It’s All Fun & Sake At Tanoshi

Tanoshi, which means ‘fun’, is Queenstown’s original and authentic Osaka back-alley style restaurant and sake bar. 

The first Tanoshi restaurant opened its doors in 2015 in Queenstown, followed by a more take out style restaurant also in Queenstown, then another in Osaka, and now the newest arrival in Frankton’s Five Mile. 

Tanoshi’s cuisine is authentic and simple, presented in a tapas-style shared plates menu. 

“The menu was designed by our head chefs Koji Kiminami, Hiroshi Kazaki and Takafumi Seto, and Hanbyel Park,” said managing director Matty Yates. 

“Its inspiration comes from the Izakaya and sake culture from the back streets of Osaka.”

Matty said their signature dish is the Okonomiyaki - a traditional Japanese pancake from Osaka.

The first Tanoshi restaurant was converted from a late-night bar that Matty and his business partner Scott had owned and operated for 15 years prior.

“We both wanted a more food-based outlet and were considering a few options for the style of venue and type of food. Nothing was getting us really excited until we met with Keita Yoshimura, the host and manager of a local sake bar in Queenstown.”

After helping Matty & Scott set up the first two sites in Queenstown, Yoshimura headed home to Osaka and now owns and operates a successful Tanoshi restaurant there. 

Yates and his wife design the fit-outs of Tanoshi restaurants themselves. 

“The design and fit-out of our restaurants is a big part of who we are - all the sites are designed to take customers on a journey to the back alleys of Osaka. We use beautiful traditional Japanese pottery for our tableware and people love it. It’s the small things.” 

When COVID first hit, Tanoshi started focusing on the local market. 

“We established collaborations with some great Queenstown-based hospitality service providers: Loaded Reports, First Table and the Go Local app. In the last 12 months, we’ve had over 4000 Queenstown diners join our Locals loyalty scheme, which has been so successful that Covid has not affected our growth plan. 

“We’ve also collaborated with Zenkuro, a local, authentic Japanese sake brewer, to create a unique sake only available at Tanoshi restaurants.”

Working with Zenkuro, Yates has figured out how to pump the bespoke sake through Tanoshi’s beer tap system, becoming the only establishment in New Zealand to do so. 

The idea was born while enjoying sake with Dave Joll from Zenkuro as they discussed ways to present and pour the collaboration at the new restaurant. 

“We originally discussed offering sake in mini-kegs at tables but it moved to the possibility of pumping the sake stored in kegs in the cool room directly through the beer tap system. We both loved the idea, so we decided to pursue it and with the help of our local beer tap specialist, we are now in the process of installing a specific dispensing board in the cool room.”

Yates is incredibly proud to be opening a new restaurant in the current climate. 

“The new restaurant is strategically placed in Frankton, near the suburbs and locals, which will descale risks from the effects of sudden travel restrictions. 

“When the borders open again, we’ll be able to accommodate the growing local and tourist populations.”

Due to good planning and some luck, the fit-out has been on time so far, said Yates (touching wood)

“We booked three large storage units in Frankton and started purchasing everything about 15 months ago. This made the whole process feel like it’s taken ages, but the actual fit out only began in late August. Eliminating the possibility of any supply issues has been key to a smooth fit-out in these difficult circumstances.”

Yates believes Tanoshi is now a stronger business due to the pandemic. Earlier in the year, the restaurant won the award for outstanding casual dining/street food at the 2021 Queenstown Hospitality Awards run by Restaurant Association NZ.

“It forced us to take a much closer look at the business, get under the hood and improve everything.”

While the latest restaurant is opening in December, Kiwis outside of Queenstown can look forward to another new restaurant coming soon.