Wednesday, July 1

Food Review: Meet Fresh

Cuisine: Taiwanese/dessert
Price: Under $10 a dish
Location:  6-8 Lorne Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland
Website: http://meetfresh.net/

Doughy starch. Sweet starch. Bean starch. Sweet, thick milk. Jelly!

Such describes the predominant ingredients of the concoctions at Meet Fresh. Serving Taiwanese desserts, the café features various hot/cold dishes and drinks, which almost all feature some kind of heavy starch. The execution of the dishes isn’t impressive, with most of the ingredients coming from a bucket, but the sugary variety of textures can be enjoyable. The herbal jelly (No.4) and red bean porridge, either hot or cold, are some of the better items. The hot is served in warmed milk, the cold with ice. Red bean is a favourite of mine, so the porridge is a no brainer, though it pales in comparison to the similar Malaysian dish: pulut hitam.
The café is frequently busy, so take away may be your only choice.


Starchy and sweet, Meet Fresh is a one of a kind dessert café. Your enjoyment will hinge on appreciation of its limited choice.

6/10

Thursday, June 25

Food Review: Loco Pizza

Cuisine: Pizza/pasta
Price: $20 a large pizza
Location: 407 Parnell Road, Parnell, Auckland
Website: http://www.locopizzanz.com/

With the strikingly macabre skull silhouetted on the window, and streaks of red inside, you might mistake this pizza parlour as a Hell Pizza chain. Instead Loco Pizza stands on its own, serving some of the better pizza in Auckland. This ain’t a cheap joint, no $5 pizzas here, a deal for two large pizzas costs $35. There are a multitude of topping choices between the seventeen pizzas, to the point of overlap. Less is more for me, but at least you’ll be spoilt for choice.

The pizza comes out fast, within twenty minutes. What’s striking is the doughy treat resembles actual food, as opposed to conveyor belt factory fare from the large pizza chains. The toppings are delicious and light, you could scoop them off the pizza and eat them individually. Succulent ham, cheese, mushrooms…it’s all extremely welcoming. The dough is mostly soft, with a slight crunch, just the way I like. Clearly the food is cooked with a little love.

A large pizza per person is more than enough, and we struggled to finish our dinner. The pasta is also worth a look, and home delivery is also a much appreciated for those late night hunger pangs.

Loco Pizza serves the freshest pizza I’ve yet tasted in Auckland Central, it’s now my home delivery preference. Order a large pizza per person, and you’ll have a luxurious feast.

8/10

Wednesday, June 24

Food Review: Thai Me Up

Cuisine: Thai
Price: Around $15 a curry main
Location: 244 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
Website: http://www.thaimeup.co.nz/

Eating good Thai food in Auckland sometimes seems as probable as chasing rainbows and discovering leprechauns guarding pots of gold. Thai Me Up is another disaster, this time on the fetching Ponsonby Road. Decor is fine, food tastes like it was prepared from a packet.

Curries are bland, watery and choked with heavy Western vegetables. Malaysian/Indonesian food is served under the umbrella of 'Thai' to those unaware of the differences. The place is at least clean, but you'd get tastier dishes at a food court.

At least it’s BYOB so you can drink on the cheap!

4/10

Tuesday, June 23

Food Reviw: Xi'an Food Bar

Cuisine: Chinese
Price: $11 for noodles
Location: 11 Anzac Avenue, Auckland Central, Auckland (multiple locations)
Website: N/A

Xi'an Food Bar is another hole in wall Chinese, serving more authentic dishes than your average restaurant. The food is tasty, cheap and comes in large quantities. Downsides; no charm, no service to speak of and it's slightly dirty.

Xi'an Food Bar plates up Central/North Western Chinese food, which features lots of pork and lamb, tripe, 'burgers' and hand pulled noodles. The Anzac Avenue menu is truncated compared to Xi'an's sister restaurants, though the choice that's left is more than enough. Between two people, you can't go wrong with some noodles, cold dishes and tripe to share. The noodles can be tough and chewy, but the slightly sour, oily sauce more than makes up for it. The 'burgers' are composed of a piece of Chinese pan bread, filled with juice dripping meat. Adding chilli makes me forget about Western style burgers.
Oh, did I mention that you place your orders using a device that looks like it came direct from the 80's?


Xi'an Food Bar serves up warming, cheap eats. It ain't fancy, or pretty, but you can be rest assured of a good meal for your dollar.

7/10

Friday, June 19

Food Review: The Zookeeper's Son

Cuisine: European/gastro pub
Price: Around $25 a main
Location: 715 Mt Albert Road, Royal Oak, Auckland
Website: http://www.zookeepersson.co.nz/

Zookeeper's Son has the honour as being one of the few 'gastro pubs' in the area. It's the kind of place where there's ample room, beers a plenty to be drunk and a full menu to order from. It can certainly be a great combination when the components line up, but this gastropub fails on the food front.

