Stella Artois and Metro present a celebration of Auckland’s finest- a diverse list of 50 restaurants and dishes which highlight what can be enjoyed on Auckland’s diverse menus alongside a chalice of Stella Artois.
We’ve done a fair few of these best 50 things — restaurants, cafes, bars, under $25s — and though the categories may differ, they all revolve around the same central theme: food we like to eat. Putting this list together meant thinking a lot about that. We thought about what’s craveable, what we keep going back to, and, most importantly, what kind of dishes make Auckland, Auckland.
The dishes range from the intricate and elaborate sashimi platter at Ponsonby restaurant Cocoro, to a bamboo steamer of hot soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) at North Shore favourite Chu Long Ji. From long-time 17 year menu features in The Engine Rooms’ crispy breaded pork schnitzel dish, to newcomers Duo Eatery with their bright raw fish on toast brunch dish.
With a little help from our friends, we present here 50 essential dishes for getting the most out of eating in this city.
THE 50 BEST DISHES
- Beef tongue, olive, preserved lemon
- Hāngī pie
- Som tum platter
- Charred chicken, gochujang, comté
- Flat noodles with chili & doenjang pork
- Olive oil semifreddo, sea salt
- Turkish eggs
- Mozzarella focaccia di recco
- Raw fish on toast
- Freaky fried chicken
- Smoked fish crumpet
- Cheeky chicken pita
- Oyster pakora
- Quail hearts
- Signature Sashimi Platter
- Spinach dumplings with goat cheese and sage
- Salmon eggs
- Spicy cucumber salad
- Mesob platter
- Polo rice
- Samseon jjampong
- Seafood chirashi sushi ricebox
- Tiradito, aji amarillo
- Dry-aged ribeye steak, bone marrow, chimichurri
- King salmon, cucumber, shiso and tamarind
- Al pastor tacos
- Jerk chicken combo
- Steak tartare
- Lamb shish kebab
- Afghani kebab
- Salted egg yolk prawns
- Tortellini in brodo
- Pici cacio e pepe
- Risotto all anatra
- Hokkaido miso ramen
- Grilled eggplant with sweet haccho-miso sauce and cheese
- Paneer 555
- Macaroni and cheese
- Noodle soup with pork mince and chives
- Pork schnitzel
- Oyster omelette
- Pho dac biet
- Sashimi with bukkake udon
- Roti canai with chicken curry
- No. 37
We can’t think of another restaurant in Auckland that serves up anything quite like this. The winner of our Best Dish in last year’s Restaurant of the Year Awards, Alma’s beef tongue is grilled on the open fire to a just-so tenderness, laid out with a blanket of thinly sliced olives.More about Alma
Blue Rose's hāngī pie is the sort of thing that, every few months, you'll crave with an intensity: hot and flaky, with a generous smoky filling that makes you think of long, winter days when there's something bubbling away on the stove, and every so often you hear the metal rattle of the lid shaking as it simmers -- that, or an actual hāngī, if you've had the privilege.
Kiin Thai Underground Kitchen
In the middle of the som tum platter at Kiin Underground is a pile of spicy green papaya salad studded with bits of raw crab meat — the star of the show while the supporting stars like fried chicken nibbles, pork crackling and sliced pork ham surround it. We like how you can share it between two and try an array of different flavours and textures; crunch from the pork, the tart pickled cabbage. It’s spicy, sweet, sour — all the best things about flavour, on one platter.
There's not a single person we've told to try this dish who hasn't come away loving it. It comes to the table sizzling, covered in bright spicy gochujang, which then gets slathered in a comté and leek oil sauce, a layer of moreish savouriness that alchemises perfectly with the other components.More about Gochu
Nominated by Sid Sahrawat, co-owner of Sid at the French Café and KOL.
“Now that ex-Gochu chef and friend Jason is closer to us on the Shore in Milford, we love being able to enjoy his Korean cuisine,” Sid says. Jason’s Korean cuisine at Tokki includes these flat noodles, which are made in-house and resemble pappardelle, but tossed through with a supremely savoury chilli-and-pork sauce.
