Monday, March 30

Food Review: Odettes

Cuisine: European
Price: Around $30 per main
Location: Shed 5, City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St, Auckland

Odettes is smack bang in the middle of the city, surrounded by stiff competition from other lauded eateries. However Odettes easily edges them out, and takes the cake as the best balance of casual and fine dining in the city. The menu is focused, yet offers variety through they day. I would heartily recommend breakfast there, as well as lunch and dinner.
The décor is understate and clean, the waiters smart casual taking the edge off. On a warmer day, sitting outside is the perfect place to enjoy your meal.

The dishes mainly takes their inspiration from Europe, so you'll find a mix of pasta, pork belly, crepes and chorizo. What makes Odettes truly stand out is how fresh and vibrant everything tastes. I ordered the heirloom tomato and buffalo milk burrata salad on a risk, knowing that the potential excellence of the dish rested on the tomatoes. I was not disappointed. The tomatoes had a tart sweetness to them, and a crisp bite. Unfortunately many restaurants serve under ripe tomatoes, but here the kitchen had served up the dish with confidence in the ingredients.
Other stand out dishes included the wood fire camembert, which is a portion big enough for two. The humongous camembert was rich and gooey. The roast peaches providing a hint of saccharine respite from the luscious fat.

The eye catching black angus eye rib was cooked to perfection, with the streaks of fat melting to provide a more textured mouthful. The rouille managed to keep the dish light and refreshing, which meant I wanted more and more.

Perhaps the only downside to Odettes is the irregular portion sizes. The crepes for instance, are enough that one person may struggle to finish them. Yet some of the salads are teensy, such as the stone fruit salad. A bit more consistency please!

Odettes has become my any time of day European food choice. It manages to create precise wonders, while still being approachable and unpretentious.
If you are in the city looking for something a little bit special, get over to Odettes pronto.


Tuesday, March 17

Food Review: Milse

Cuisine: Dessert
Price: $60 for 4 courses and wine pairing
Location: 27 Tyler Street, Britomart, Auckland

Milse has a stellar reputation as the dessert capital of Auckland. It doesn't quite make the grade, but it does make for an indulgent visit.

Located in the heart of Britomart, its accessibility makes it perfect to at least stroll past. Upon entering you'll discover that Milse is a cramped little place, with cabinets jam packed with dozens of desserts. There are innovative cheesecakes, ice creams, gateaus and more on display. You can take food away, or sit down for a 'dessert' meal.

Sitting down for dinner at Milse is a rather 'intimate' affair, with diners squeezed into a space barely larger than small bedroom. There is both an ala carte and more extravagant, but very reasonably priced, set menu.

The presentation at Milse makes for the highlight of the meal. You won't see many desserts as lavish as what the staff plate in front of you. Unfortunately the taste doesn't quite reach the same dizzying heights. Of all the food I've tried at Milse, it's all looked fantastic but merely tasted good.

I'd suggest the dessert set menu, paired with wine, merely for the novelty. Aside from the charm, and the large selection of desserts on offer, Milse provides a rather lack lustre front when it comes to taste.


Monday, March 16

Food Review: Little Mexico Cantina

Cuisine: Tex Mex
Price: Around $25 a main
Location: 31 Wellesley St, Auckland CBD

Woe to those expecting an exciting meal at Little Mexico Cantina. Its inviting, yet cliché Mexican interior, contrasts with the bland and over priced menu.
You’ll pay $14+ for nachos and quesadillas, which you could make at home for half the price and most likely tastier too. The ubiquitous guacamole tasted like it was made hours earlier, and contained unappealingly large chunks of onion.

The staff made a couple of mistakes that night, forgetting part of our order and presenting an incorrect bill. They at least were apologetic and friendly throughout the night.
The main course of enchiladas was surprisingly enjoyable, after our expectations were tempered by the poor entrees. With a side of wholesome beans, and succulent chicken wraps, it was addicting and we polished the dish off quickly. It was on the smaller size for $26 though.

While the restaurant is somewhat charming, and the staff friendly, Little Mexico Cantina serves bland, overpriced Tex Mex. Stay away, unless you have an allergy to home cooking, and a thirst for the generic.


Friday, March 6


How is it possible for the New Zealand Postal Service to be so fucking incompetent?!
Last year I sent half a dozen cards to Singapore which never made it.
I posted a bunch of Christmas cards locally and I have no idea how many of them made it.
Recently a doctors note took 7 days to reach me.
Now I've posted another letter locally and it hasn't reached 3 days later.

Never going to use these shit birds again, I'll travel 2 hours to deliver postage myself if I have to.

