We bought a degustation menu at, Auckland restaurant, Mikano from Grabone, and enjoyed the meal on Sunday. 

Mikano has a brilliant setting over the helipads on Tamaki Drive with a stunning view of the harbour to Rangitoto and Waiheke. Our sense of occasion was heightened by having booked for an early sitting and so getting a window table, and even more by realising that the friendly and courtly gentleman who preceded us up the stairs and held the door for Barbara and me was the grand old man of NZ theatre (and accomplished film actor) Ian Mune. When we realised who he was we wished we’d said “Thank you for introducing our children to Shakespeare.” But although the Munes were just two tables away the moment had passed.

Degustation menus are a great way for a restaurant to showcase their work, and for customers to enjoy a fine meal at a reasonable cost. Since a number of customers eat the same sequence of dishes, though each individual requires more courses, overall less different dishes are prepared, and ingredients are also more standardised than an a la carte menu.

Mikano’s degustation menu was uncompromising. Each item was a simple unadorned classic:

  • French Onion Soup with gruyere crouton
  • Smoked Snapper with leek, potato, & parsley cream
  • Wild Mushroom Risotto with crispy pancetta
  • Beef Bourguignon Pie with thyme roasted baby carrots & horseradish
  • Lamb Shoulder Tagine with Moroccan spices, tomato, olives & cumin, parsnip puree
  • Sticky Date Pudding with toffee sauce & hokey pokey ice cream

The main menu is more traditionally restaurant fare, the first starter listed is: “Wild mushroom & proscuitto minestrone with char-grilled garlic bruschetta”.

The onion soup was superb, a balanced contrast of sweet onion with savoury meaty stock, simple but brilliant.

The smoked snapper was tasty and set off nicely by the vegetables and ‘cream’. Perhaps the smokiness of the fish disguised the tang of parsley, because the ‘cream’ was a striking deep green that visually contrasted with the deep colour of the fish.

Barbara really enjoyed the risotto (though I am not sure telling the Maitre d’ afterwards that it was as good as mine was really a compliment to a fine restaurant ;)  For me this was the least successful dish, the strong stock seemed to overpower the mushrooms, but I may have been biased by too much pepper in the first bite (for the other dishes, as you would expect, the seasoning was perfect).

The beef pie was well done, a tiny (this is a degustation menu :) pastry parcel of tender beef and gravy, the baby carrots were roasted enough to be sweet, and the horseradish finely balanced with enough ‘kick’ but not aggressive.

The lamb tagine with its powerful spices, olives and spiced parsnip was a strong tasting finish, making the sticky date pudding something of an anticlimax, though the vanilla ice cream was superb. (I’m not a fan of hard chunks of partially caramelised sugar in ice cream so I won’t comment on the choice of a Kiwi-classic in place of plain vanilla.)

Overall did the menu ‘work’? As a really enjoyable meal, yes. Every dish (except perhaps the risotto) was really well done, the combination and movement through the meal worked very well, as the tastes complemented and enhanced each other excellently. But, as a display menu from a fine restaurant, not so well, the dishes individually lacked that touch that lifts a dish from “really good” to “excellent” – the star quality of the setting (or our fellow diners ;)