Jul 9, 2021 Metro Eats
Hope you’re all well. Please excuse the fact that this newsletter is likely to be short and sweet; I’m writing to you from Taupo after a long day of driving, seeing snow (I saw snow literally drop from the sky for the first time ever!), and drinking hot chocolates. I did, in fact, have the most delicious “hot chocolate lahar” today at The Blind Finch in Ohakune, which I feel must be somewhat famous in the area: indulgent chocolate topped with torched marshmallow and a singular flake poking out the top.
Yesterday I stopped by at Kirikiriroa for lunch, and our family of 8 piled into this small, unassuming Malaysian takeaway bar called Red Pot Kitchen on Grey St. The owners are Sarawakian, meaning they’re from Sarawak in East Malaysia, so they had Mee Kolok (or kolo mee) on the menu, this dry noodle dish topped with pork mince and tossed in lard, shallots, fried onion etc etc. It was very yum, and would totally recommend it for a quick and easy lunch if you’re going through.
Anyway, have a hot chocolate and keep warm,
My friend Ruby White has a solo exhibition (functional ceramic cookers!) opening soon in Pōneke, which you should definitely go to if you’re down there, and especially during opening night on the 15 July. There will be food (skewers grilled on the cookers!) and drinks.
I’m sure if you’re somewhat involved and/or interested in the hospitality industry, you’d have heard of the staffing issues in the sector and the surrounding coverage of it: owners temporarily closing their restaurants’ doors, the Restaurant Association hosting a nationwide campaign to bring attention to the problem (#LightsOut), particularly in regards to immigration policy.
If you’re yet to come across the other perspective, i.e. the perspective of the workers who cook and serve your food, I’d recommend changing that, especially:
Hospo union says there’s a wage shortage, not a labour shortage (and the related interview, here, and the related Reddit thread full of hospitality workers’ experiences)
I finally got my hands on these Hainanese Chicken chips* that someone forwarded on to me, first seen on The Snackmaster (great Instagram follow). I truly don’t know what to make of them, because they almost taste exactly like Hainanese chicken (all gingery and garlicky) but also extremely artificial (like all chicken flavour chips). The fact they taste like Hainanese chicken at all is pretty fucking amazing, though, so I’ll give it four stars.
*sorry, you actually can’t get these in New Zealand and I’ve just made you jealous for no reason
A new place looks like it’s popping up next to Bali Nights on Ponsonby’s Williamson Ave called Janus Eatery. No real clues as to what it’ll be yet, but I’m betting on a cafe.
Dominion Rd’s Mr Hao has opened another restaurant in Albany, right near the Albany Bus Station.
Intel from a reliable source on Twitter that iconic Auckland eat The White Lady is going to move into a space on Karangahape Rd.
Hmm, what’s this Greenlane eatery going to be?
Metro x SkyCity: We talk to chef Ryan Allen from The Grill on why it’s important to support local.
The first thing you notice on The Grill’s menu is that it’s littered with provenance. The Wagyu Bresaola is from A Lady Butcher (aka Hannah Childs, a charcuterie artisan based in Auckland); clams are from Cloudy Bay; spring chicken is from Canter Valley in rural Rangiora. Then your eyes head to the Butchers Block list, where diners are plainly told exactly where that meat comes from, whether that’s a sirloin from Awhi Farms in Mt Ruapehu or Coastal Spring lamb from the North Island. “About 80-90% of our menu is local,” Ryan Allen, the head chef, tells us.
We had a chat with Head Chef Ryan to delve a little deeper into the produce they use.
Metro: Hi, Ryan. Can you talk a bit more about the local produce you hero at The Grill?
We definitely try to support local as much as we can: think Black Origin, or Lee Fish. The reason why we like to buy from Lee Fish is because they have day fisheries. This means the boats go out for a day, and come back that day, so you’re getting freshly caught fish. There may be other suppliers that go out for four days, and by the time they get back you may receive produce that’s five, or even six days old. With Lee, the fish they catch is also finished that day, meaning they don’t have any leftovers. Every day is a new list. They tell us: this is what we have, and you either get it, or you don’t get it.
And where are they based again?
In Leigh, just up North. Leigh like their name, but spelled L-e-i-g-h.
Oh [laughs] that makes sense. And you mentioned Black Origin — some people have this perception that the best wagyu is raised in Japan, but Black Origin is obviously New Zealand-based?
Yeah, Black Origin teamed up with Japanese partners that have been farming it for years and years and years. [The owner of] Black Origin’s partner is Japanese, so they figured that with the land, and the amount of beef that gets produced here, we have the best environment for it. So they’ve incorporated Japanese techniques into New Zealand’s environment and conditions, which helps raise it to such a high standard that the meat even gets shipped to Japan.
Why is it so important to the Grill to support local?
Our product is some of the best in the world. We are proud of that and celebrate it as much as we can. Also, we are conscious of the food miles that go into transport overseas product. So if we can get things locally, then it’s another thing we don’t have to ship from overseas. And then obviously with Covid, everything has shrunk; the market has shrunk. We’ve had to learn to deal with new people closer to the community, rather than going out. For example, the produce we used to get in winter that’s seasonal in the Northern Hemisphere is no longer able to come here, so it’s been more difficult. It’s about playing with what you have available, and helping the community out as well.
And do you think including where everything is from on your menu helps with the diners’ experience as well?
To be honest, yes. Our guests appreciate it. We currently sell a lot of Black Origin at the moment. It’s premium meat, technically the best wagyu you can get in the country, so you expect to pay more. And customers are loving it.
The Grill is located at 90 Federal St and is open from Wednesday to Saturday.