Tuesday, April 28

Food Review: Masu

Cuisine: Japanese/Fusion
Price: Around $20-40 a dish
Location: 90 Federal Street, Auckland
Website: https://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/restaurants/masu/

Masu is one of the tightly packaged, casual smart restaurants that epitomise Sky City. Masu serves Japanese, with a just a hint of European fusion from its three section kitchen: sushi and sashimi, the grill and the kitchen.
The wooden heavy decor is tinged with a hint of glitz. It's very much Sky City, and borders on the uppity. The bar greets you on your way in, with its impressive choice of drinks. There are dozens of varieties of saki, not to mention Japanese fruit liqueurs and whiskys.

As mentioned the kitchen is split into three. The sushi bar serves classic as well as traditional sushi and sashimi, the kitchen includes tempura and soups and finally the grill plates beef fillet and aubergine. I found the menu to be somewhat convoluted, with it unclear what items complement each other. That said, ordering at random will serve, though you'll find there is definitely a disparity in the quality.

Starting from the top, the sushi and sashimi are some of the best in Auckland, and due to Masu's central location and relaxed atmosphere it is my favourite spot for sushi. The Deluxe Nigiri Selection is a conduit for the chefs to experiment, with nigiri such as lightly grilled beef with shreds of liver, filling your hungry soul with surprised glee. The choice fish is incredibly delicate on the tongue and almost melts in the mouth. I've eaten an entire meal only from the sushi bar and been left mesmerised.

The selection from the kitchen reads the most uninspired. Despite this the cloudy bay clams were refreshing, with the buttery juices lifted with a hint of lime. The tempura was a real gem. Imagine fish from your local chippy, fried in little crispy rice parcels, without a hint of oiliness and all the freshness of the fish intact. We couldn't get enough of these perfect parcels.

The grill is perhaps the most eye catching part of the menu, and perhaps for good reason. The glazed aubergine was perfect. I have a love affair with aubergine, and Masu took me to heaven. The flesh was almost creamy, the skin slightly burnt lending a phantom of bitterness to the sweet glaze.
The hearty pork ribs were also glazed well, but unfortunately the flesh was noticeably dry.

If I was to rate Masu only on the food, I'd easily rate it as one of my favourite restaurants. However it falters on two points.
The restaurant is distractingly loud during evenings, with the dozens of diners packed into the restaurant and distressingly bland rock music in the background. At my last dinner there, I found it hard to hear my dining companion.
Another casualty of the packed restaurant are the staff, who are more inattentive than is reasonable. Though this is noticeably due to them rushing around, trying to satisfy the large number of diners. Please hire more servers Masu!

The food at Masu is top notch, making it my favourite sushi haunt. The majority of the food is inspired, and some is even exceptional. Unfortunately due to the din of insipid rock music, the crowded restaurant and inattentive staff means Masu falls slightly short.


Thursday, April 23

Food Review: New Inn Pizza

Cuisine: Pizza
Price: $5-15 most pizzas
Location: 117 Beach Road, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: http://www.newinnpizza.co.nz/

Fast food taste at fast food prices. Delivery took around 40 minutes. The pizza dough was entirely soft, without any crunch, and the topping was bereft of the meat we expected. The vegetables were pleasant, as was the spicy sauce.

The word "edible" would best describe this experience.


Sunday, April 19

Food Review: Eden Noodle

Cuisine: Chinese/Sichaun
Price: Under $15 most mains
Location: 105 Dominion Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
Website: NA

If you've eaten 'Chinese' food, what you most likely ate is Cantonese cooking, which originates from just one area of the massive country that is China. Sichuan cuisine is another regional flavour, and Eden Noodle is a great place to dig into it.

Like most of the restaurants on Dominion Road, Eden Noodle is unassuming from the outside, as well as the inside. It's a cramped restaurant, with lines consistently out the door. Expect to wait 15 minutes for a seat, any time of day, so getting a takeaway may be preferable. The restaurant is not particularly hospital, with the stuffy hot air and manic front of staff, who tries to juggle orders as well as the kitchen. It's not unpleasant, but nor is it a particularly comfortable.

The menu is expansive, though most of the items are one of dozens of noodle variations, either hand or pre made. There are cold dishes as well, which may not be to everyone's taste. I've particularly enjoyed the dandan noodles, the pork and chive dumplings in spicy sauce and the slobbery chicken (cold). As mentioned there are numerous noodle dishes to choose from, which are all pretty similar, so don't get too caught up in the details!
Additionally the portions are large, and the prices low, so you can eat generously without denting your wallet.

The signature Sichuan flavours of pepper and chilli are ever present, as a result the food will quickly deaden your tongue. If you are not a chilli enthusiast, avoid Eden Noodle. And if you are, then enjoy these incredibly morish dishes.
The food tends to be slightly oily, slightly salty and very chilli. The meat is tender, the sauces tinged with garlic and it all comes together in a mouth watering feast.

Eden Noodles is a slice of chilli heaven. Heat tolerance is a necessity, and if you can survive, then you are in for a beautiful piece of niche Chinese cuisine. Service and quarters are standard for this kind of eatery, the food is unforgettable. Get here pronto!


