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Sake Bar 601 is run by just two people. Hiroshi Miyata, ex-Katsura in the the Rendezvous Hotel, is the chef, working in the open kitchen right by where you eat, and Gen Ogata, ex-Tanuki’s Cave, is the maitre d’. It’s simple and white, with just a few tables, a couple of couches, some bar stools and a bit more seating in the courtyard out the back. The menu is short and the wine and beer lists even shorter, although the sake options are rather more fulsome.

This bright, breezy neighbourhood sake joint in the unimposing strip of shops at Morningside seems like a perfect spot to pop in for an impromptu meal out. Don’t risk it! The tiny restaurant is more than likely to be full – we suggest that you book ahead.

Apart from snaffling a seat, there is another advantage to making a reservation. Diners who book are rewarded with a complimentary appetiser that arrives on the table in a beautiful lacquered box, like treasure.

The menu at 601 is concise, covering Japanese standards – sushi, sashimi and tempura – as well as more Western-style selection of grain-fed steak, corn-fed chicken, market fish (tempura or panfried), lamb leg steak and tofu steak all prepared as you wish, with a Japanese touch. Or for something more innovative, look to the blackboard specials, which change daily.

The kitchen runs down one side of the room, allowing an uninterrupted view of chef and owner Hiroshi Miyata.

This peek into the engine room adds to the restaurant’s friendly, no fuss vibe, like you have just stopped by for a bite at a mate’s place, albeit a mate with some pretty fancy cooking equipment.

For a full culinary show, sit at the bar sipping selections from the sake list (it is more extensive than the small wine list on offer) and watch Miyata’s creations emerge one plate at a time.

His prawn tempura are like biteable prawn clouds that come perfectly seasoned and crispy without leaving the faintest grease spot on your tongue. The teriyaki chicken, with skin on for extra flavour, is juicy and slathered in sticky sauce. The tuna sashimi is freshly fetched from the Fish Market and has a flawless velvety texture. Even a simple garden salad packs more flavour than expected, pepped up by a delicate sesame dressing.

For desert there are just three choices – ice cream, fruit or Miyata’s curious invention – the moffle – a waffle made from mochi (sticky rice cake) served with red azuki bean paster, berries and cream.

An elegant but unassuming neighbourhood cafe that serves exquisite food.

original article: menus.co.nz

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