56a Brown St, Ponsonby. Ph 360-0927, cocoro.co.nz
Lunch & dinner Tuesday-Saturday. $$$
Best drinks list / Finalist, best chef: Makoto Tokuyama
It’s an unusual spot for a restaurant, but it works. Behind the glass on the ground level of an apartment building in suburban Ponsonby, Cocoro feels like you could be anywhere in the world. Chef Makoto Tokuyama creates a modern Japanese menu full of wow, preparing traditional dishes with non-traditional techniques and flavours (such as, on the current menu, papaya, walnut and fig). Yes, he knows what he’s doing and — amazingly, considering the scope of his ambition — he never strikes a bum note. Further enhancing the food is the wine list, impeccably curated and matched thoughtfully to the menu. Degustation is the best way to eat at Cocoro, and it will also mean you can book — don’t worry if the shared table is the only one available; you’ll hardly notice the people around you apart from their oohing and aahing.
A favourite dish: Whitebait chawanmushi
Fixed-price meals / Degustation / Good for vegetarians / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Takes large groups / Craft beer selection