It’s Friday. You’ve had one of those weeks at work. Nothing will quite fix it like a trip to Tanuki’s cave. Down in the depths of Auckland’s Queen St, just up from the town hall is a little Yakitori bar hidden behind a sliding door. At that end of Queen St to be honest it wouldn’t matter if you went down the wrong sliding door (Kura is an equally good Sake bar) but if it’s a bar and bbqed/fried food you are after then check that the sign says Tanuki’s.
It is always busy and always hot – in the summer you had to drink copious amounts of beer just to cool down! There is usually a wait at a leaning post before you are able to get a seat as they don’t take reservations, but this just gives you time to get into the atmosphere. There is a bar in the centre of the space with stalls all around and a few larger tables around two of the walls. I’d say you can squeeze around 6 people around those bigger tables. I think just going with two people is good enough though – it’s honestly a great place for a more casual date. Just the two of you on a couple of seats at the bar, it doesn’t matter if it’s a first date or if you don’t even need to talk proper English to understand what each other is saying anymore, you’ve been together to long. It’s just the right amount of close with the right amount of other people to watch in case there is a lull in the conversation. In fact you can just go around the bar psychoanalysing everyone else’s relationships if you’re really bored!!! (Well that might just be me!)
Luckily for the boy and I we didn’t have to wait very long on this Friday evening. We arrived just before 7 straight off the bus from work. Whilst standing I had taken it upon myself to not just order a 500ml glass of Sapporo (my Japanese beer of choice – particularly when it’s on tap as it is here) but in fact order a whole jug. The evening just had one of those feelings too it! Before that arrived we were sat around the central bar on a couple of stalls with a pillar beside me which meant that we only really had people on one side. We proceeded to review the monthly specials menu that is stuck to the little mantel piece (is that the right term? who knows! That’s how I can best describe it) that edges the bar. I could not pass on the steak with ponzu dressing, straight into the Yakitori for me with a beautifully grilled tender piece of steak that positively melted in the mouth. Rory is more partial to the Kushiage (deep fried things on skewers) and ordered “tender chicken thigh meat” which is basically a skewer of exactly that – a delicious crunchy crumb with a hint of spice in it and juicy succulent chicken (soo much better than any think the colonel might rustle up.. and you might have guessed I tried some… In fact we ordered a couple of rounds of this one!) we also had some edamame, the furry covered soy beans that make a great snack, a bbqed chicken wing with sauce (all yakitori dishes have a choice of salt or sauce with them) and large grilled prawns with a sweet chilli sauce for dipping off of the specials menu. All are served hot and cooked juicy, simply irresistible).
I could not pass on their intriguing almond covered deep fried kumara balls with ice cream as my dessert (Rory had another serving of thigh meat!). There’s no other way to describe this dessert than intriguing, every time I order it out of curiosity and each time am more curious. The crunchy almonds are delicious and the kumara all squishy and sweet a surprisingly good combination with ice cream!
The plates here are served with one or two skewers per serve and all of the plates are very reasonably priced (most around or less than $10). It’s easy to go there and have a few things to nibble and some drinks – they have a good wine and sake selection, I just have a thing for Japanese beer – before heading out for the night. Or get a little more settled and make it your night as we did with a few rounds of beer and a few rounds of the little plates… All in all it’s unpretentious, very delicious and a great place to unwind and eat food that is probably not sooooo good for you.. but it’s Japanese so it can’t be that bad for you… Right? Take your next date there it really is worth hanging around for that table.Tanuki’s Cave 319b Queen Street, Auckland No reservations Open everyday from 5.30 – late. Watch their video here