Wednesday, April 15

Food Review: El Sizzling Chorizo

Cuisine: Argentinian
Price: Under $25 most mains
Location: Ponsonby Central, 4 Brown St, Auckland
Website: http://www.elsizzlingchorizo.co.nz/

El Sizzling Chorizo is another notable eatery, within the slightly pompous Ponsonby Central. Its claim to fame are mouth watering barbecued meats, with an Argentinian flavour. Vegetarians beware, this is your worst nightmare.

The menu is delightfully simple; chorizo, short ribs, chicken thighs and other well recognised meats are on the menu, as well as empanadas and a small choice of sides. If you've the stomach for it, I suggest the orejano platter or the parrillada, which feature a selection of meats that come in at over 600 grams each. Either makes for a sumptuous meal, and utterly captures the essence of El Sizzling Chorizo.

With such a concise, meat centric, menu the pressure is on to provide excellent quality despite its simplicity. El Sizzling Chorizo rises to the challenge. The chorizo, made by the owner Corra, are some of the best sausages you'll find in Auckland. The short ribs have a slightly gelatinous quality to them, delivering indulgent mouthfuls. The chicken thigh is tender, with sheets of crispy skin, good enough to tempt you to theft if your dining partner has some.
The empanadas are the best I've tried in New Zealand. Dipped in beef tallow, their shell has a satisfying crunch to it. Even the bread stands out: with its chewy, salty, slightly burned goodness.

The wine list, mostly Argentinian red, is also worth a mention. The Septimo Obra Malbec is incredibly fragrant and is the perfect accompaniment to a hearty evening meal at El Sizzling Chorizo.

The simplicity of El Sizzling Chorizo, belies the level of quality and thought afforded to the menu. The meats are sumptuous, making it one of the premier carnivorous restaurants in Auckland. 


Monday, April 6

Food Review: Little Bread and Butter

Cuisine: Bakery/Cafe
Price: Typically under $10 a pastry/loaf
Location: Ponsonby Central, Market 7, Richmond Road, Auckland
Website: http://www.breadandbutterbakery.co.nz/

If looking for a freshly baked loaf in Ponsonby, you'll most likely find yourself in Little Bread and Butter at some time. As its name implies, their claim to fame is baked goods. The premises also doubles as a cafe and you can grab coffees and smoothies, as well as their breads and pastries.

Like all of Ponsonby Central, the d├ęcor is very agreeable (though this could also be interpreted as unoriginal), and the service is tidy. The glass cabinet displays dozens of delicious looking goods such as carrot cake, brownies, quiches and doughnuts. If you decide to try one of every item, you would certainly be at Bread and Butter a while.

The baked goods are definitely the highlight. The carrot cake is moist and the smidgen of slightly sour cream cheese completes the richly satisfying experience. The doughnuts are lightly crisp on the outside, the brownies fudgy. Perhaps the only sub par food I've tried was their pretzel. The dough was soft (as was the exterior), and was so incredibly salty I could barely finish it.
Bread and Butter's loaves are also impressive. They offer enticing tasters of a bread at the counter, which is appreciated. If you are near Ponsonby and need a loaf for an excursion or meal, I'd suggest you go here.

Unfortunately, however nice the baked goods are, the coffees are rather poor. The cappuccinos are flat, while the mochaccinos are the most devoid of chocolate I've tasted in Auckland. If you are looking for a complete breakfast/coffee experience, this is not the place to go.

If out for baked goods for a treat, picnic, lunch or whatever else you need, then Little Bread and Butter is the place to go. You'll be spoilt for choice with the breads, and the sweeter options comfort the soul. Just don't bother with the coffee, or awful pretzels.


Thursday, April 2

Food Review: Mamak

Cuisine: Malaysian
Price: Around $15 per main
Location: Chancery Square, 50 Kitchner Street, Auckland CBD
Website: https://www.facebook.com/mamak.nz

Summing up Mamak forces me to consider the importance of expectations. When Malaysia is as far away as a 9 hour direct flight, from a country with next to no Malaysian immigrants, can one expect good Malaysian food in New Zealand?
When you grown up cooking and eating authentic dishes with your mother, and eating in Malaysia many times, how do you rate a cuisine outside its home?

Critique quandaries aside, Mamak is located in the cosy Chancery Square where several affordable eateries jostle for your attention. At Mamak the mostly swift service, the earth bound seating and the choice of quintessential Malaysian dishes enable the restaurant to stand out.

The food itself is...reasonable. It is no where near as good as you would get in Malaysian, but perhaps that is an unreasonable expectation. Suffice to say, at Mamak the curries have depth of flavour, the rice is fragrant and the roti crisp. Beef rendang, chicken curry and laksa are all very enjoyable, and will satisfy your South East Asian curry lust.
If you haven't tried the popular Malaysian teh tarik yet, then Mamak will fix you right up.

It's perhaps unreasonable to expect authentic Malaysian food in New Zealand, but nonetheless Mamak does a pretty earnest job of it. You won't go wrong with any of the classics here.