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Review: Empire Bar &  Izakaya

Review: Empire Bar & Izakaya

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Words VANESSA ORTYNSKY
Photography CHARLIE JACKSON

An Eclectic Japanese Gastropub
A new addition to the up-and-coming St Asaph Street area, Empire offers traditional Japanese dishes with a modern twist.

Having recently arrived on the scene, Empire firmly cements St Asaph Street as a hospitality and nightlife destination. Nestled between Café Valentino and Baretta, the eclectic Japanese gastropub beckons diners inside with its red neon glow.

This izakaya offers a modern twist on the social pub-style Japanese dining with not a tatami mat or low table in sight. The interior fit-out is clean, with soft interior lighting and red accents that complete a trendy, but inviting atmosphere. Patrons are seated in booths or at high-top tables, which are removed later in the evening to reveal a cavernous dance floor. This, along with the expansive bar and loudspeakers, is evidence of a place with no intentions of early weekend closing.

The menu offers a modern twist on traditional Japanese dishes, which encourages guests to sample a wide selection of the menu. The yakitori menu features an array of chicken skewers that are designed for sharing. The kushiyaki menu includes a variety of grilled meats, like pork belly and scallops, as well as vegetables. Both the yakitori and kushiyaki are served with either tare sauce or shio (sea salt).

The larger izakaya dishes include both traditional and ‘new style’ selections that can also be enjoyed as mains. With a focus on flavour, the dishes offer inventive updates on authentic Japanese cuisine. As per Japanese custom, every dish is beautifully presented, another strength at Empire.

The bar list is a little more tongue-in-cheek with cocktails such as ‘sum-ting yum’ as well as Asahi and must-try sake.

Those looking for fresh, inventive Japanese cuisine should get themselves to Empire right away. Not only is the food mouthwateringly delicious, the atmosphere represents the new Christchurch food scene that is steadily emerging. I’m sure you’ll agree that Empire signals the next generation of Christchurch cool.

For more information visit www.empirebar.co.nz

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