A deceptively simple dessert, Hugo’s semifreddo is smooth and silky; dreamy and indulgent, with lashings of quality olive oil that make you want to bathe in the stuff. The sprinkling of sea salt lifts the whole thing to stratospheric.
Most people who’ve heard of Peter Gordon, the head chef and co-owner of Homeland, will have also heard of his Turkish eggs, or cilbir. It’s a simple brunch dish of a couple of perfectly poached eggs in a bowl of yoghurt, drizzled with chilli butter and some fresh herbs. Add a couple of slices of sourdough to mop up, and it’s just the kind of hearty thing you want to start the day with.
Nominated by Emilie Pullar, content creator at @burntbuttertable.
A circular pie of thin olive oil bread, this focaccia di recco is a thing of blistered beauty – and beautifully cheesy, too. It’s a testament to how our brain tends to crave simplicity: something we can eat again and again without getting sick of it. Which is definitely the case here.More about Amano
Nominated by Chand Sahrawat, co-owner of Sid at the French Café and Kol
“Makes me happy on a bad day. I’ll often visit on my way home and take a quick break,” Chand says. We can attest to that. There’s a fresh brightness from the silky raw fish and fistful of herbs on top, which is underscored by a smooth, slightly spiky, horseradish mayo. Very much a mood-altering kind of dish.
Nominated by Jamie Johnston, head chef at Everybody Eats in Onehunga.
One of the crossovers from the co-owners’ previous venture, a hole-in-the-wall takeaway spot in the central city called Freaky, Beau’s fried chicken is exactly what we’re thinking about when that fried chicken-craving hits: juicy, crispy, and with dollops of sesame mayo.More about Beau
Baby G Burger
Nominated by Gemma Hareb, co-owner of Pici and Ooh-Fa.
“It’s literally everything I want in a meal. It’s got the right amount of everything — savoury, texture, freshness, melt-in-your-mouth, a little messy, perfectly portioned. It’s the entire experience of committing to a mission to get a single item [since Baby G Burger is a regular pop-up at different locations] you know is going to be exactly the same as last time but in a different environment. I’m also not a regular meat eater, so when I do, it’s got to be the best.”
Burnt Butter Diner
The creative beauty of a good brunch is often watered down thanks to the cultural prevalence of eggs on toast -- a real shame considering that breakfast can be anything and everything you want it to be. We like eating Burnt Butter Diner's house-made crumpet with near-on everything on its menu, but especially topped with smoked kahawai, beautiful and savoury, with pink pickles adding a sweet cut-through and the boiled egg softly yielding.More about Burnt Butter Diner
Carmel - Israeli Street Food
Carmel Israeli Street Food opens its doors only three days a week, so when it's serving, there are usually long lines -- and for good reason. The cheeky chicken pita is one of the best things you can eat with your hands: that tzatziki, that labneh cheese, that fluffy pita. Make sure to ask for some house-made falafel on top, and they'll add a couple.More about Carmel - Israeli Street Food
A trip to Cassia, a modern Indian restaurant in the city, is not complete without downing a few oyster pakoras before the main event. Crunchy batter around creamy oysters -- need we say more?More about Cassia
The hearts of these tiny fowl have been through a few iterations at Cazador and the current version may be the tastiest bar snack in the city — the two skewers of hearts, smokily cooked in a pomegranate molasses, are simultaneously tender, rich, salty and sweet and lack the ick factor or oddly chewy quality that hearts often have.
If there’s ever been a more talked- about dish in the pages of Metro, we’re not aware of it. Cocoro’s sashimi platter is pure decadence, sure: the scores of raw seafood sliced and arranged in a way that’ll make everyone get their phones out (even the grumpy guy in the group who hates that sort of thing). But it’s also an instance of impressive expertise. An incredible, at-least-once-in-your- lifetime kind of dish.
Chu Long Ji
Xiaolongbao are dumplings filled with hot, porky soup; pick them up gingerly by their pinched top so they droop in your chopsticks. There’s an art to eating them — puncture a hole gently with your teeth — but as long as things mostly end up in your mouth, we’ll consider that a success. Make sure to dip them in vinegar for some much-needed sharpness.
