Dec 19, 2014 Restaurants
Selected for your pleasure from the restaurants and cafes of Auckland and listed alphabetically by restaurant. Plus! The five most annoying things about eating out in Auckland this year.
1. Curry chicken roti at Chef Rasa Sayang
A classic Malaysian hawker dish: chicken cooked on the bone in a spicy curry, rich with belacan. You tear up the roti and immerse it in the curry. We’re especially fond of it at Chef Rasa Sayang but we also eat it happily at Mamak in the Chancery and Uncle Man’s on Karangahape Rd.
25 Mokoia Rd, Birkenhead.
2. Roasted hapuku at Cibo
Served with slipper lobster, home-made spicy XO sauce and coconut congee rice, this dish sums up umami in one lip-smacking hit. Everything from the meaty fish and sweet lobster to the piquant sauce has that deeply satisfying depth of flavour, while the congee — redolent with the warming flavours of galangal, chilli and palm sugar — is the very definition of comfort food.
91 St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell. cibo.co.nz
3. Spiedini at Farina
We were sceptical about the half-foot spiedini at Farina, pictured above: they’re just big kebabs, right? Then we tried one. Perfectly cooked pieces of steak, just past medium rare, with a fabulous house-made pork and fennel sausage, grilled over charcoal and served with a salsa verde. Simple and magnificent, like all the best Italian food.
244 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. farina.co.nz
4. Raspberry and rosé gelato at Giapo
Auckland’s favourite gelato genius, “Giapo” Grazioli, is constantly creating new flavours at his must-stop shop. Perfect after dinner and especially after a show at the Civic next door. We’ve become especially addicted to the lusciously pink Hawke’s Bay raspberries with Terra Sancta rosé and a kind of toffee-strawberry on top.
267-287 Queen st, central city. giapo.com
5. Yaki nasu at Masu
Eggplant, ginger miso, sesame — a perfect realisation of the Japanese culinary aesthetic of simple, balanced flavours brought to life with precise, careful preparation and the gratifyingly evident lick of the robata grill.
90 federal st, central city. masu.co.nz
6. Crumpets at Orphans Kitchen
We love that Orphans Kitchen is now open for breakfast and brunch, and we specially love their crumpets: cooked in the pan, perfectly crisp outside and so soft inside, served with honey from their own roof-top hive. The slow-poached eggs on brioche with chervil and lemon curd are pretty spectacular too.
118 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. orphanskitchen.co.nz
7. Fatoosh salad at Petra Shawarma
This is the dish, with its perfect mix of spice and tang, that sealed our sumac addiction. Everything at Petra Shawarma is good, but whatever you order as a main, make sure you get some sides: hummus, falafel, babaganoosh… they’re all ridiculously good. As for the fatoosh — with its crisp pita pieces, cucumber, radish, and all the herbs — when we buy it as takeout, we find it very hard not to eat it all before we even get home.
482 New North Rd, Kingsland. Petra Shawarma on Facebook.
8. Spicy fish at San Bao BBQ
In Sichuan, they grill a fish and then put in a spicy, oily sauce and load on chilli and Sichuan peppercorns. It is utterly wonderful, and you can find it at San Bao. It comes out bubbling furiously and looks fierce, but it’s actually delicate and balanced, and utterly fragrant.
708 Dominion Rd, Balmoral.
9. Eggs and bacon at Sprout
Eggs have been getting star treatment in top restaurants for the past couple of years, and now Auckland’s cafes are waking up to the possibilities of a post-benedict world. Sprout’s eggs are cuddled up in a sleeping bag of bacon and panko crumb and deep-fried to perfection. Decadent, yes, which is as it should be: treating yourself is supposed to be a treat.
847 New North Rd, Mt Albert. facebook.com/sproutmtalbert
10. Sticky beef shin roll at The Golden Dawn
It’s still a bit of a well-kept secret, how good the food is at The Golden Dawn. But it really is. The beef shin roll is one of the best sandwiches in the city: fresh ciabatta, meltingly slow-cooked beef shin, shredded and sticky. Served with a clean cut-through salsa verde and a spicy, spicy mayo.
134 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. goldendawn.co.nz
5 Irritating Things About Auckland Food
1. Shared plate mistakes
Don’t get us wrong, we love shared plates. Most of the time. But there are tapas-style shared plates and larger shared dishes for the table, and too many restaurants confuse the two. Stews are a very marginal call on a tapas menu; so is anything served on a bed of mash, and soup is plain silly. As for small plates served for two with three things on them: that’s just a casual insult to the diners. The other thing about shared plates: you think they’ll be good for a group, the way yum cha is, but they’re not. Unless you can see flocks of waitstaff wheeling out dishes, tables of six or more ordering small plates to share are risking starvation before the evening is out. There’s never enough food on the table, so everyone holds back politely, and that makes it worse. But it should be good, shouldn’t it? Why doesn’t Elliott Stables do a “yum cha” on Sundays?
2. Tables for two the wrong way round
Most restaurants turn their tables for two longways, so you sit at each end. That way, they can line up more of you along the wall. But when it’s easier to have a conversation with your neighbour than with your lover/partner of 30 years/business acquaintance/date, it’s just awkward.
3. No love in the coffee
Still, after all these years, there are upmarket cafes where the default option for a flat white is a single shot in a large white cup. Unacceptable!
4. Copycat design
We like exposed brick walls and chemistry lab stools and hanging exposed light bulbs. Who doesn’t? But do we like them everywhere we go? Did quite so many of 2014’s new restaurants and cafes have to look like something from a first-time renovator’s Pinterest board?
5. Badly kept bathrooms
Cleanliness is essential, of course, but it’s the extras that we really like: appropriate lipstick-reapplication lighting, enough room to hoist your stockings, luscious hand soap you can’t afford. And flowers. Not, as is still surprisingly common even in otherwise good restaurants, a great snowdrift of paper towels smothering the rubbish bin.