Food Review: Kintaro On Fuji

Cuisine: Japanese
Price: $29.90 for large sushi platter
Location: 17 Swanson St, Auckland

Ah Kintaro. You were the first Japanese restaurant that I truly enjoyed in Auckland. The first that excited me. And while you've been supplanted as my favourite Japanese restaurant by others, you still hold a special place in my heart.
Your tacky decor and music are endearing, your staff earnest and friendly. Many of your dishes are delicious such as the comforting, rich, umami tonkotsu ramen. The sushi is always fresh and affordable.
Okay sure, your menu is a bit crazy and unfocused. Some of the items are bizarre, hair brained creations. But I can forgive, for there are real gems in there. Dishes made with passion, by a talented team. Karaage chicken, ho!

You're the best casual dining Japanese restaurant Kintaro, and I'll never forget you.


Tuesday, March 3

Food Review: Grand Park

Cuisine: Chinese
Price: Extremely varied!
Location: Gate B, Alexandra Park Raceway, Green Lane West, Epsom, Auckland

Grand Park is one of a handful of premier Chinese restaurants in Auckland. With its packed, red abundant dining room and chaotic service it certainly leaves a lasting impression. At peak times, weekend brunch (for yum char) and dinners, the restaurant is busy to the point that even if you book, you'll have to wait for your table. Like many Chinese restaurants the service is awful, so be forewarned. 
The yum char is undeniably tasty, with a wide selection of dishes including the favourites. Of the many dishes I tried included belly pork, siumai, har gow and carrot cake, all were delicious and fresh. Like in Hong Kong, the food is wheeled out on carts and you simply pick your fancy. Don't see what you want? You can ask one of the staff and you may get it...Or you may have to wait for the requisite card to come by. The outcome seems to be depending on the direction the wind is blowing.
While the dim sum charmed, the dinner is another story.

On my last visit, we went for dinner on Chinese New Year's Eve. The food took extremely long to come out, to the point that we were portioned one dish every 20 minutes. When Chinese food is best shared generously, having to ration while you wait for dishes sucks! 
What was perhaps more offensive was the blandness of the food. As it was Chinese New Year, the dishes were of the more exuberant variety, but were tasteless at best. The salmon sashimi was squishy and decidedly fishy. The fried squid meat was clearly cooked from frozen. The sea cucumber dish; gloopy and banal.
Adding to the frustration of these delayed, dull dishes, we were still limited by the two hour table allocation. Yes, this is a restaurant where you are only allowed to use the table for a set amount of time! Despite the restaurant failing to provide us with all our food, we were still rushed out after our allotted time. In fact they were clearing away everything I didn't have my hands on (including my glass), as I finished eating!
While it was Chinese New Year, and it was extremely busy, surely a veteran Chinese restaurant would be able to cope with demand and plan accordingly? The ridiculously slow service, as well as inattentive staff, was insulting. The biggest slap in the face was that this meal cost in the high three figures. We could have gone to any number of high class, excellent, restaurants for the same price.

While Grand Park serves an enjoyable yum char brunch, the last dinner service was completely insulting and amateur. I certainly won't be going there for dinner again.


Food Review: Hulu Cut (Wellesley Street)

Cuisine: Bubble Tea
Price: $6.5 for bubble milk tea
Location: 16 Wellesley Street West, Auckland CBD, Auckland

Bubble tea. The real drink of champions. After I  discovered this gem in Singapore, I found myself unable to survive more than a few weeks without the best of Taiwanese exports.
With multiple bubble tea cafes in the city, you're generally never more than a ten minute walk from pearly goodness. Hulu Cat is one of these cafes, with three stores in Auckland, my haunt being the one on Wellesley Street. 

Hulu serves concoctions of milk teas, slushies, fruit teas and others. There is a wide choice of toppings, such as grape jelly and the unusual wheat powder. I'll stick to my tapioca pearls though. This variety enables Hulu Cat to stand out among its many competitors. The combinations of teas and toppings are addictive, and are distinct enough that you'll enjoy trying many of them.
Otherwise the staff are friendly enough and Hulu has its own seating area, though you'll find that ordering can be a cramped affair. 

Bubble tea isn't complicated and Hulu Cat makes its acquisition very painless. The best bubble tea is still at Hulu Cat.


Food Review: Mad Mex

Cuisine: Mexican (Tex Mex)
Price: $12 for a burrito
Location: 16 Fort Street, Auckland

Mad Mex's menu consists of the usual ‘Mexican’ staples such as burritos, nachos and quesadillas. Don’t expect anything unique or authentic from the menu. Unimpressed, I ordered a simple beef burrito with beans and the hottest sauce they had. The burrito was served room temperature, which was ridiculous. It was pretty big, so in that sense it was satisfying. However the burrito was under heated, under seasoned and completely bland. Despite ordering the hottest sauce, it was pretty mild. I found myself pouring on extra hot sauce just to give it some flavour. My friends dishes didn’t look any better.

Mad Mex is yet another bland and uninspired Mexican conveyor belt, serving food only fit for those who like imitations of actual food. It’s like McDonalds with a veneer of class.