From left: brussels sprouts with sunflower seed miso; raw fish; wings with shichimi. Photo / Alex Burton

Jesse Mulligan Reviews New Yakitori Restaurant Omni

A compact new yakitori restaurant serving natural wine has Jesse Mulligan feeling poetic

OMNI
Cuisine: Japanese
Address: 359 Dominion Rd, Mount Eden
Phone: (09) 623 3590
Bookings: Accepted
Drinks: Fully licensed
From the menu: “Feast” $70pp

This new yakitori restaurant is small and wonderful, a combination that will make it almost impossible for you to eat here without planning ahead. They allow bookings — two sittings each night — so it’s the opposite problem to, say, the blisteringly popular Lilian, where the only way to arrive is unannounced and securing a table requires patience rather than foresight.

The food is perfect and the prices are good, though perhaps not quite as low as its neighbours on the strip.

“I found a great place on Dominion Rd!” I said to a girl at work for whom the restaurants I review in Viva are usually out-of-budget.

“Is it expensive?” she asked.

“Not too bad,” I said. “I ordered the ‘Feast’, which was $70.”

“For how many people?”

One, was the answer. One hungry man, though even he was struggling to finish everything. Omni is one open room with fewer than 10 tables and a chef doing his thing in one corner, so there’s not much chance of hiding from him for an anonymous review. We were sent everything on the menu and more — and I am happy to tell you that you cannot place a bad order here.

Interior of new yakitori restaurant Omni. Photo / Alex Burton

Yakitori dining is a love poem written to the bird — a series of skewers featuring different chicken bits which reminds you that not only is breast the blandest part of the animal, it’s also the least interesting to chew. For flavour, bite into a thigh; for textural muscularity order the heart. Omni even makes a feature of the soft bones, a gristly delight that my wife passed on but that I ground up like a happy dog.

These piping hot chicken delicacies come with a mix of sauce and no sauce, sometimes sprinkled with sesame seeds or offered with a single egg yolk as dip. Always there was the smoky taste of the charcoal, though more than once I wished for a saucer of salt.

And the non-chicken dishes are so good that they risk overshadowing the main event. Tuna is bright, cold and fresh, served with a sauce so beautiful that when I ran out of fish to mop it up with I felt sadder than I had in weeks.

Brussels sprouts are everywhere but here they feel like a different vegetable: halved, fried and layered with sunflower seed miso, then sprinkled with bean sprouts. We loved the golden beets, though I see now they’ve dropped off the menu. A grilled oyster mushroom dish is meaty and deeply flavoured — good enough that, with these other plant-based options, you won’t need to cancel your booking if your party is crashed by a vegan.

I turn 45 today and though there aren’t many restaurants where I feel my age, this was one of them. It’s a very young, cool crowd (though everything about the wonderful service makes you feel at home). When I was 23, would I have been drinking orange wine at $15 a glass? To be honest, what I was drinking out of back then had corners. It’s a credit to generation millenia that they’re not just opening restaurants like this but supporting them. Book now and order everything.

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