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Merchant Mondays: Izakaya-style restaurant serving up specialty saké

Lauren Simpson Mar 8, 2021 4:00:35 PM

If you are looking for truly delicious Japanese cuisine, then Ebisu is the place to be. The izakaya-style eatery can be reached from both inside central Britomart and via Quay St opposite the Auckland Harbour.


Izakaya-style dining is often described as having a drink and making yourself comfortable in a leisurely environment. Ebisu takes this style and adds a twist of elegance. Their extensive saké list, wine offerings and delectable cuisine, makes for the ultimate izakaya experience. Settle in for a long-lunch or for a drink after work. Make your next meeting one for the books.


Interested to know more about what’s on offer? We sat down for a chat with Venue Manager Christian Parlascino.


Can you tell me a little bit about Ebisu?


Ebisu opened in 2011, it was one of the first restaurants in Britomart. We are Japanese but modern and we break some rules when it comes to Japanese food and the way it’s served. The concept of our restaurant is izakaya-style – you just walk in and find very simple food in a very uncomplicated environment. 


We have one of the biggest - if not the biggest - saké list in the country. There’s always been saké in our restaurant but when we started the Saké project about six years ago, there was a manager, kiwi guy who lived in Japan, and he was a certified saké expert, so when he came here he pushed hard on the saké and trained us all. He’s since left and handed that over to me. We have a huge focus on saké and saké food match. We have at least 30 saké in our selection. We used to have way more but it has become too complicated with the deliveries and the stock being sent over from Japan. So we constantly review our food and drinks menus and follow up to see what we can get our hands on to provide for our customers all year round. 

We have three sakés made specifically for us. One comes from Japan, from this very old brewery that was born in 1702 and they make a very tropical, summery saké. When the style was decided, the guy that came up with it wanted it to reflect the idea of New Zealand sauvignon blanc in saké. When you smell it, when you taste it, it will smell like a sav but the flavour profile is very tropical - you get peaches, nectarines, melon, pineapple, it’s a very, very fresh, saké. Easily approachable too.


The other two are my babies, my ideas. We have one for winter, and it’s made here in New Zealand at Zenkuro Brewery in Queenstown, they started in 2015. We’ve always supported them and stocked their saké. About two years ago I asked them to make us one that is only served warm for winter, so they sent me some samples, I tasted them and said, “a bit more of this, a bit more of that” and we came up with this blend. After a few months when summer was approaching, we realised that the winter one went great and now we needed one for summer as well. So we came up with another one, it’s the same concept. This one is more acidic, it’s fresher and is served cold. It goes beautifully with oysters.


They are only served here and Azabu, our sister restaurant. They are blended specifically for us. The production is so tiny that to be able to maintain the cost without passing that cost onto the customer, we only get one bottle in every six with a label on it, so we can use it as a display bottle. We pour so much of it that to have the other ones labelled and toss it out after use, would be a waste of product and money. 


Since Covid hit so hard, we have also tried cutting a good portion of the wines we served from overseas, and to give more value to New Zealand wines – the smaller regions, the smaller producers. This wine list is still extensive. I like to find wines that you only get in tiny quantities as it provides an amazing experience for our customers. 



What’s your journey at Ebisu been like?


I’ve been here just over six years. When I started, I had just got into New Zealand and was pointed towards Ebisu. I had my trial on a Saturday night and it was like working in a war zone, it gets really really busy in here. After a few months in a waiter role, they asked me to step up into a managing position. They saw I had the experience, I liked it, I wanted to do it,  and this is my career, I’m not going to change jobs. They supported my Visa, so I stayed here for two years, then applied for residency. I took a wee break because I wanted to see the rest of New Zealand, as I had always been working, working, working. When I came back, I worked in Azabu for a few months, before coming back here. It’s my baby. 


What’s your team like here?

Our team is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-everything. We have very high-turnover when the borders are open. So at times, we have a mix of Italians, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese – absolutely anyone. It’s been amazing. We have older employees around 40-years-old who have been working for a while, and then 18-year-olds out of the house for the first time. It’s great. We are a big family. 


What’s your favourite thing on menu?

Good question. Probably the seared duck breast. We slow cook it sous vide style, then it’s pan-fried, and finally, it’s glazed and covered with a dusting of fig as a crust and kina mayo on the bottom. 



What would you say the most popular dish is?

The rainbow roll, which is our mixed fish sushi roll. It’s so simple and easy, which is probably why it is the dish we sell most frequently.

The dumplings. We have two different types of dumplings, one with prawns and the other with crayfish and crab. Those are big sellers as well. There are weekends that we go, “okay, we’re done now – we don’t have any more dumplings for another week!” Especially with large parties, they tend to reorder them, reorder them, reorder them. 


Christian with Ebisu’s specialty saké

Christian with Ebisu’s specialty saké

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