57 Fort St, central city. Ph 300-7252, imacuisine.co.nz.
Breakfast & lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Tuesday-Saturday. $
Joint winner, best value for money
Is there a harder-working restaurateur in the city? There was a time when Yael Shochat’s Ima was that place you loved but which you worried might be forgotten amid the din of the new. Hidden away on Fort St in a warm, woodsy cave of a space, it’s the sort of eatery that makes or breaks a downtown. Ever since Shochat binned her old menu and switched to an Israeli-style family feast — you choose your protein, and then there’s a pile of seasonal salads and vegetables to share — this place has hummed: book or be disappointed. The roast chicken is legendary, as is the bone-in rib-eye steak to share (do they do steak like this in Israel? Do you really care?), and then there’s the stuffed, boneless snapper. Other chefs in Auckland don’t cook this sort of food — too hard, too fiddly, not enough profit in it. Shochat does, and that’s why this place works.
A favourite dish: Brik: tuna, lemon and soft-cooked egg wrapped in pastry.
Shared-plate options / Good for vegetarians / Free-range chicken and/or pork / Good seating outside / Takes large groups / Craft beer selection