Metro writer Jean Teng rounds up all the little-known places to eat on the North Shore, including a handy-dandy guide at the end for when you get a craving for something specific, like Korean fried chicken or Taiwanese food.
The North Shore is criminally underserved on Metro’s Restaurant of the Year list. This year, only one restaurant made it.
Why? Probably for a lot of reasons, one being that the Shore's restaurants tend toward a different style of service and point of view due to their suburban clientele. That doesn’t mean the food isn’t good, and there are a fair few gems hiding away over the bridge.
Here are ten other places that have not made any of our lists this year but are still worth a go, with a special focus on eateries you may not have heard about. (I’ve personally eaten at all of them, most multiple times.) You don’t have to squint very hard to realise I’ve expanded this list-of-ten into a sprawling guide: a handy-dandy one-stop-shop for all your North-Shore needs.
We, of course, always recommend The Engine Room, and the crème of the crop that were rewarded in 2019’s Cheap Eats: Chu Long Ji Chinese Restaurant, Dumpling Ace, Mamak and Ramen Takara. We also recommend The Grange, which editor Henry Oliver gave four spoons to in our most recent November/December issue.
1. Jami Korean Restaurant
Jami is one price-step up from the other restaurants in this little dining area, and one step up on its offerings, too. If you want to spend up big, you can, on the set menus with mains like charcoal marinated beef rib, or slow-cooked pork belly and large sharing pots. A quick lunch of dolsot bibimbap or tendon soup is doable, too.
9/20 Link Dr, Wairau Valley
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You can clock this as a Japanese restaurant upon first walk-in – the wood-heavy fit-out will immediately give it away, as will the chefs' shouts of welcome, not pausing their busy hands from continuing to slice and dice fresh sashimi. This is my family’s go-to special-occasion Japanese restaurant on the Shore (well, this and Tokyo Bay, also quite good) because it feels like Japan and the set menus are bougie, dynamically presented and exude luxe. Plus, the most important thing: sashimi is always fresh, sliced perfectly.
426 Lake Rd, Takapuna
Jess Granada and Andrew Soriano’s Nanam in Royal Oak became many Auckland diners introduction to Filipino flavours, quickly gaining a reputation for their Taco Pao, their signature dish with sticky pulled pork. Now in Takapuna, we like ordering from the tapas menu, especially the wagyu sausage “longganisa”, a tasty number which won Taste of Auckland’s 2019 Best Dish award. Also good is the crispy “pata” pork hock and lechon.
178 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna
4. China Hong Kong Restaurant
Famous for its Peking duck, casual BYOs, fading yellow tablecloths and sometimes-questionable service, China Hong Kong Restaurant is the reliable Cantonese go-to in Birkenhead and has been for years. Their Peking duck is one of Auckland’s best, and, typical of Cantonese restaurants, the sheer volume of variety on their menu lends itself nicely to family get-togethers. I go for the whole steamed fish (blue cod, usually, and if they only have snapper, opt for deep-fried), which is one of the cheapest I’ve ever found at $35, casserole chicken mince with eggplant and loquat tofu (stuffed with prawn and pork).
64 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead
5. Namwon Cheuotang
I am a big fan of Namwon Cheuotang in Wairau Valley, which sets itself apart with their namesake, chueo-tang soup. You’ve got falling-apart mudfish, chilli and soybean paste and vege, amongst other things, bubbling away in the stone pot.
7b/20 Link Dr, Wairau Valley
6. Hak Ka Hut
The best yum cha on the Shore, period. Good luck getting a table if you wander in on Saturday at 12pm – I’ve been known to rock up at their opening hour of 10am just to guarantee myself a seat. Do yourself a favour and get the prawn and chive dumplings, cheung fun (rice noodle roll) with fried dough, and obviously some pork buns. You won’t have too much trouble if you can’t speak Chinese, as long as you know what you want.
42 William Pickering Dr, Rosedale
7. Moo Deung San
One of the few charcoal barbeque places left on the Shore (RIP Biwon), my family have been coming to Moo Deung San for years, despite being infamously known for having bad service. You might be served your meat with a small side of attitude here, but that smoky charcoal flavour can’t be beaten by its modern replacement, electric cookers, and it’s also the only spot in Auckland you can eat gejang (raw marinated crab in soy sauce).
0627/23 Pearn Pl, Northcote
8. 21 Days
Fancy little all-day steakhouse in Browns Bay which outdoor area backs onto the beach – sit outside in the sun and there’s not a better place to have dinner in town. It’s not revelatory but they take the classics and execute them well, though they do fall prey to the usual suburban pitfall of chucking in a couple of awkwardly horned-in “crowd-pleasers” (tacos?). Either way, the steaks are good.
37 Clyde Rd, Browns Bay
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9. Yoon’s Kitchen
I always say restaurants are more than just their food – there are so many intangible factors which enter the weighing scale when you’re debating whether to head back to a restaurant or not. Undeniably, how you’re treated by the owners/staff, and who you decide you want to support, is an immense factor. And I want to support Yoon’s Kitchen, which serves slightly-different Korean and Japanese-influenced food (Kumara cheese pork katsu, fresh salmon on cold noodles, bosam), and has the loveliest owner in the world.
7/35 Apollo Dr, Rosedale
10. Nanita’s Cocina Mexicana
If you grew up on the North Shore (and are Asian), there’s a very high chance your childhood included family visits to Food City in Northcote, our bestest food court which, like many, have fallen into a sadder state of late. The new-ish entry of Nanita’s Cocina Mexicana is more than welcome, which offers tacos, sopes and more. Make sure to get a tamale, meat or vegetarian fillings wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf and steamed, and the tlacoyos. Delicious home-cooked Mexican food, but be wary about opening times (Thurs-Sun, dinner only).
Food City, 4-10 Kilham Ave, Northcote
Korean fried chicken?
Song Do in Browns Bay does banging Korean fried chicken – I order it without the sticky sauce for crispy, deep-fried goodness. Inverness Rd, Browns Bay
Malaysian for dinner?
Order the homemade tofu, curry fish head and marmite chicken at Chef Rasa Sayang. 25 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead
Shared Korean hotpots?
The Place does good sharing pots and plates to share, including Tteok-bokki (spicy rice cake) and budae-jjigae (spicy sausage). Shop 10 78/62 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna
Pasha Cafe and Mezze Bar for their mezze (large sharing plates for two). 444 Glenfield Rd, Glenfield
Korean lamb soup?
Onggojip is famous for their lamb youngyangtang, a soup you don’t usually find in Korean cuisine. It has healing powers. 243 Rosedale Rd, Albany
Dante’s Pizzeria, with sourdough bases. 2/40 Hurstmere Rd, Takapuna. Also at 111 Clyde Rd, Browns Bay
The best Shanghainese food can be found at Jing An Shanghai. 16/96 Rosedale Rd, Rosedale
Max Kitchen, especially their traditional braised beef noodles, or the stinky tofu. 1/12 Oteha Valley Rd Extension, Albany
Big Tikka in Takapuna serves up less creamy, regionally diverse Indian food. 458 Lake Rd, Takapuna
KangChon for their seafood jjamppong, but be prepared to wait because the food takes forever to get out. 546 East Coast Rd, Windsor Park
China Castle in Albany has my favourite jajangmyeon (black bean noodles), but only get the spicy version, as without the edge of spice, it’s a bit too sweet. But fair warning, it’s very spicy. 12 Arrenway Dr, Rosedale