Simplicity and ease underpin everything at Iiko Sando & Eatery, a sweet shop in Takapuna specialising in Japanese-style sandwiches, rice-based lunchboxes, matcha and coffee.
Open for lunch Monday to Saturday, the roughly 25-seat space on Hurstmere Road is light and bright, with minimal decor, deep forest-green accents and pale wooden tables. Diners sip on matcha lattes and devour different flavoured sandos made with fluffy white shokupan (Japanese milk bread) or wholemeal walnut bread.
Owners and married couple Jack Zhong and Monica Lee live locally. They go back to Taiwan (where they’re originally from) and Japan every couple of years – and it was on one of these trips they were inspired to create Iiko Sando (pronounced "ee-ko sando").
They’ve kept fillings fairly classic – the flagship flavour is the pork katsu sando. Made with koji-brined pork cutlet, sesame tonkatsu sauce, cabbage salad and cucumber pickles, it’s got a lovely kick from Japanese mustard and the pork is soft and tender from the marinade.
Other fillings include fried chicken, breaded black tiger prawn, egg salad and a vegan sando with panko-crumbed eggplant. There’s also a sweet seasonal fruit sando filled with yuzu cream on brioche bread.
For the non-sando inclined, the Iiko rice boxes come packed with various fillings including egg, vegetables, salad, rice, Japanese pickles and a choice of protein. They’re inspired by lunchboxes Zhong’s mother used to make when he went to school and are designed to be a great lunch option to eat on the go.
Drinks-wise, there are hot and iced matcha lattes, coffee from local roaster Story Coffee, hot chocolate and Japanese teas such as genmaicha – green tea mixed with toasted brown rice. The Basque cheesecake in the cabinet takes its cues from Tokyo’s famous Mr Cheesecake; silky and soft, it’s the perfect finishing bite.