Auckland trip notes 2009
* Merediths (365 Dominion Road, Mt Eden)
Six of us went here for a triple birthday blowout celebration. This was my father's pick for best restaurant even before Metro Magazine agreed with him. Compared to competition like the French Cafe (which I still haven't been to), the cooking here is very contemporary and creative. For the most part the execution lived up to the concepts. Chef Meredith's usual trick is to put two different meats on the same plate and then find a way to make them fit together. It's like a Sudoku or something, requiring both technical precision and ingenuity. Consider my appetiser: eel and duck liver, how can they be in the same dish? Well, you smoke the eel, make the liver into a mousse, add some thin slices of apple, some seeds and some seaweed, and it turns out delicious. I also had a fair portion of somebody's crayfish and oxtail (the oxtail was the one thing all night that was somewhat blander than expected),among other bits. One might nitpick that the appetisers trended very slightly sweeter than they needed to. No such complaint about the mains; each component of my "broadbill with calamari and peas, sauteed walnuts and prawns" was impeccable. Maybe the calamari was, uh, gratuitous, but that's kind of the point with this sort of cooking. Somebody else's steak and raviolo was good for what it was (I think it was fillet, a cut about which I have mixed feelings). I had half a portion of carrot sponge and foamy black sesame for dessert, and it was ace, with to me a satisfying balance of sweetness and other flavours. The winelist offered a good choice by the glass, but was kind of expensive for a NZ-focused list. I'm not the right person to ask about fine dining, but I enjoyed this meal.
* Zap 4 Esan Thai (6 Commerce St, CBD)
This was the nearest good eat after a fun-filled visa interview at the US Consulate. I popped in set on a larb until I saw "raw beef salad" as a whiteboard special. They have an "A" hygiene rating, so I figured there was no harm in trying this forten bucks. It turned out to be a mound of ground beef, mixed with chili seeds and a generous amount of coriander, with a wedge of cabbage as coolant. Don't know if this is an Issan/Lao dish but I wouldn't be surprised. I don't think this was a particularly sophisticated dish, but it was tasty, especially with sticky rice ($2). I wish there were Thai restaurants in Berkeley cooking at this level.
* Princeton Restaurant (30 Symonds St)
Angie's Kitchen, the Malaysian place on Mount St, was full up with students at lunchtime, so we decided to try this Khmer place across Symonds Street, underneath the Princeton Apartments. This is part of a chain of eleven places from here to Dunedin; their website says there's another one called Columbia on Whitaker Street near K Road. Most dishes were $8-10 depending on size. The guy at the counter pushed his noodle dishes as some of their more distinctively Cambodian offerings. I was pretty happy with #15, a spicy stir-fry with excellently chewy rice noodles; a couple of other noodle dishes that were fine but less distinctive. I've only had Cambodian three times before so I don't have much to compare it to, though.
* Kapiti Store (39 Elliott St, CBD)
Three dollars something isn't bad for a cone of ice cream with a reputation. I should state that I usually prefer gelato and gelato-like ice cream to the high butterfat kind, and Kapiti definitely falls in the latter camp. My gingernut scoop had great creaminess and great texture, but the flavour was muted. (Also, shouldn't the gingernut chunks be crunchy?) I'd rather get my frozen dessert fix at Valentino's Gelato on Quay St, even though it's even more expensive (and close to the loathed Viaduct). Your mileage may vary.
* HP8 interim report: I stopped in for half a lunch on Wednesday and the place was deserted. I think the owner are more interested in pushing the HP8 on Carlton Gore Road, which is a yum cha place, for lunch though. I'd just had breakfast, so I only ordered a small bowl (ricebowl-sized) of dan dan noodles. They came in all their oil-laden, tongue-numbing glory, for a ridiculously cheap four bucks. Easily the best version of this I've had, though admittedly I don't order it restaurants much (I often try to make it at home, with variable success). Since they seem to be on their game, I'll go back for dinner soon. Full report forthcoming.
* The tonkotsu ramen from Daikoku was alright, but to me not as good as at Tanpopo.
* The duck from Golden Barbeque Noodle House is even better than their pork.
* The bubble jasmine tea from Easy Way on Hobson St is good enough to drink without milk.
great to hear you went to Zap 4 - its prob my fave thai in auckland after Tom Yum Eden - in fact i would say it depends on the dish you order - some are better at one and some at the other. If you go back the Pad Ped Fish is excellent, as is the whole snapper. However would caution against going to their sister restaurant - Zap 2 on Dominion Road - its not bad, just caters much more to NZ rather than Thai tastes (i asked the staff about it one day and they told me that was their intention - to have one more thai place and one more for NZ tastes - personally I want the real thing!) anyway as I say not bad but just not as "out there" flavour wise.
