854 Dominion Road, Mt Eden
We are five minutes away from the restaurant when we get the text message from AP “we want to apologise in advance”. I burst out laughing, because little did they (the couple we have a fortnightly dinner date with) know, but I already knew what was in store for me, as I’d done my homework.
MP had been very excited to pick the restaurant this week, explaining that it was Mediterranean with loads of vegetarian options for me (bless). What he hadn’t realised was Cazador is the Spanish word for ‘hunter’, and this restaurant specialises in game dishes.
Tony and Barbara Lolaiy opened Cazador in 1987, with Tony’s love of hunting and cooking not only creating an exotic menu, but also some exotic decorations. The walls and eaves of the restaurant are decorated with stuffed birds and trophy animal heads. I’d initially thought MP was playing a bit of a prank on me (“taking the piss” being my exact words), but he really had no idea.
I’ve been vegetarian for 20+ years – mainly because of taste and texture – so although the décor wasn’t my cup of tea, I was enjoying the hilarity of the situation. I do wish I’d seen the look on MP and AP’s faces when they entered the restaurant. The funniest thing was that they had originally invited a ‘save the planet’ type vegetarian to join us, but thankfully she was busy. They would have had some explaining to do then!
Throughout our meal one of our group would laps into a fit of giggles again over the whole event. The poor waiter must have thought we’d had far too much of our BYO wine with our meals.
Putting all the stuffed animals aside, the menu is amazing, from the Mediterranean entrees, to the exotic game main dishes (pork, duck, veal, venison), to the stunning desserts.
Trying to calm down through our initial laughter we ordered pita bread with hummus and babaghanoosh dips, and Nan-E-Bakhshi (flat bread rolled with herb parmesan pesto and baked with cheese), to start our evening (both $8.50 each). The babaghanoosh was probably the best I’ve ever tasted.
MP chose the Wild Pork main ($26), marinated in lime and thyme, served with apricot and mango sauce. His incredibly descriptive comments were that his meal was a “nice blend of flavours”.
AP and the husband ordered the same dish (again) enjoying the Kerghan Paisan, or baked pheasant, ($31). This dish is a specialty of Georgia and Armenia mountain villages and is infused with garlic, lime and thyme and roasted with crushed pistachios. AP and hubby both announced their meals to be “absolutely delicious”, but personally I’m not sure how you could eat the same bird that is stuffed and watching you while you dine, but each to their own.
Oh, and my Vegetarian Fettuccini ($23), with mushrooms, onion, tomato, courgette julienne and olives, was very tasty – thanks for asking.
The P’s indulged in a baked berry cheesecake for dessert, while hubby and I shared a chocolate sponge dessert (Tufo something-or-other – we’d had a few wines by then and the name eludes me).
The restaurant is licensed, or you can enjoy your BYO wine for $5. Our BYO wine selection for the evening included the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinot Gris for our entrees, with Te Mania’s stunning Nelson Pinot Noir 2008 with our mains.
Besides the ‘dead’ entertainment which lined the walls, the ambiance of the evening was enhanced by a ‘live’ guitarist. Our waiter was very attentive and we even let him in on our vegetarian giggles in the end.
In a nutshell: A good value, exotic dining experience, which you probably shouldn’t take a vegetarian along to. Make sure you order vegetables on the side, as you don’t get any with your main meal.