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“Fuck, that was mean!”

Michael Meredith’s new Samoan restaurant.

“Fuck, that was mean!”

Mar 7, 2024 Restaurants

So much of what I think of as Pacific food is comfort food. I think of the fat from pisupo melting in a frying pan, being stirred together with browned onions and tinned spaghetti, bubbling hot, then heaped on to a plate of freshly cooked white rice — a carb-on-carb mountain of simple, salty tastiness. I think of ripping in half keke pua‘a, the bun still steaming, revealing its filling of diced pieces of soy-sauce-soaked pork. I picture the oil seeping through a brown paper bag that holds deep-fried banana panikeke. 

I have these dishes on my mind when I visit Michael Meredith’s new restaurant, Metita. What might his take on such staples be? The answer is in the snacks offerings. There is a corned beef bun, layered with lardo and caviar atop, the base marinating in dark soy sauce. The bun is steamed like keke pua‘a but swaps pork for beef — swagging it out with sauce and extras while keeping the filling simple. The panikeke has smoked eel mixed through the dough, and comes placed on a kind of spiced banana chutney. There is sweetness and heat that builds, changes and gets better with each bite. These dishes set the theme for the night. 

Metita is Samoan comfort food, elevated. Comfort in the sense that if you grew up in the Islands, or around Pacific cooking, there is nostalgia, hints of the tastes of your childhood. It’s the first time I’ve seen sasalapa (soursop) on a menu outside of Samoa, and I immediately recall being a child and scooping out the white flesh of the large spiky fruit with my hands. As with so many fruits of the Pacific, I miss its unique taste — that sweet and tangy combination — so I order a Sasalapa Gin Sour. 

Meredith is drawing here on his own childhood memories of chores and cooking for the family, wanting to highlight what we might already know and love, while making new memories and layering on new experiences. He succeeds with this. Throughout the night we comment on how the flavours and textures are familiar, yet unlike anything we’ve had before. 

The comfort extends beyond the food, too — the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. It was at Meredith’s on Dominion Rd that I’d first felt at ease in a fine-dining setting. It wasn’t the focus, but there were influences and nods to his heritage there that were obvious to Samoan and Pacific tastebuds. His famed pani popo, coconut buns, at Mr Morris further brought his culture to the fore, but now at Metita, named after his late mother, he is fully leaning into Pasifika cuisine. This means more-generous servings than you might normally expect at a fancy restaurant. The idea is that the food be shared — a communal experience, like Sunday to‘ona‘i. 

On a recent Tuesday evening, the restaurant floor was full and we were seated at the kitchen counter. I loved seeing other Pacific Island diners filling the tables, and scanning over the menu and seeing Samoan descriptors and ingredients scattered throughout. I enjoyed that feeling of knowing, and the idea that those unfamiliar with Pacific food might have to google the words for their meanings, in the way I’d done many times in French and Italian restaurants. Before the corned beef bun and panikeke, we began our meal with an oyster cooked in bone marrow and a bite of crab mixed with mango and avocado, served on a puffed taro cracker. The bone marrow broth was such a delight that my dinner date and I both swore out loud in unison. 

“Fuck, yum!” 

“Fuck, that was mean!” 

Our exclamations were so loud the chefs in the kitchen turned around to look at us, and we gestured with thumbs up and wide smiles to assure them the expletives were positive. 

In deciding our mains, however, it became clear there needed to be more than two of us to try all the food we wanted to. We were advised to choose one of the larger dishes and a couple of smaller dishes as accompaniment. We couldn’t decide between the pork hock and lamb, and tried to bargain with our waiter, wanting her to endorse our plan to order both. It would be too much food for two people, she said, but, sensing our desire, then suggested we could take home whatever we couldn’t finish. It was the encouragement we were looking for. 

She was, of course, right. Meredith knows that if you’re going to make Pacific cuisine, you can’t be stingy on the helpings. He’s also wise enough to know that while the creations that can’t be replicated at home are the most magical offerings on his menu, there are also originals not to be messed with. For instance, kalo and coconut cream. I sent off a photo to my sister, and she immediately replied, “Yoooo, that’s mean, he did it fa‘alifu kalo styles!” He’s added some capers and scallions, but the joy in Meredith’s fa‘alifu taro with povi masima is that it comes essentially as you’d have it at home. 

Those who have never tried taro before will get it here at its humble best. The slow-roasted lamb shoulder with fried misiluki and spiced coconut gravy reminded me of the flavours of Thai massaman curry, and the curried roasted carrots were great, but we would have enjoyed these dishes more if we hadn’t over-ordered. For us, the hero dish was the fried pork hock with chilli, peanuts and sapasui on the side. It was the perfect level of sweet, spicy and crunchy, from the delightful crackling. I also enjoyed the addition of mushrooms to the sapasui — a good vessel for soaking up the chilli oil. 

With dessert, more nostalgia kicked in. The ripe-tasting banana ice cream that came with the pani popo took me back to a simple childhood treat, suafa‘i. The bun itself had the texture of a croissant, rolled into a scroll with desiccated coconut and sticky burnt caramel between each layer. This version was reminiscent of the Samoan ‘German bun’, a deep-fried bun filled with burnt sugar and coconut. The lole popo was a ball of sweet coconut spiced with ginger and cinnamon, tastes you might hanker after in the festive season. Meredith says it’s what he made as a kid to make sure none of the coconut went to waste; I wanted to ask my dad if it was something he used to make, too. 

While we’d done our best, there was far too much on the menu left untried. We were already making plans to return multiple times, with different family members and different groups of friends. But we knew next time to arrive with no fewer than four people. Bring a group, and come hungry. Or leave with a couple of takeaway boxes, and dinner sorted for the next night. 

Metita ****
SkyCity, 90 Federal Street, Central City
09 363 7030

Lunch: Sun, 11.30–3pm
Dinner: Every day, 5–9.30pm

Dinner Bill
Starters $8–$23
Mains $27–$125
Sides $18–$25
Desserts $6–$25

This review was published in Metro N°441.
Available here.


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In the Autumn 2024 issue of Metro we celebrate the best of Tāmaki Makaurau — 100 great things about life in Auckland, including our favourite florist, furniture store, cocktail, basketball court, tree, make-out spot, influencer, and psychic. The issue also includes the Metro Wine Awards, the battle over music technology company Serato, the end of The Pantograph Punch, the Billy Apple archives, a visit to Armenia, viral indie musician Lontalius, the state of fine dining, and the time we bombed West Auckland to kill a moth. Plus restaurants, movies, politics, astrology, and more.

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