Sam Lee of Papakura Japanese Restaurant Izu. Photo / Babiche Martens

Where Chefs Eat: Izu's Sam Lee Shares His Top Spots To Eat & Drink In Auckland

Sam Lee is the owner and chef of Japanese restaurant Izu in Papakura

Fresh sashimi, colourful sushi and elegant bento boxes; Japanese restaurant Izu was met with hungry eyes when it opened in Papakura last August.

The stylish new local comes from Korean born-chef and owner Sam Lee who has worked in top Auckland kitchens (Ebisu, Amano) since moving to New Zealand in 2008. He started his culinary career studying in Busan in South Korea and worked in several Japanese restaurants after serving two years as an army chef in the Korean military service.

This is his first and “dream” restaurant which blends European technique with traditional Japanese flavours. 

From left; Izu interior and the crispy tofu lunch set. Photo / Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Your favourite dish at Izu right now?
The lamb rump. It’s marinated with gochujang (Korean chilli paste) and currently served with seasonal celeriac and Brussels sprouts. It’s finished with my favourite herb, shiso and ginger pickle.170 Great South Rd, Papakura

READ: What Chefs Eat: Coffee Pen's Yas & Fumi Hisai Share Their Top Spots In Auckland

What Japanese restaurant would you recommend in Auckland?
Tokyo Bay in Takapuna. I used to work there and really admire head chef Chikara’s sashimi skills and traditional style of Japanese cuisine. Go for the sashimi or the bento box. 20 The Strand, Takapuna Beach

Bento boxes at Tokyo Bay in Takapuna. Photo / Babiche Martens

The best Korean restaurant in the city?
Faro in Newmarket for authentic Korean charcoal barbecue over a great selection of dishes. 49 Nuffield St, Newmarket

Where do you go for late night eats?
Pocha on Kitchener St. They stay open late and chefs often go for a drink after work. They also do tasty Asian food, a must-order is the crispy chicken karaage.50 Kitchener St

Korean barbecue at Faro in Newmarket. Photo / Greg Bowker

What is your go-to restaurant in Papakura?
I haven’t been to many in Papakura yet but Satay Noodle House noodles are great at a good price. 183 Great South Rd, Papakura

READ: What Chefs Eat: Cotto's Johnny Price Shares His Top Spots To Eat & Drink In Auckland

What seafood suppliers would you recommend?
Lee Fish. They are one of the best suppliers for the freshest seafood and fish. Fresh fish is very important in Japanese cuisine and they know how to handle fish gently and freshly for sashimi.

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