Pomegranate has come into its own since our last visit, bedding down a style of food that is traditional at its core but elegant and beautifully handled.
We arrived expecting a good meal with some ups and downs, which is what we found when we last ate here in 2015. We left exclaiming to anyone within earshot how good our dinner had been. Everything works tonight.
The menu isn't an exciting read, largely because of the way it is structured around the main proteins, one of each. Among the seven mains, you'll find a fish dish, duck, beef (wagyu with mash, mushrooms and jus), lamb, chicken, spatchcock and a vegetarian dish - which looks to be the same eggplant boat offering that was here four years ago.
This kind of menu structure is out of fashion, but Pomegranate doesn't feel like a restaurant especially obsessed by fashion.
It's upmarket in feel, with sparkling candles and ornate looking Turkish style hanging lights, carpet, white tablecloths. There are lots of tables for two and lots of moneyed-looking couples tonight. Which isn't to give the impression that it's staid or old-fashioned. It is an intimate, very pleasant and quite elegant place to be.
Zucchini flowers ($19) come as three plump stalks, the green handles poking from the top of the deep-fried flowers, which are stuffed with a creamy feta sauce. Alongside is a tahini-style sauce with lemon. The flowers are not especially delicate but they're good.
Prawn moussaka ($25) is not moussaka as you'll know it, but three big charred prawns sitting on top of half an eggplant. They're beautifully charred, fresh and hot with chilli. The eggplant is baked delicious and soft. The menu says it's smoked but if so, it's only subtle, which is a good thing. Pomegranate seeds add citrus pop, and tomato salsa adds freshness. It's a very good, well-balanced dish, with none of the elements threatening or drowning out the prawns.
Spatchcock ($36) is a standout. It's a substantial serve, two whole birds, perhaps. They're butterflied and charred in a simple presentation, super tender and juicy. Alongside is a minimal pile of what the menu says is cracked wheat pilaf, although is possibly bulghar wheat. There's a round of zucchini, beautifully cooked, half a grilled tomato and some robust parsley leaves. It's simple and very good. The chargrilled lamb cutlets with potato salad and cacik ($36) is not a dish that would immediately catch the eye. Lamb cutlets are almost a cliche of middling Mediterranean cooking. Here, they're a joy. Very meaty and simple. There are four cutlets stacked on top of each other, with the potato underneath. They're charred again, and succulent again. They're simple. The "salad" is a pile of cubed, soft roast potato pieces, and there's a fresh yoghurt sauce. This works. Really everything works. Everything is good, simple and sensible and made by someone who knows how to taste.
The wine list is not especially ambitious, keeping things simple and affordable, with veering into the prestigious and unusual. By the glass, they price at $12, offering a New Zealand sauvignon, Oakridge chardonnay and a couple of locals, with Spain (rioja), Argentina (malbec) and France (pinot) getting a look-in in the reds. Things could be a little more exciting on this front.
The desserts are spectacular to look at. The passionfruit cheesecake ($15) is piped into a whirl and dusted with something that turns the outside deep red. There are little pearls of what is presumably pomegranate juice possibly given the spherical treatment. Alongside is a very fresh and startling passionfruit sorbet. It's very pretty on the plate.
Dark chocolate mousse ($5) follows similar theme. There's a biscuit base with chocolate mousse on top, the little ball dusted in chocolate. Alongside is a fantastic intense, smooth pomegranate sorbet. This time the poppy spherical pearls taste like they're distilled from strawberries.
The sorbets are fantastic and a reminder that owner Erkin Esen looked after the kitchen at Ottoman Cuisine before setting out on his own at Pomegranate.
Kingston is an odd fish, having suffered something of the fate of Manuka as a shopping centre. The new foreshore, crawling with apartments and lined with eateries, has shifted the focus to the lake and away from the old centre. So it doesn't feel like there's a lot of street life here, but eating out is still an obsession of this part of town.
Pomegranate's charms are not a secret. It is clearly popular and not the kind of place you can visit spontaneously, judging by our attempts to get same-day bookings over some weeks before we finally got lucky.
And its success is good news for this spot in the ground floor of the York apartments, bringing stability after a few years of changing tenants with Artespresso and the European occupying the space before.
Address: 31 Giles St, Kingston
Phone: 6295 1515
Owners: Ziba Esen and Erkin Esen
Chef: Erkin Esen
Hours: Open noon to 2pm and 6pm till late Tuesday to Saturday
Vegetarian: Good entrees, and a main
Wheelchair access: No
Noise: No Problem