Best Cheap Eats 2016: Central city
Photo: Madang, shot exclusively for Metro by Caitlin McKone.
17 Mount St, Central City
A magnet for Asian students, Angie’s offers all the nyonya snacks, staples, desserts and kuihs (cakes) they’re used to back home. Especially recommended are the nyonya appetisers — lobak and kueh pai ti, a crispy top hat casing filled with shredded vegetables — and we also like their assam laksa and ayam sambal tumis (chicken drumsticks simmered in sambal sauce). Halal.
Malaysian, vegetarian friendly
9 Commerce St, Central City
A family operation (the hosts hail from downtown Busan), come here for homestyle dishes served with multiple banchan. You’ll be far from cold or hungry after a hearty bowl of soon du bu (spicy tofu soup).
490 Queen St, Central City
Dak means chicken in Korean, so you’d be foolish to pass it up here. Eat it soy-glazed and fried, in stews or in soup. Don’t miss the hot-plate spicy squid, which makes a good addition to a plate of dumplings.
23 Wellesley St West, Central City
The Middle East Cafe has closed! Long live Madang! As Korean restaurants go, it has a shortish, well-honed menu. The bibimbap is full of interesting veges like angelica root and soybean sprouts, with some purple rice vanquishing white monotony, and they point out that their stir-fries (bulgogi, spice pork et al.) are fried in stock rather than oil, which means you don’t end up with that nasty bottom-of-the-bowl slick. That said, their fried chicken wings in spicy sauce are A+++.
Chancery Square, Kitchener St, Central City
Here’s a jewel, shining bright in a corner of the city that has very sadly become neglected. With an always-busy interior and inviting front courtyard, Mamak is one of the best lunch and pre-show dinner outlets around. We’ve long been fans of the chicken curry and the big spicy beef rendang, but our current favourite is char kway teow (noodles with seafood), which they serve with a raw egg. Scrumptious.
Malaysian, vegetarian friendly, licensed
79 Anzac Ave, Central City
Chef Albert Ooi and his largely volunteer staff run a Malaysian kopitiam, or coffee shop, that donates its profits to the A21 Campaign (to prevent human trafficking) and Habitat for Humanity. The king of char kway teow, Ooi’s seared rice noodles feature a delicious smoky flavour. His curry laksa and Hainanese chicken rice are also very popular. A compact menu of classics at a very decent price.
Malaysian, vegetarian friendly
NO 1 PANCAKE
Cnr Lorne and Wellesly Sts, Central City
We love that the council has honoured this hole in the wall by expanding the kerb and making it easier for crowds to gather. Because gather they do: there are other Asian fast-food joints next door now, but No 1’s super-cheap, super-tasty Korean pancakes are still the star.
368 Queen St, Central City
Central Auckland’s newest food court is also one of its smallest and best. The 10 or so stalls include well-known names like the Indian Bikanervala and Bombay Chinese, along with new outlets such as the Brazilian stall Bite. Best of all: Gui Rice Noodles, where the crispy fried pork is simply delectable. Queens Court is right opposite the Town Hall: terribly convenient if you’ve got a show there or at Q Theatre just up the road. It’s not licensed, though, so if you want a drink, leave yourself time to get one at the Town Hall or theatre bar.
Food Court, vegetarian friendly
6/50 High St, Central City
It’s just a little green room at the top of High St, but Sunflower Vegetarian is very good (though it really ought to be renamed, because everything here is actually vegan). The menu reads as a bit of a meat fest, though it’s predominantly soy-based, and incredibly close to the real deal. Curries are tasty, if slightly sweet, and soups are that lovely balance of hot, sour and fragrant.
Thai, vegetarian friendly
13 Anzac Ave, Central City
Whether in a small group or on a solo ramen mission, Tanpopo’s location makes it ideal for a workday lunch. Even the meat-eaters among us especially love the vegetarian miso ramen.
Japanese, licensed, BYO
3/12 Jellicoe St, Central City
Prices inch close to the $20 mark at this waterfront Thai restaurant, but when you consider the generous portion sizes and seaside setting, it offers great value for money. The best example of this is the moo yang: half a chicken juicily chargrilled, Isaan style, and served with sticky rice and vibrant som tam salad.
Thai, vegetarian friendly, licensed
53 Nelson St, Central City
Work event? Wedding? A whole load of drunk friends? Whatever the scenario, Totó’s solution is pizza by the metre. Many, many metres if necessary — they can feed up to 220 people in one go. It’s good, too, with chunky tomato sauce and an excellent topping-to-cheese ratio.
Pizza, vegetarian friendly, licensed, free range
XI’AN FOOD BAR
11 Anzac Ave, Central City
They still have the quirky calculator ordering system, and the bright orange décor. The menu has Chinese burgers, dumplings and a good array of vegetable dishes, but it’s very hard to go past the braised-pork noodles. Complex flavours, slowly cooked pork, and a good level of heat. It’s served atop their signature hand-pulled noodles: fat, soft and chewy — in a good way.
Cheap Eats 2016: ordered alphabetically, by location and cuisine