Cazador

Details

854 Dominion Road
Balmoral
(09) 620 8730

Hours

Tuesday - Thursday
6pm - late
Friday
4pm - late
Saturday
2pm - late

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Cazador is a fair way down Dominion Rd, which means I often wave at it on my way to the airport. It sounds silly, to wave at a restaurant, but Cazador is one of those rare establishments that seems to welcome and enfold an entire community of people. So when I wave at Cazador I’m thinking of the food, yes, and the unique, carefully chosen drinks list, but I’m also thinking of brilliant nights, wonderful people, great conversation.

This place has been family owned and operated for 30 years. The pair who run the show currently, Chef Dariush Lolaiy and Rebecca Smidt, are of the second generation – they took over the reigns from Dariush’s parents in 2012.

They’ve added fresh air to the place, opened the doors wide to let more light in. There are still taxidermy animals everywhere, white textured walls and a ceiling that makes you feel as if you’re inside a Bedouin tent, but Cazador still feels fresh and modern and somehow, even more itself. Over the past five years, Rebecca and Dariush have guided the restaurant through a gentle transition from a local institution into one of the most exciting, innovative places to dine in this whole town.

Cazador’s reputation was built on game food – both Dariush and his father Tony are hunters. These are the folk who made tongue trendy and liver a revelation. They’ve served me things I’ve never seen on a menu before. They’ve expanded my culinary mind. The menu changes seasonally to reflect what’s new, and whatever you find on it will surprise and delight you.

In 2013 they had a Spanish wine dinner, during which I ate the most incredible venison, with cherry sauce, cauliflower puree and an Ortiz anchovy. At our Cazador Tasting Club they served, among many other things, blackened bird pie. Just recently I had calf tongue chips, a plate of poussin hearts, followed by a rabbit pappardelle of dreams.

Cazador has a casualness that makes it as good for large groups as it is for first dates – for groups of 6 or more, they create a feasting menu just for you. The bar and courtyard offer a tropical, sunny space to eat and chat without committing to a full meal, and the bar snacks are divine and daring. Contrary to popular belief, team Cazador make wonderful vegetarian food. I even asked them to cater my vegetarian sister’s wedding a few years ago, and they ruled at it.

I think the best thing about Cazador is that you can trust Rebecca and Dariush completely, they have amazing taste. I let them choose the wine and suggest what dishes I order, and I have never ever been disappointed. In fact, I commented to someone the other day that every time I go to Cazador I have the BEST time. The kind of experience where you leave and find yourself saying on the way home, “well that was just great, don’t you think it was great?”

In 2013 we had a medievel feast Tasting Club at Cazador, it was swell.