We order these every time we go to Cotto, without fail — balls of oozy, salty cheese that spread across your tongue with long-lasting delicious- ness, topped with crispy sage leaves that add a herby crunch. We like to roll them around in the shallow pool of oil they come in till they get all glistening. Pay attention to the server when you come in a group of four and they ask if you’d like to add one more, because the answer is yes.
This dish has been a mainstay at Ponsonby Rd staple Dizengoff for as long as we can remember, eaten by hordes: those post-yoga, the hungover, the minor local celebrities. It’s rich and buttery, with a verdant citrusy pesto on the side. Long may it reign.
Nominated by Ophelia Harradine Bayly, co-owner of Roses Dining Room and Cooked Plates
“Spicy, fresh, crunchy — love the way they cut the cucumbers into little fans so the sauce really gets in there,” Ophelia says. Spicy cucumber salad is a staple of lots of Sichuan restaurants in Auckland, never really getting the attention it deserves next to the dan dan noodles and dumplings. However, a well-executed spicy cucumber salad can change the trajectory of a meal, providing a refreshing — but still punchy — relief to it all.
Gojo Ethiopian Eatery
The mesob platter at Gojo is made to be shared — a feast priced per person that includes a range of Gojo’s various vegan and meat stews presented in dollops atop a layer of injera (a sour spongy flatbread made with teff). You scoop up the spicy lentils and split peas by hand, using ripped pieces of injera as the delivery method. It is an especially tactile — and therefore uniquely appealing — way to eat.
Jadetown Uyghur Cuisine
Nominated by Sam Low, the winner of MasterChef New Zealand 2022
“‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, as the saying goes, but this dish also conveys its storytelling and history without the maître needing to deliver a monologue. It’s a transformative dish that takes you through a surprisingly complex sensory experience — and an educational one. Sweet-carrot-broth-infused cooked rice served with chilli cumin lamb and a side of pickled cabbage and glass noodles draws its influence from the Muslim community in China and the neighbouring countries of Mongolia and Russia. Northern Chinese, but not as we know it, and incredibly balanced. Well-priced, unpretentious and food from the heart.”
Nominated by Jamie Yeon, co-owner of Metro Top 50 restaurant Omni
Samseon jjampong is a Chinese-Korean dish: a seafood-heavy bowl of noodles that swim in a broth made spicy with a generous amount of gochugaru (Korean chilli pepper). The one at KangChon is the best in the city — just the right amount of heat and a delicious, flavourful soup.
Kazuya is a fancy degustation-only fine-dining restaurant at night, but during the day, they turn their fine-tuned hands and brains to casual rice boxes that look as good as they taste. The seafood chirashi sushi ricebox is a litany of bright cubes — little pieces of raw fish arranged around dollops of sauce, lotus root, avocado, and carefully coiled strips of vegetables. You’ll find perfectly seasoned sushi rice underneath the top layer. While you’re here, make sure to get in an order of Kazuya’s triple-cooked chips — some of the best in Tāmaki.
The pleasure of eating with your eyes is particularly relevant to this Peruvian dish — a pool of glossy, yellow liquid obscures islands of thick-cut raw fish in an arrangement that’s vibrant and striking on the plate. The bright colour aligns with how it tastes, too: zingy, citrusy, aromatic, spicy. It’s a pronounced spike of flavour that we like very much.
The deliciousness of Milenta's steak makes sense when you think about the elements that go into it: excellent dry-aged meat, a hunk of rich, gelatinous bone marrow topped with a swipe of herbaceous chimichurri, and an open fire. It's the method of cooking, charred over the flame until that all-important crust forms, that makes us love it so.More about Milenta
“It’s not really a dish, but it’s perfect to me,” Simon says. Maison Vauron is the restaurant name of L’Atelier du Fromage, a French deli in Newmarket that serves a variety of pantry goods, meats and cheese from its home country. So the cheeseboard here is revolving, a selection of cheeses made day-by-day by its cheesemonger (though you can always choose them yourself, if you have a preference) and served with bread, preserves and dried fruit. Very good grazing meant for very good accompanying wine.More about Maison Vauron
There is obviously a delicate complexity at play in this dish, served up as an entree at Michael Meredith’s Britomart restaurant Mr Morris. It’s not one of the flashier or signature numbers, but it’s something that will linger in your mind after you eat it: fish (sometimes salmon, sometimes not) in a slightly sour-tart tamarind liquid that lights up the parts of your brain that wants to eat more food (hence, its role as entree).More about Mr Morris
Life is good when you have an arrangement of three al pastor tacos from central-city taqueria Mr Taco. With none of that distracting Tex- Mex-style lettuce, the al pastor pairs pull-apart pork with fresh, vibrant herbs, chopped onion and spicy salsa, ready to be picked up and devoured, with juices licked off right at the end.
