Whistle blowing

By Cuisine4 Minutes
August 30, 2023By Cuisine

Tracy Whitmey talks to Nic Watt about the events to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Masu.

Nic Watt can’t pick a favourite between the wagyu beef aged in beeswax and crown roast duck done on the robata. Both feature on a ‘Greatest Hits of the Decade’ tasting menu at Masu – his Japanese robata restaurant in the Federal Street dining precinct at SkyCity – a menu that he has curated to celebrate 10 phenomenal years since Masu first opened with the motto of ‘a passion for flavour and a dedication to detail’.

The pinnacle of the celebrations will be a sumptuous one-night-only gala dinner bringing Nic back together with his old friend Nelson Chantrawan of Bangkok restaurant Chim by Siam Wisdom. The two worked together in London for four years and when Nic first conceived the idea of collaborating in a top-class celebratory dinner, Nelson was the obvious choice. “I believe connection and relationships are really important. I have both of these with Nelson and I want to celebrate his story and journey, as much as I want to celebrate the milestone of Masu. I feel this creates an intuitive connection that our guests will see and feel on this very special evening.”

Having a good time has always been what Masu is about. Arriving back in Auckland in 2013 after 19 years cooking overseas, Nic knew he wanted his restaurant to be high-quality, with great ingredients and service and exceptional food. “But,” he says, “I wanted it to be a place where people can sit back in their chairs, laugh out loud and enjoy a really good night out.”

Like all good birthdays, the celebrations are not all over in just one day.

To toast the anniversary Nic has collaborated with Pinoli of Marlborough and Zenkuro Sake from Queenstown to create a specially brewed small-batch sake. A nigori-style sake, it is infused with roasted pinenuts giving a beautiful nutty note. Debuting at Masu on the big night, it will be on sale until supplies are exhausted; but with a run of only 60 litres, don’t delay. Matched with the sake will be a specially created dish also starring Pinoli pinenuts.

Featuring at Masu for the whole of October is that Greatest Hits tasting menu which, as it says on the box, will showcase Nic’s favourite dishes from the Masu menu over the past 10 years.

And, as a lasting memory of the flavours of Masu, Nic’s cookbook, Masu by Nic Watt, is being reissued in a limited-edition sleeve.

While the 10-year celebrations will guarantee a good time, a restaurant doesn’t thrive in Auckland’s crowded hospitality landscape by razzle-dazzle alone. “The DNA of Masu is carried by our staff,” says Nic. “It’s in their knowledge, consistency and the skill set of the chefs.” He is proud of the remarkably low staff turnover, saying, “We have had only three head chefs in 10 years and I’ve still got people there since the opening. It’s that loyalty and culture that has created the consistent success of Masu.”

And Nic acknowledges the other part of Masu’s success. “We’re really thankful to our customers and supporters who proudly wave Masu’s flag in the marketplace. Without them, our whistle is only so loud and our flag is only so big.”