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Cheap Eats 2014: The Top 100

Cheap Eats 2014: The Top 100

Metro Cheap Eats 2014: Men Tatz, Auckland

 

 

We like to think our judges are experts: food writers, bloggers, restaurant critics. People who analyse what they eat for a living, who have a special interest in street food, takeaway stalls and other types of cheap eating. Who know their dumplings and their donburi, their poppadoms and their pizza.

To start, we shut ourselves in a room with a long list: more than 250 Auckland eateries we thought would make good candidates for the Top 100. For three hours, we wrestled with what we knew and didn’t know, what we agreed on and what we needed to check again. That process cut the list to 142.

Then we went out and started eating. Restaurants and takeaway bars were visited anonymously, and we always paid for the meals. It’s pretty common in this part of the hospitality industry for restaurant owners to assume you want something free, or even that you expect them to pay you. We don’t do that. No favours, no payments, no advertisements in exchange for a good mention.

A few weeks later, we met again. The 142 had grown, because we kept discovering new places, but the job was to get that list down. It was a big debate, and front of mind, we kept asking ourselves: would we recommend it?

That question helped us to identify many places that don’t do much wrong, whose food we don’t mind eating — but we set the bar higher than that.

We had to. There are 45 new places on our list compared with last year. A few of those are established places that we think have got better. In the case of Barilla Dumpling, it’s back after missing out last year because of a D health certificate (now, it has an A).

Several of our new places are in food halls. Last year, we excluded food halls completely, but we’ve reviewed that decision. Take Mekong Vietnamese in the Ponsonby International Food Court and Marigold Thai at Food Alley: they are among the very best places to eat Vietnamese and Thai food in Auckland, and they fully deserve their slots.

We have also relaxed our price criteria a little: now, it’s dinner for less than $20 or thereabouts. That means you should expect to find a range of menu options in that price bracket, not just one or two dishes, and that a main dish, with rice and roti or miso or whatever other sides you would normally order, might edge the bill past $20 but will not get to $25. This has allowed us to add a few more Malaysian and Japanese restaurants to the Top 100.

Most of the pressure on the list, however, has come from an explosion of new places. In Dominion Rd and Sandringham, in Ponsonby and the central city, Northcote and Birkenhead, Howick and Botany — all over town — Auckland is host to a great flowering of cuisines.

Satya has been joined by perhaps a dozen other exciting Indian restaurants. Northern Chinese dumpling and noodle bars have burst out of Balmoral to open in many corners of the city, while the owners of the pioneering New Flavour and Barilla have both expanded with additional outlets themselves. Gourmet burgers used to be defined by two or three franchise operations, but the rise of Burger Burger, Better Burger and others has meant those franchises don’t even get a look in this year.

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And yet, some big names are missing. Mexico is not on our list: we thought it would be a shoo-in, but it has become a franchise operation and we realised it has shifted the focus from restaurant to bar. We’ll be reporting on Auckland’s best bars later in the year, but we did not include them in the Cheap Eats list. This list is for places where the focus is clearly on the food.

Basque Kitchen, Bedford Soda and Liquor and Dida’s are missing for the same reason.

Other places are missing because they don’t fit under the price ceiling. Among them: the Canton in Kingsland, iVillage in Victoria Park Market, Panmure’s splendid Beijing Duck restaurant and the magnificent Cambodian restaurant Sopheara in Flat Bush. The Cheap Eats list is not a full guide to Auckland’s great ethnic eating.

And yet there are some big-name places that have missed out because they are simply not good enough. Chief among them is the Food Truck Garage. New to our list last year and even named in the Top 10, it has now, like Mexico, lost one of its key original owners, and the new kitchen crew are not working to anything like the same high flavour-bursting standards.

We were surprised. We were dismayed, too, because it’s one of our locals. So it got three judges’ visits.