Jerk chicken is charred, hot, and liberally spiced, with a delicious coating that encases the juicy meat. It’s a definite lick-your-fingers situation that also comes with a couple of sides of your choice, depending on your mood — rice ’n’ peas or a creamy mac and cheese (or a salad, we guess, but get the fries instead). While you’re here, try the Jamaican oxtail or the curry goat as well — the jerk chicken is the gateway, but there’s a lot more on the menu to like.
While it always seems to be evolving, the short menu at Omni always boasts some form of steak tartare. The first time we went, it was carefully piled on top of crunchy fried potato; the next, no potato but a deliciously exaggerated ratio of capers to beef; the last, with a side of house-made potato chips and the pronounced smokiness of ’nduja. Do we know exactly what form it will take when you order it (as you most definitely should)? No. Will it be one of the most more-ish things you’ve eaten in a while? Yes, 100% yes.
Paasha Turkish Kitchen
When you’re in the mood for shish kebab, nothing else will do. It is a meal that in Auckland is most associated with alcohol-soaked nights out and midnight-hour eats, but the shish kebab at Paasha is designed to be appreciated. Meat that has been marinated in a blend of spices is grilled until the smokiness becomes a key flavour, then served with some tabouli, hummus and salad on the side. Have it in a pita or on rice — we like it on rice.
The Afghani kebab is one of the tastiest things on the Paradise menu, which is a feat considering a) just how many things there are on the menu there, and b) how good the many things are. The benchmark is high. If you dine in, the diced spice- rubbed chicken comes out on a sizzling plate, served straight out of the tandoor with a visceral smokiness.
Petaling Malaysian Restaurant
Salted egg yolk will be a familiar flavour to those in certain parts of Asia, where it’s used often in cooking, bak- ing and to coat dried fish skins (see: the Irvins snack). It has an addictive, umami-laden quality to it, like licking the leftover butter from the inside of a microwave popcorn bag. At Petaling, the floss-like strands coat big, juicy prawns. Delicious. Make sure you have some rice on the side.
Pasta & Cuore
A bowl of neatly wrapped tortellini takes a lot of labour and skill to make; you have to manipulate your fingers just so to get the edges done right. Here, and only on Fridays and Saturdays, you can get them floating in a clear chicken broth, sweetly savoury and not too heavy — a light lunch in an idyllic village, best downed with a glass of Italian wine.
It’s always a supremely smart move for a restaurant to have a signature dish, especially when it’s one as good as Pici’s. A simple, unfussy plate of pasta, the pici cacio e pepe is cheesy, salty and peppery, with the chewy hand-rolled pici a perfect, bounce- back texture. Get a slice of focaccia to mop up that sauce, too.
It is impossible to eat this duck risotto without humming “Mmmm” upon first bite. It’s just one of those long-enduring dishes that’s easy to like, with a way of making everyone at the table reach in for a spoonful, even if you’re not sharing. We like how the rice has an ideal amount of bite, and has so beautifully soaked up the juices and stock and merged with the pulled-apart meat — it really sings.
If all you want is a bowl of piping-hot ramen, we like to point people to Ramen Do, a quiet, unassuming joint at the top end of Symonds St. The Hokkaido miso ramen is their specialty; it comes with a rich, creamy soup and in-house noodles, topped with slices of pork belly so tender they melt right into the broth.
Sake Bar Icco
Sake Bar Icco’s eggplant is eggplant at its best. There’s something magical that happens when you pair miso and cheese together: the strong, funky flavours amp up the mild egg- plant, soaking into its spongy texture. And the treatment on the grill renders the eggplant all fall-apart and melty.
