First Look: Ima Deli
When Yael Shochat arrived in Auckland from Tel Aviv in 1998, city lunch options were limited to “sushi, sushi and more sushi”. Though short on experience — she’s a potter by training — Shochat was frustrated enough to open the City Lunchbox in Shortland St, which later became Fort St’s wonderful Ima Cuisine. And now she’s on the move again, opening an all-day cafe/deli two doors down from the restaurant, which – don’t panic – is staying open.
At Ima, her shakshuka (eggs cooked with merguez sausage and spicy tomato sauce) helped to usher in the recent “anything but eggs bene” revolution in Auckland breakfasting, and she hopes to repeat the trick at Ima Deli with malawach, a fried Yemenite Jewish puff pastry, and “Israeli breakfast” (yes, that’s the name), a platter-style meal of egg dishes, cheeses and smoked fish.
Open only a few days, the deli is still very much a work in progress. The breakfast and lunch menus – including latkes with smoked salmon; three-cheese boureka pastries; meltingly tender rotisserie chicken, sold as a quarter, half or whole; and “Brick Lane” salt beef (pastrami) sandwiches – are up and running now. By early next year, Ima Deli will be serving dinner too, offering an always-changing range of simple meals to eat in or take away.
Right now the place is still more cafe than delicatessen, but soon there’ll be a full range of New York-meets-Tel Aviv deli items to buy, including house-smoked meats, homemade sausages, cheeses, hummus sold from a serve-over counter.
Front of house manager Angela Fabrello says the decision to sell decidedly non-kosher foods like ham and bacon, or cheese-laden beef moussaka, has raised some eyebrows. But their aim never was to recreate an authentic Jewish deli, she says. “Ima is an expression of Yael’s personality, and her two lives in Israel and New Zealand. It’s not about being a slave to authenticity – it’s about the food Yael loves to cook and eat.”
From the Ima Deli menu
- Bourekas: puff pastry filled with kashkaval, feta and ricotta with Middle Eastern chopped salad, pickles, a poached free-range egg.
- Shakshuka: spicy, slow roasted tomatoes with home-made Moroccan merguez sausages and two poached free-range eggs.
- Israeli chicken soup: chicken dumplings and vegetables in a rich chicken broth, topped with Shkedei marak (fried pillows of dough, literally “soup almonds”).
- Home made gourmet pies
- Baked cheesecake
53 Fort St