Still, why fret for what’s gone when we can celebrate what’s come? The very popular Elliott Stables, an upmarket food hall right in the middle of town, now has a magnificent Cajun restaurant called Bonz. The splendid Cafe Abyssinia in Mt Roskill has been joined by several other excellent outlets, including Tandoori Hutt, a simple hole-in-the-wall joint that we think serves the best Indian food of any place on the list. Ponsonby Central has two exciting places in our Top 10: Chop Chop Noodle House and Burger Burger.

And yet, we confess, for all the splendour of the new, we still love the best of the old: Sri Pinang, the Middle East Cafe, the White Lady. And when we find ourselves in the vicinity of Browns Bay, we make sure we make time, and space in our tummies, for remarkably delicious ramen at Ramen Takara.

Auckland, eh. Such a good town.

THE TOP 100 BY SUBURB

BALMORAL

CENTRAL CITY

EASTERN SUBURBS, MT WELLLINGTON, OTAHUHU AND WAIHEKE

EPSOM, ROYAL OAK AND MT ROSKILL

KINGSLAND, EDEN TERRACE AND MT EDEN

NEWMARKET AND ORAKEI

NEWTON

NORTH SHORE

PONSONBY, FREEMANS BAY AND HERNE BAY

SANDRINGHAM AND MT ALBERT

WEST AUCKLAND

 

THE TOP 100, A – Z

@ BANGKOK 438 New North Rd, Kingsland

7 SIRI TASTE OF SRI LANKA 580 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham

ANGIE’S KITCHEN 17 Mount St, Auckland CBD

B & D Eden Quarter, 296C Dominion Rd, Mt Eden

BANZAI 583 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

BARILLA DUMPLING 571 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

BAWARCHI 523 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham

BBQ NOODLES BAR 29 Aviemore Drive, Highland Park

BETTER BURGER 31 Galway St, Britomart

BIG J’S 4/1 Melton Rd Mt Wellington

BIRD ON A WIRE 234 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

BI WON KOREAN BBQ 29 Link Drive, Wairau Valley

BOMBAY CHINESE Queens Court Food Hall, 370 Queen St, Central City

BONZ CAJUN KITCHEN Elliott Stables, 41 Elliott St, Central City

BUN HUT 563 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

BURGER BURGER Ponsonby Central, 136-146 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

CAFE ABYSSINIA Tulja Centre, 190 Stoddard Rd, Mt Roskill

CHEF RASA SAYANG 25 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead

CHOP CHOP NOODLE HOUSE Ponsonby Central, 136-146 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

CONCH KITCHEN & BAR 115A Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

COOCUP 18-26 Wellesley St East, Central City

CRAZY NOODLE BAR 110 Carlton Gore Rd, Newmarket

DRAGONFIRED PIZZA Little Oneroa Beach, Waiheke

DUMPLING ACE Northcote Town Centre, 39 Pearn Place, Northcote

EDEN NOODLES 105 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden

FISH SMITH 200 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay

THE FLAMING ONION 1 Lydia Ave, Northcote

FLOURISHING CAFE Shop 4, 1784 Great North Rd, Avondale

GREENWOODS FRESH CATCH 1 Pah Rd, Epsom

HONG KONG & CHINESE 64 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead

IL BUCO 113 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

JAI JALARAM KHAMAN 570 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham

JIALE BUN SHOP 33 Pearn Place, Northcote

JIMMY THE FISH Ponsonby Central, 136-146 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

JOLIN SHANGHAI 248 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden

KAIRALI 754 Manukau Rd, Royal Oak

KK MALAYSIAN CUISINE 463A Manukau Rd, Epsom

KONG FUZI 9 Gooch Place, Meadowlands

KUTA BALI Ponsonby Village International Food Court, 106 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

LAKSA HOUSE Newmarket Plaza Food Court, 11 Kent St, Newmarket

LATE NIGHT DINER 152b Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

LITTLE SHEEP HOTPOT 27 Cross St, Newton

THE LUCKY TACO Various locations (see theluckytaco.co.nz)

