Update 12/6/16: Visited again after over a year – quite a lot has changed. For one, the price is now $49, not $39. Secondly, you are given a huge tray of various types of sushi, sashimi, and beef tataki after you are seated. This has both benefits and drawbacks – the tray is beautifully-presented, there is enough sashimi there to satisfy the average sashimi lover right away (we didn’t need to take a single piece of sashimi from the buffet table), and the beef tataki is amazing. But on the other hand, the tray is a bit too much for two people, there were some sushi and maki (rolls) on the tray that we didn’t care too much for, but just finished for the sake of not wasting food. I think a smaller tray, or asking the customer whether they wanted it or not, would be a better option.
Also bear in mind that while they close at 9.30pm, by 8.45pm they start running out of some of the best stuff (chawan mushi, aburi salmon, tempura prawns, etc), which are not replaced.
Original post: At first glance, Haru no Yume appears to be one of the dozens of standard mid-range Japanese restaurants populating Auckland. When we went to the Freemans Bay branch on a Saturday night, however, the place was packed to the brim, in stark contrast to the relatively quiet row of shops beside it. For good reason, too – there is an all-you-can-eat sashimi buffet served during the evenings, for $39 per person.
When we arrived, a waitress brought a nicely-decorated plate of sashimi to our table – salmon, tuna, and snapper(?), as well as a bowl of prawn tempura. The buffet table yielded a decent spread of appetizers (renkon chips, edamame, tofu, etc), cold soba noodles with dipping sauce, sukiyaki, and beef teppanyaki. There were also various types of sushi and sashimi.
Unfortunately, after the initial plate of sashimi, future consumption appeared to be down to luck of the draw – the relatively small sashimi board was frequently emptied by other buffet-goers, and wasn’t immediately restocked. Asking waitresses for more was a gamble, as the first waitress we asked merely suggested that we help ourselves from the sashimi board (which had been empty for the past 10 minutes), although another lovely waitress procured a plate of salmon sashimi for us. Between that and some not-so-discreet stalking of the sashimi area, we managed to satisfy our sashimi cravings for the next month or so. :)
What the place lacks in quantity, however, it makes up for in quality. Most of the food that we tried lived up to the standards of other mid-range a la carte Japanese restaurants, except that you could have as much as you wanted without breaking the bank. The beef teppanyaki was flavoursome and tender, the sashimi fresh and delicious, the appetizers moreish. Special mention is deserved by the grilled salmon sushi, which was better than most that I’ve tried – just lightly grilled to impart a smoky flavour, but preserving the raw texture. On the flip side, the desserts weren’t great, and hot green tea (typically a staple in Japanese dining) had to be ordered separately.
All in all, Haru no Yume is excellent value for money, as most buffets that offer dishes of similar quality are usually much more highly-priced. The staff are also generally helpful and friendly, though service can be a bit hit and miss.
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