Koji: Modern Asian in Mount Victoria
Asian inspired cuisine mixed with locally sourced produce creates a delicious dining experience
Koji is a vibrant and bustling restaurant on Majoribanks Street, bringing together Asian cuisine and Aotearoa produce.
The shared-style dishes create moments for connecting around the table and a more casual approach to high-end dining.
The menu is filled with exciting dishes that mix traditional style sauces with playful new ideas, all made from local produce sourced from suppliers across the country.
The dishes come in different sizes and are set up for sharing. “I like having the family table and everyone sitting down and multiple plates on the table at a time and getting a mix, it gives a bit more casualness and interaction at the table and connection with each other,” says co-owner Johnon MacDonald.
Menu highlights include the yellow curry beef doughnut with Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise and pickled daikon, and the miso dengaku eggplant with pepita, puffed grains and nori.
They received so many requests about the dumpling’s flavoursome sauce – made with their homemade chilli oil – the team now bottle and sell it.
I want to travel New Zealand, and find the best produce, and connect with the people who are supplying the restaurant.
To find their suppliers, the entire Koji team, which includes owners Johnon MacDonald and Kat Strand, head chef Geordie McLachlan and restaurant manager Abbie Richardson, go on research trips. This was an idea Johnon came up with in Australia after he took a two-week motorbike trip from Townsville to Canberra, stopping in at various seafood suppliers along the way.
“I decided when I get home that’s what I want to do, I want to travel New Zealand and find the best produce and connect with the people who are supplying the restaurant.”
As a team they have visited Marlborough Sounds (Cloudy Bay Clams, Root Gin Distillery, Seresin Estate Winery), Martinborough (Schubert Wines, Lot 8 Olive Oil, Reid + Reid gin and vermouth) and Tora Collective on the South Wairarapa Coast for kaimoana seafood Māori | Noun .
After many years living overseas, working and training under top chefs around the world, Johnon and Kat moved back to New Zealand with their young family in March 2020, a decision made easier thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They knew they wanted to do their own thing on their return. Koji was the next step. In Japanese, the word "koji" means to cultivate. Koji is also an ancient mould used in Asian cuisine to create sake, miso, and soy sauce.
All aspects of Koji are a labour of love for Johnon and Kat. Having trained in Asian food for much of his career, the meals Johnon has created are an expression of the food he loves to eat.
The restaurant’s interior design, created by Kat, pairs perfectly with the menu to enhance the fun and vibrant atmosphere and a place where people can relax and forget about the world outside of Koji.