Having had a slightly mixed time with some of Auckland’s most lauded restaurants, I felt compelled to give a couple of places that were praised but not quite to such high levels a try. First of these was Cazador, a one-hat restaurant on Dominion Road specialising in local game.
Dominion Road is more generally known for its dumpling places which line much of the long straight road south. It’s a thriving Chinatown district and if time had allowed I would have enjoyed exploring its wares.
Cazador has been trading for more than thirty years. It’s now in the hands of its second generation of operators with Dariush, son of the original owners, in the kitchen and his wife Rebecca running front of house.
Rebecca very warmly welcomed me to the restaurant and seated me in their lounge area while my table was prepared. I supped on a delicious oloroso and nibbled on a little housemade charcuterie. I also tried their own vishnofka, a sour cherry liquer. It was extremely pleasant.
Once at my table, I contemplated the menu, assisted by much stuffed evidence – they have a love of taxidermy – of what featured on the menu. Given the focus was on local and seasonal, I was happy to turn over the decisions to the kitchen. I asked Rebecca for some suitable paired drinks.
First up we had a starter of poussin hearts and bacon atop hummus with some crisp flatbread on the side. This was ‘hearty’ and seriously delicious. The bacon was cured in-house. It was splendid stuff.
Next came a little look at more of their in-house butchery skills with an excellent wild boar, prune and pistachio terrine and a poussin liver parfait. Served with a range of bread and crackers, this again was extremely good work with the parfait outstanding.
The main course was locally shot venison, sensitively treated and packed with flavour. The accompaniments of parsnip, brioche bread sauce and crunch crumb, and bitter radicchio leaves were just great.
Further greatness arrived with an enduring house classic that has been on the menu since the get-go: dark chocolate and brandy mousse with candied orange peel and toasted pistachios and almonds. The peel was next level and the mousse was top notch.
I rounded things out with cardamom-infused Turkish coffee which was its usual punchy self.
So overall, Cazador served me an expectionally good meal. Even though it has been around for a while, there seems a sense in which exactly what they’re doing, or the level they’re operating at, isn’t widely understood. Make sure that next time you’re in town you do your bit to spread the good word following a meal there.
Blythe scores Cazador
5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 17.5/20
I ate: poussin hearts and bacon, parfait and wild boar terrine, venison, chocolate mousse
I drank: vishnofka, oloroso, chardonnay, malbec, cream sherry, Turkish coffee, water
I wore: maroon shirt
Total bill: $131.50
Address: 854 Dominion Road, Mount Eden, Auckland 1041