Happy Japanese - Kelston

Happy Japanese

As part of a recent judging stint for Metro magazine, I volunteered to check out a Japanese restaurant in Kelston.

A place called Happy Japanese sounded like the best idea ever after the day I’d had, but I did nervously wonder if the name was an oversell. Apparently not. Excellent food and super happy service. Happy Japanese indeed.

This restaurant was definitely a steakhouse in a former life, the whole build screamed of Westie grill. It’s a huge place and seems to be a real weekend joint as on this particular Tuesday night we were the only patrons (I was later informed it’s busy in the weekend). I enjoyed the mad, fun feel to it and would love to see it in full swing.

Strangely, being the only people in this cavernous space didn’t mar our enjoyment. This would definitely be due to the quality of the food – and the fact that women talk so much when they go out that they don’t notice other people anyway.


We ordered the  Sesamed spinach ($6), the Agedashi Tofu ($7), the Tofu Cheese Spring Roll ($8) the Spicy Sashimi Salad ($12) and the Squid Legs Karaage ($12) to share. They were all excellent although I thought the Tofu Cheese Spring Roll needed a stronger cheese to counteract the blandness of the tofu.

The Agedashi Tofu was well-executed: pillowy soft tofu in a lovely light batter surrounded by that gorgeous warm dashi/mirin/soy broth and sprinkled with the usual adornments. And I loved the Squid Leg Karaage – a personal favourite of mine – squid tentacles deep fried within an inch of their lives in a heavily seasoned crunchy, addictive batter. Much less delicate than the tofu but appealing in a totally different way. Let’s face it, no matter how bad it is for us, we all like the taste that deep frying brings and the salty contrast with the tender delicately flavoured squid inside was a great combination.

The Sesamed spinach was magic with that wonderful combination of sesame, spinach and soy. The nuttiness of the sesame with the salt of the soy lifted the spinach from the ‘something my mother made me eat as a child’ category to ‘where can I get more of this?’ Amazing what adding a bit of light seasoning can do to green leaves. Their just-cooked texture and still vibrant green colour only added to the appeal.

The Spicy Sashimi was the most interesting dish of the night. A huge salad, laden with generous amounts of super-fresh raw tuna and salmon and doused in hot sauce, it was certainly a twist on the norm. It was really good and we finished the plate but I could have done with the fire dialed back a bit (especially as it was a raw kind of heat). This was definitely amazing value for money at $12, considering the quality and quantity of the sashimi.

The menu was enormous with a lot of real isakaya-style food that you don’t often see in Japanese restaurants here. If you live out west, this should be your go-to for fun ,tasty Japanese food, especially with a large group. From the moment you are greeted with a beaming smile and a huge “Irasshaimase” as you walk in, you’ll see why this place is aptly named.

www.happyrestaurant.co.nz

Location: 4038 Great North Road, Kelston
Phone: (09) 813 1078
Hours:  11.30am-9:30pm Mon – Weds and Sun; 11.30am – late Thurs – Sat
Credit Cards: Yes
Licensed: Yes
Suitable for Vegetarians: Yes
Takeaways: Yes
Bathrooms: fine
Wheelchair Accessible: Door yes, bathroom has a step
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3 Responses

  1. Lizzie says:

    It didn’t used to be a steak house. It was worse … Valentines!

  2. m Camacho says:

    Hello,
    Just curious if you will be offering an eat all you can buffet? I heard about your great menu and offering this will enable a patronizer to taste all your sample and continue to come back.

  3. Diane says:

    Went along last week looking forward to sampling Japanese food as per the article. Happy Japanese (as described above) no longer operates from these premises apparently they were forced to move due to financial matters with some talk of building a drive through Burger King in place of the building (which any Westie will know as the once upon a time Valentines). Thankfully the Burger King idea didn’t make it off the drawing board and what is there now is a temporary fill-in serving a limited menu of Asian style food. We were the only customers for lunch that day and had a nice lunch accompanied by a massive glass of sauvignon (not your standard three drops in a tiny glass, this was fish bowl type stuff and lasted me from the time we sat down to the moment we were leaving). Essentially the owner is keeping the restaurant operational in order to hang on to the liquor license but in the near future the building is being demolished and a new restaurant to be called Asia will take its place serving various types of Asian cuisine. Call in if you get the chance if for no other reason than to take one last look around a building that most of out West have many memories of from over the years. The foods not bad either and the owner is a lovely guy who is happy to have a chat.

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