43 Ballarat Street,
+64 3 442 9393
Rata was launched in 2012 in Queenstown, New Zealand by NZ Masterchef judge Josh Emett (he's the friendly one) and esteemed local chef Fleur Caulton. It's tucked away at the top end of the Queenstown Mall and I was expecting a traditional, formal, fine-dining ambience but happily the décor is charming, stylish, relaxed. The interior — with its integrated stone and wood — reflects the Central Otago character.
To begin, little bites whet the appetite. The (very) petite Goats Cheese Profiteroles ($10) spike the palate and the Southland Cheese Roll ($15) is stunning in presentation and flavour. We also treated ourselves to the Blue Fin Tuna Tartare with Watermelon (an inspired complement), Avocado and Wasabi ($18).
The starters ranged in price from $18-$32 and included crayfish risotto, salmon with black qunioa, gnocchi with pecorino, mushrooms & walnuts, buffalo ricotta with heirloom tomatoes, and free-range chicken with duck tongues.
However, we decided to skip these temptations and move on to the mains. My Bluenose, Mussels, Kumara, Apple & Vadouvan Spice (it's an Indian mix) was a picture on its special pottery plate. But sorry Josh, the fish was over-cooked. So too were the two tarakihi fish dishes ordered by our friends. I don't normally write about disappointing dishes but at $38 and $36 dollars and with such high expectations and high-rep owners, I feel it's warranted. However, the chef must have been having a bad fish day. The fourth dinner guest relished his Havoc Pork Pappardelle ($38) and our dessert of Goat's Milk Cheesecake, Gingerbread, Burnt Honey Jelly, Lemon Purée and Fig ($18) was heaven.
Please don't be put off by this review because Rata is definitely a Queenstown restaurant worth visiting. It's obvious that it has been designed with much thought — from the stones gathered from the river banks that form receptacles for the table salt, to the forest scenes on the walls and the eclectic mix of serving plates.
And thank you to the staff — well trained and knowledgeable.
Open:Monday-Sunday 12pm-11pm lunch/dinner