You may associate slab o’ meat cookin’ with Texas-style BBQ, but Wakanui Grill Dining in Higashi Azabu is out to change your mind. Specializing in meat-on-the grill dining with all ingredients sourced from New Zealand, Wakanui opened in April of last year and is gaining a foothold in the upscale—and decidedly non-veggie—Tokyo foodie circles.
Summer fruity with citrus and peach (but not girly), the Black Estate Chardonnay 2009 from Omihi Waipara (¥6,900 a bottle) got us in the mood for the amuse-bouche of grilled lamb chop. This was a mere preview of things to come.
The anchor piece of the meal had to be the 1kg Ocean Beef bone-in rib eye steak (¥8,800). Obviously this is meant to be shared between four of you (or, uh, less… ). Grilled over their binchotan charcoal grill, the Angus beef (cured in-house in their glass ageing room) was served naked, and we quickly saw why no sauce or spice was necessary. The tender meat was cooked to just under medium—enough pink in the center, but no bloody juice pooling on the plate. Even a quarter is enough to fill the primal void in your stomach and leave you sated.
With the red meat we switched to a Koru Pinot Noir (¥9,500/1,600 a bottle/glass) and savored sautéed spinach (¥700), diced roasted kumara and potato (¥600), and a jasmine rice pilaf (¥600) that smoothed out the carnivorous edges.
The kilogram-steak was the star, but it wasn’t the only slab of succulent flesh we tore into. The frenched rack of Canterbury lamb (¥3,900/¥2,100 full rack/half rack) was beefy and robust without gaminess. The surprise hit, however, was the hot smoked New Zealand king salmon (¥1,600). As a Pacific Coast Canadian, I’ve had my fair share of smoked salmon. This was unlike any of it. Served hot, the salmon had a slight smokiness and measured sweetness, but was light and moist, and peeled off in delicate steaming flakes that dissolved deliciously on the palate.
To top off the extravaganza was a host of NZ treats. The Mojo coffee sourced from a boutique coffee roaster in Wellington was right up my alley—full, rich and strong. Or you could settle for the Kiwi-est of all sweets: the homemade “hokey pokey” ice cream (¥650), with a crispy meringue pavlova (¥750) that could all but put you in a diabetic coma. Fortunately we survived, to eat again at Wakanui when we’re flush.