Onion smoke and nori foam: Kazuya

a tiny garden

“The chef says that he has made you a tiny garden,” the waitress explained, placing a spherical glass jar in front of me. “Like Japanese bonsai.”

She lifted the lid, and a plume of white, onion-scented smoke rose to fill the air over our table. Left behind was a perfect terrarium of a dish: a single sprout grew from a bed of black olive powder, winding around tiny bushes of leek and baby onion, past a pool of brussels sprout puree.

We stared in wonder for a minute before trying the smoky, earthy flavours.


small breads

We’d read about Kazuya online, and decided to visit last May to try their seven-course tasting menu.

The likelihood of reasonable vegan options seemed promising: Kazuya’s website said that they could prepare food for vegetarians on request; Eat Here Now’s review said they:

“cater for special diets by making it sound like it’s their fault for having had dairy or gluten on the menu in the first place, and rework every dish so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.”

And this was my experience, too: every dish was constructed with care and presented with respect. I was dining with a vegetarian (and more recently, returned for another dinner with meat-eating friends), but didn’t feel like my experience was any less full or considered than theirs.

On the contrary, this was some of the most creative, interesting and delicious vegan food I’ve eaten, and Kazuya was easily my favourite food-related discovery of 2013.


texture plate

Through the evening, the food was stunning – full of perfectly-balanced flavour and surprise – the service delightful and the surroundings both elegant and comfortable. We ate slowly, stretching the small courses over hours and savouring every taste.

Besides the tiny garden of baby onion agrodolce, some of my favourite things were:

  • the amuse-bouche that opened the meal – a spherified ball of miso soup that burst on the tongue,

  • a light cloud of nori bubbles covering a warm tofu & sesame fritter, on a bed of bulghur wheat,

  • and Kazuya’s signature dish, “Texture” – a plate of thirty different vegetables prepared in every way possible: powdered, pickled, shaved, tempura-battered, dehydrated in crisp sheets, raw, blended into pastes.

When I returned more recently, the tasting menu looked completely different – seasonal ingredients are used, so the menu changes often.


truffle & potate risotto

Though the restaurant hasn’t felt crowded when I’ve eaten there, it has been full; Kazuya is often booked to capacity, so you need to make a reservation well ahead of time. Tell them that you’re vegan, and any other dietary requirements you might have, when you book.

Kazuya is at 193 Symonds Street, Eden Terrace, and is currently open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays (12-4pm) and dinner on Tuesday-Saturday (6pm-late, with last orders at 9.30pm).