The Koala and I have been together for 10 years, and we recently celebrated our third wedding anniversary. As with any good relationship, good eating has been and will probably always a part of our relationship. To mark 3 years, we treated ourselves to a degustation dinner at Kermadec in the Viaduct.
Two years ago, our first official anniversary dinner was unplanned. It ended up being at KFC in Hamilton. It was scoffed down, on the way home from a wonderful weekend in the Bay of Plenty, but we can’t help thinking of how far away a degustation in the Viaduct is from “Kaccas in The Tron”.
A degustation is a tasting menu, designed by the chef. You get to sample a range of delights over many courses, and the number of dishes usually ranges from 6 courses up to 12. It’s considered the best way to sample a chef’s skill. Instead of choosing what you want to eat, you completely surrender your choice to the chef. Degustation can be matched with wine pairings, but this can be expensive. We opted for a bottle of pinot noir to share. The Koala doesn’t drink white and I also prefer reds these days, so a classic seafood-friendly Sauv, Chardonnay or Riesling was out. As far as reds go, I figured a pinot noir was a decent match for seafoods.
The Viaduct is all bars and restaurants, a fancy part of the city that I’ve always seem to avoid when it came to “going out”. I’ve never had dinner on The Viaduct before. FREAK! I know, what kind of foodie am I? Walking through the Viaduct at night on a Wednesday night, I wouldn’t recognise my own city. I’ve lived in Auckland almost 20 years, but I swear, if I woke up and found myself in the Viaduct, it would take me ages to figure out where I was. It’s weird feeling like a foreigner in your own city.
Kermadec is named after the Kermadec Islands, a group of 4 tiny islands in the Pacific a thousand kilometres northeast of New Zealand. Being a seafood restaurant, the 6 course degustation dinner included 2 sashimi courses, 1 scallop course, 1 snapper course, 1 venison course and dessert. The Koala and I adore seafood, and this seafood heavy ratio was not wasted on us.
We were shown to a table by the window, overlooking the water and boats below. A printed menu given to us at the start of the evening and it was great to have this on hand for the whole evening. Too often, menus are whisked away the moment after you order. Our waitress, who was lovely and smiley, explained each course to us before its arrival. The progression was great with a very delicate light start up to the robust venison and foie gras climax. This was the first time either of us had tried foie gras. It was smooth as silk and tasted amazing.
A range of lovely breads were on offer before each course and butter and a grassy, delicious oil set on the table. Eating fresh bread made me excited about amazing baguettes we’ll be eating in Laos in just a short while. I’m not a huge fan of bread, but when it’s super fresh, it’s glorious.
If I had to pick a favourite course, it might be the the salmon sashimi with frozen blobs of chamomile. Thick slabs of umami salmon were beautifully offset by the flowery sorbet. I may be biased as salmon is my absolute favourite fish. The Koala refused to pick a favourite dish. He insisted that he loved all of them. I guess that is a compliment to the restaurant.
The meal was well paced and we were never left for very long between courses and took about a hour and a half from start to finish. Our waitress asked us only before dessert if we would like a break or to continue. We chose to continued, but I can see how some would prefer a break to talk about and digest. The portions were a good size and 6 courses was a great number. We left feeling full. I’ve heard of degustations that include many more dishes, but I feel if the courses were all smaller, it might feel like there wasn’t quite enough of each course.
A few months ago, on voucher website, many fine restaurants across Auckland offered specials for their degustation. We were trying to save money for our upcoming trip, but still wanting to celebrate our anniversary, I picked up a voucher and saved it for the occasion. The 6 course degustation menu is usually $120 per person (without wines) and it is a special occasion feast.
The Bucket List
I thought that crossing degustation off my bucket list would settle this, but now it’s only got me wanting to try the degustation menus from other restaurants too. That is a hobby that no one can afford. We will just have to think up more excuses for special occasions.
- Tuna sashimi, hadjki, pickled peach, sesame, mirin dressing
- Chamomile infused Marlborough salmon, watercress, young vegetables à la grecque, salsa Verde
- Seared Scallops, sweet corn, bacon crumb, truffle mayonnaise
- Crispy skinned Hauraki Gulf snapper, courgette and crab beignet, court bouillon in its entirety
- Wild red venison, sweet corn custard, pickled shitakes, thyme pop corn, Puy lentils, sauce Rouennaise (foie gras)
- Sablé breton, Heilala vanilla cream, violet espuma, strawberry consommé, wild thyme honey ice cream