Tomo Japanese Restaurant & Yakitori Bar, Ponsonby

I always feel like I’m being some sort of café/bar snob when I write about… cafes and bars. As if I, a part-time self-indulged food and beverage fan, am any more qualified than anyone else to pass comment on the intricacies of the hospitality industry. Yet here I am, giving a modest ‘shout out’ to a cool little place in Ponsonby, Auckland… of all places. Ponsonby is a place I often don’t feel ‘alternative’ enough to be seen in… but that’s another story – and a rant probably not worth blogging about.

Tomo is a cool little place near the Three Lamps intersection and, as the name suggests, has a decent array of Japanese food and, apparently, sake (It annoys me that some people often use the word “apparently” out of context so I will point out that this particular use of the word is quite warranted due to the inexplicable lack of sake anywhere on the drinks menu). The staff are actually Japanese and understand the Japanese language (I’ve been to other Japanese restaurants where wait staff look at you funny if you say “Konichiwa” or “Arigato”, only to find out that they’re Korean International students) so, as far as Tomo proving any claim of authenticity, I was pretty convinced – especially when I showed off with the Google Translate app I’d recently downloaded and learned how to say “Tom smells like dumb” (We opted to simply attempt to say “Good beer” instead).

It’s worth pointing out that this establishment has received a couple of under-whelming reviews and, I’m assuming, probably from over-exposed, nit-picking Herald critics that are used to being pampered by up-market establishments – see here for the review in question (notwithstanding the fact that Tomo may have simply ‘upped their game’ since March 2009).

Yes, some of the food is a ‘little’ westernized and yes, they do play funny Japanese pop music… but this is all part of an affordable, and fun, dining experience. We (Me, my better-half Amber and two friends Tom & Sarah) shared the Gyoza platter (pork and cabbage dumplings with an awesome dipping sauce), all ordered a Japanese beer (I had my first Yebisu beer) and spent longer than we should have perusing the huge menu of options. The potential for food envy was fully realized by myself as I was served my skewer combo and stir-fried veges and Amber was dished up one of the best Katsu Curry dishes I’ve every smelt, seen or (eventually) sampled. Simple, but awesomely effective.

Right from the start, Tom was in for a real treat. He debated (as is his way) with the friendly waitress as to what she recommended, what was HER favourite dish and how, if she were he, should approach the extensive menu. It all ended up with him ordering the dish with one of the best names ever – “Hot Power Ramen”. And, best of all, he ordered it Medium/Hot. I think the chefs took this as an opportunity to show off… and Tom felt the full force. Eyes watering and nose running, he was asked a number of times by the waitress if he’d like it cooled down, but he remained adamant that all was fine and that it was “very nice”. Sarah accidentally over-ordered and opted for the massive Vegetable Dinner Box, so I happily helped her finish it off.


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