pork that needed more seasoning (9/20).

Service was pleasant. With just Asahi beer to drink, the bill came to NZ$63 (£32) a head. This did not seem excessive, and if I had avoided the karaage and gyoza it would have been quite a good meal.


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