Satya Chai Lounge
No matter how many times we order this — and it’s a lot — we’re always surprised by how much flavour the Satya kitchen forces into this wee clay pot of deep-fried cheese, spices and cashew nuts. It is crunchy, it is spicy, it is garlicky and it is cheesy, and on the right cold night — huddled around one of the Sandringham Chai Lounge’s rickety tables, with rain hitting the tin roof above and low light illuminating the motley wooden walls adorned with coffee sacks — picking through a pot of this vegetarian treat is one of the most satisfying experiences the inner suburbs has on offer.
It feels somewhat crazy to pay $30 for macaroni and cheese, except you’re not really getting just macaroni and cheese. It’s oozy, creamy, decadent, made with a drizzle of truffle oil that saves it from the wrong side of cheesy, and pushed even further into luxury with some pieces of ham, sliced off the bone. Plus, you’re eating it at the Viaduct, by the water, which makes everything a little nicer.
Sundaeguk is colloquially known as ‘hangover soup’, a cauldron pot of thin slices of sundae (Korean blood sausage), offal and veges, with a milky, flavourful broth that has healing properties — we can attest. Teolbo in the central city is the best place in Auckland to get the dish — and don’t let the “blood sausage” thing put you off.
Sometimes you just can’t put your finger on how one version of a dish can be so much better than another — it just is. TianFu’s noodle soup is a great example. It’s of general Sichuan excellence: extremely garlicky, spicy, and with a pitch-perfect balance of all the very strong flavours that make up the cuisine. There’s technically many places in Auckland you could get a bowl just like this, and, yet, not.
The Engine Room
Pork schnitzel is one of those bistro classics in which things can go horribly wrong. You have to take care not to dry out the meat; the breading has to be well-seasoned; and the whole thing has to be fried to a crisp. When it’s done well, it’s immediately obvious — and the pork schnitzel here is always done well.
A Malaysian oyster omelette, or or-chien, is a popular street-food dish that you’d get at Penang’s open-air hawker markets — fried egg with a heap of big, juicy oysters that go together surprisingly well. There’s a saucer of sweet chilli sauce for dipping to contrast the salty seafood. A nice little treat of an entrée before you move on to the rest of your meal.
Try It Out
There is something about the pho broth at Try It Out that goes deeper than all the others in Tāmaki: it’s sweet but savoury, with a richness that you know was developed over time. Our favourite variety, the pho dac biet, comes with slices of rare beef and a couple of other bits of the cow, including in meatball form and tripe, floating among the rice noodles.
Chewy, thick noodles swimming in either a soy or sesame sauce; bits of crunch and bonito flakes; ground sesame seeds; and a boat of sashimi. It is, in our mind, the perfect summer lunch: a tasty, textural delight that is accompanied by a generous amount of cold, fresh fish — rich cubes of salmon, a little round of scallop, a singular prawn, and more. The soy sauce is great for the hottest of days, but we like to drink up the creamy sesame.
The best roti canai in Auckland can still be found at Karangahape Rd’s Uncle Man’s, after all these years in business. It’s also one of the only places that make it fresh. There’s nowhere else that makes the dish quite as close to the ones you’ll find at the mamaks in Malaysia: a pile of flaky bread, stretched thin-thin-thin and then folded over and over so that it breaks into shards when fried and pulled apart. Very, very good.
Xi'An Food Bar
Perhaps the safest $14 you can spend in Auckland city, the first three-quarters of a bowl of these hand-pulled noodles with braised pork and a token dump of bok choy is always a singularly joyful experience — the noodles, perfectly chewy; the pork, rich and spiced; and the whole thing punched with garlic and ginger and oil... which brings us to the complicated final quarter. The deeper you go into the bowl, the higher the stakes. Intellectually, you know that you should stop before you find your- self slurping up the pooled remains at the bottom of the bowl, lest the rest of your day be spent in a garlicky hell. However, it’s almost impossible to pull out before the point of regret. Good luck to you all, drink the tea (it helps with the oily regret) and pack some mints.