A friendly and cosy urban izakaya serving Japanese food with a twist.


Whether you opt for small plates or the Gochiso (chef’s feast), this is delicious, flavoursome dining for any occasion. With more options than you can try in one visit, you’ll definitely want to come back. Service is friendly, attentive and relaxed.



Shawn McGowan has cooked at Nomad, Sydney and has been head chef at Christchurch institutions The Monday Room, OGB and The Bicycle Thief. Shawn’s passion for Japanese cuisine was solidified after a trip to Japan with his wife Juliana. Tokyo’s small tucked-away bars gave him inspiration to put his own slant on Japanese food.


Shawn makes extensive use of Japanese ingredients while paying due homage to some of New Zealand’s finest. The menu boasts vast seafood offerings, local silken tofu and Black Origin wagyu.

The sushi taco is a crowd pleaser. Raw Black Origin wagyu with a spicy kick was an explosion of balanced flavours. Other sushi tacos include soft-shell crab and tempura prawn. The grilled groper fish collar on a black pepper tare sauce with sesame and charred lime was a standout.

The yakitori options are many and varied, including some adventurous parts of the chicken: reba (liver) cooked pink was perfectly creamy and is also offered well-done; hiza nankotsu (knee joint) was succulent and juicy, and both are served with tare sauces. The agedashi tofu was delectable with an outstanding ginger broth. Vegan fried karaage ‘Fricken’, with spiced cauliflower and vegan aioli was vegetable comfort food at its finest, while pickled cucumbers with fresh herbs were refreshing – perfect midway through our meal.

An on-point beverage list offers Japanese spirits, Japanese-influenced cocktails and a sake menu. The wine list is a curated handful of well-chosen, mostly New Zealand, wines. Staff are knowledgeable about both Japanese and New Zealand food and beverages.

When we asked our waitress what sweet options were available, she told us they don’t do dessert or coffee yet, but that we could purchase these at other businesses in the Welder precinct. I believe they may be considering adding these to the menu in the future, which would be a positive and welcome development.


New Zealand- born husband-and-wife team Shawn and Juliana McGowan have a long and successful history working together in hospitality, both here and in Australia. Their first stint together in New Zealand was at Amisfield Winery, then onto Pegasus Bay Winery where Shawn was first sous chef then head chef, and Juliana was maître’d. Juliana is renowned for her incredibly warm hospitality, evident in Bar Yoku’s service.


Tucked within The Welder, you can dine inside the restaurant in its dark, den-like space on low, cushioned seats, at the yakitori bar with a view of the coals or outside in the serene communal space that is shared by other eateries.