MAMAK MALAYSIAN Chancery Square, 50 Kitchener St, Central City

MARIGOLD THAI Shop 10, Food Alley, 9 Albert St, Central City

MARSIC BROS 47 Mayfair Place, Glen Innes

MEKONG VIETNAMESE Ponsonby International Food Court, Shop 2, 106 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

MEN TATZ 28 Lorne  St, Central City

THE MIDDLE EAST CAFE 23 Wellesley St West, Central City

MT EDEN VILLAGE FISH SHOP 438 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden

MR ZHOU’S DUMPLINGS 3130 Great North Rd, New Lynn

MUMBAI CHAAT 1A Kitchener Rd, Sandringham

NAVAS CAFE 14 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

NEW FLAVOUR 541 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

NISHIKI 100 Wellington St, Freemans Bay

NO 1 BBQ 1 Commerce St, Central City

NO 1 PANCAKE 10 Wellesley St East, Central City

PARADISE INDIAN FOOD 591 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham

PARKSIDE CAFE & VIETNAMESE CUISINE 775 New North Rd, Mt Albert

PEACH PIT 352 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct

PETRA SHAWARMA 482 New North Rd, Kingsland

POK POK THAI STREET FOOD AND BAR 261 Karangahape Rd, K’ Rd Precinct

QUEEN CHEF Unit 10, 20 Link Drive, Wairau Valley

RAMEN DO 167 Symonds St, Eden Tce

RAMEN TAKARA 4 Anzac Rd, Browns Bay

THE ROAMING DIVE Various locations (see facebook.com/theroamingdive)

ROTTI HUT Tulja Centre, 190 Stoddard Rd, Mt Roskill

SAKE BAR NIPPON RESTAURANT 415 Manukau Rd, Epsom

SAMWOO VIETNAMESE CAFE 15 Princes St, Otahuhu

SAN BAO 708 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

SANCHUN BAMBOO HOUSE 9 Commerce St, Central City

SANTHIYA’S 1270 Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill

SASUMA 1278 Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill

SATYA SOUTH INDIAN RESTAURANT 17 Great North Rd, Newton (also in Sandringham Rd, Mt Eden Rd and K’ Rd)

SELERA 487 Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket

SHAOLIN KUNG FU NOODLE 636 Dominion Rd, Balmoral (also 486 Queen St, Central City)

SHUBH RESTAURANT & TAKEAWAYS 520 Sandringham Rd,  Sandringham

SIMLA MIRCH 451 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden

SPICY HOUSE 557 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

SPICY JOINT 533 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

SRI PINANG 356 Karangahape Rd, Newton

STUMPY’S PIZZA 702 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

TANDOORI HUTT 164 Stoddard Rd, Mt Roskill

TANOSHIMU YAKINIKU 605 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden

TANPOPO RAMEN 13 Anzac Ave, Central City

TASTY NOODLE HOUSE TAKEAWAY 898 New North Rd, Mt Albert

THAT’S AMORE Level 2, 42 High St, Central City

TIFFIN 598 New North Rd, Kingsland

TOP CAFE 7/30 Upper Queen St, Newton

TOP TEN 237 Balmoral Rd, Balmoral

TOTÓ PIZZA 51 Nelson St, Central City (also at Farina, Ponsonby)

TULAY’S KITCHEN 168 Kepa Rd, Orakei

TURO-TURO 26a Mayfair Place, Glen Innes

WANG WANG SPRING PANCAKE 704 Dominion Rd, Balmoral

WHITE LADY 18 Commerce St, Central City

XI’AN FOOD BAR  11 Anzac Ave, Central City (also Northcote & Mt Albert)

YONG FA  1001 Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill

YUMMY KOREAN BBQ RESTAURANT 23 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead

YUZU JAPANESE 145 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby

ZHENG KEE 1238 Dominion Rd, Mt Roskill

Cheap Eats