Bummer that Angies was full - its getting popular these days. Havent tried princeton so will give that a go.
will email you via your blog too about hooking up - good luck with the rest of your eating - sounds like you are putting in a good effort to get through the places!!!
>>* Zap 4 Esan Thai (6 Commerce St, CBD)
>>This was the nearest good eat after a fun-filled visa interview at the US Consulate. I popped in set on a larb until I saw "raw beef salad" as a whiteboard special. They have an "A" hygiene rating, so I figured there was no harm in trying this forten bucks. It turned out to be a mound of ground beef, mixed with chili seeds and a generous amount of coriander, with a wedge of cabbage as coolant. Don't know if this is an Issan/Lao dish but I wouldn't be surprised. I don't think this was a particularly sophisticated dish, but it was tasty, especially with sticky rice ($2). I wish there were Thai restaurants in Berkeley cooking at this level
^Yes, that sounds like a traditional Lao dish called Larb. The beef version is typically served rare and all Larb dishes are eaten with sticky rice, which is the traditional Lao way of eating Larb.
* Jolin Shanghai (248 Dominion Road, Mt Eden)
The mainlanders have crept into Mt Eden now: there's this place, a Sichuan steamboat restaurant and "Xian Noodle House" or something intriguingly named like that all close to each other on this stretch of Dominion Road. At Jolin, mostly tried small eats from the "Shanghai dim sum" part of the menu -- xiao long bao, noodles, rice cakes -- along with a bowl of smoked fish and pork noodle soup. Competent versions of all of these, which in the case of the xiao long bao was impressive: to make even competent versions of those takes some skill. All of these dishes were $8-$10; the main courses cost half as much again or more. The place was woefully understaffed; with only two workers in the kitchen and one very harried waiter, it took about 40 minutes to get our food. Don't know if this is usual or if someone was taking a sick day, but a strategy might be to peek in the window before going in. If it's busy, and if there's only one waiter, well, Food Fascist says Tom Yum Eden across the road is very good. Or else there's...
* Golden Barbeque Noodle House (296 Dominion Road, Mt Eden)
This is my parents' place of choice for Cantonese-style roast meats, and we got some pork belly to go. The ideal amount of fat under the skin of is subjective, but this place does it the way we prefer: enough oil to keep the meat moist, but not too much more.
Foodie Doodie's blogpost: http://foodiedoodie.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/golden-barbeque-noodle-house/
* Tanpopo (13 Anzac Ave, CBD)
They let you choose your hardness of noodle and heaviness of stock, which is a good sign. The panel were split on this place: I very much liked the oily, porky stock of my bowl of tonkotsu ramen, while my mother preferred the noodles at the more expensive Kiraku on Elliott to the thin ones here (except the main Kiraku guy may or may not have gone to Men Tatz, so I guess that's the next place to try). All agreed that the gyoza were excellent, with a pleasing sharp contrast between the fried bottom and the soft top.
Someone's CBD Japanese food blogpost: http://nzeats.today.com/2009/01/14/ja...
* Pie Mania (36 Wellesley St, CBD)
To me, Auckland's canonical pie is the $4-mince pie here. The award-winning Greenland Bakery does a flakier, better crust, based on the one I had last time I was here, but it's out in Botany and and the improvement is marginal. I'd especially recommend Pie Mania to tourists who want a good Kiwi pie without having to trek out to the suburbs.
* Burger Fuel (291 Queen St, CBD)
Kumara fries! No doubt there are better versions of these, but come on, it's hard to go wrong with kumara fries.
Anyone know of a cafe with drinkable espresso and wireless? Failing that, good espresso and space to work?
Shaky Isles is a great cafe - a bit out of the main centre - in Kingsland - but the coffee is superb and there is free Wifi - http://www.shakyisles.co.nz/ - plenty of room to spread out there too to work
Otherwise im sure there is a starbucks around - but personally prefer to avoid the big chains in favour of the "small guy" - im sure there would be wifi around CBD but dont know off top of my head which cafes have it.
Thanks for mentioning Tom Yum Eden - always good to plug those guys! Tanpopo and Kiraku are faves - and Im so going to check out Golden BBQ and Pie Mania next....
wanna hook up for a meal sometime? we are right in the dominion road neighbourhood - my husband always keen to meet other foodies - dont want to post personal details here but will try to find a way to post a private message