The menu has a little bit of everything, without any kind of cohesive theme. So called 'Szechuan pepper squid', hamburgers, Thai salad, fish and chips and many other disorientated items are on the menu to tempt you. They all sound delicious, but I'm sceptical of any restaurant that tries to do so many dishes, from multiple cuisines and cultures well, it's an extremely tall task. Suffice to say The Zookeeper's Son isn't up to the challenge!



All the items I've had were mediocre, though at least the chips were done well. The herb pizza almost dusty, the Texas baby back ribs tough. The eye fillet was particularly disappointing. The steak itself was cooked fine, though underseasoned. The oddly paired potato gratin was dry, lacking the creaminess I'd expect. The bacon...was just bacon. Why?

Consistently average food in a nice pub. You could be locked in worse places during a zombie apocalypse.

5/10

Sunday, June 14

Food Review: Mikano

Cuisine: European/Fusion
Price: Around $35 a main
Location: 1 Solent Street, Mechanics Bay, Auckland
Website: http://www.mikano.co.nz/

On a cold midweek night, me and several other Zomato reviewers were invited to dinner at Mikano.
The restaurant feels remote if travelled to on foot, but the distance from the city centre grants a spacious dining room and a splendid sea view.

Our host, Sai, started our evening with an introduction to some Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial, which we were told was crafted to be drunk with ice. It made for a interesting story and the bubbly liquid, touched with mint and strawberry, was refreshing to the point and I had to restrain myself from gulping it down. If you were in the mood for something a little bit fancy, I'd heartily recommend this, but personally I'd be just as happy with sparkling rose.

We were seated and browsed the menu. The emphasis was clearly on seafood, with an entire selection of mains dedicated to fish. You could chose one of four fish, cooked in one of four ways, for a total of sixteen combinations! Spoilt for choice!
I decided to try the snapper, cooked with coconut chilli sambal and a side of crisp fried cauliflower.



Amidst the lively story telling of Sai, our many starters arrived. Soups, seafood and bacon topped ravioli were placed in front us.
The seafood selection impressed with perfectly cooked squid, neither chewy nor soft, the light brushing of chilli tasting irresistible. The garlic prawns were bliss, also cooked excellently with their delicate texture. The salmon sashimi was fresh and the sharp wasabi tinged mayonnaise was a choice addition.

There were some let downs. The lasagne was a bland mush and the duck ravioli was enjoyable, but nothing more. The much loved soups I found uninspired, with a thin chowder and a weak crayfish soup. The mains soon followed, and also had their ups and downs.



My snapper's texture was perfect, with succulent flaky chunks, but the flavour was drab. I expected the brushing of sambal to be poignant, and perhaps fiery, instead it was coconut milk mellow. The complimentary serving of coconut heavy slaw, made for coconut overkill. 
The fried cauliflower's coating was too thick and heavy to work with fish. Perhaps it would have better complimented another one of the mains, but it was mismatched for my choice.

A fellow eater had chosen a meaty pork belly. I took my knife to it, and carved chunks of succulent, but soggy meat. The skin was extremely chewy, as opposed to crispy, and it took some strong gnashing to be able to swallow it.
I had mixed feelings about the mains, with their big portions and inconsistent quality. Was this fine dining or hearty unpretentious food? For me it was neither and that was a problem.
And finally came the desserts. Perhaps unexpectedly, they were also a mixed basket.

The chocolate pudding was baked to perfection, the crust breaking with a delicate stab, to reveal gooey chocolate heaven. Kudos to the chef and highly recommended. The creme brulee was enjoyable, the tiramisu and pavlova mediocre.
One aspect that was consistent throughout the night, was the excellent service. The staff were friendly, attentive and clearly enjoyed interacting with customers.


I very much enjoyed my night, but had mixed feelings about the food. There were some real gems, and its clear there is some passion and talent in the kitchen of Mikano. However with prices on the higher end of dining, my expectations were equally high. Mikano failed to deliver, with the competition offering better meals, often for less. 
Mikano serves enjoyable, albeit disappointing dishes, resulting in a restaurant I would be unlikely to revisit.

6/10

Saturday, May 23

Food Review: Ramen Takara

Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen
Price: Around $14 a bowl
Location: 272 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
Website: http://ramentakara.co.nz/ponsonby.php

Ramen Takara Ponsonby is the newest site, of the original Browns Bay restaurant. Specialising in ramen (the hint is in the name), and ramen being wonderous thing, I went to try this newest Ponsonby eatery.

The restaurant was somewhat small but cosy, and was decorated in the ubiquitously Ponsonby style of wood and brick. The staff were very friendly, and we were shown to our tables quickly.
Takara's menu is small, with a clear emphasis on ramen, with several variations of the soup available. We ordered the quintessential tonkotsu ramen (pork broth), karaage chicken, steamed gyoza, edamame and tsukemono (pickled vegetables) as well as a couple of alcoholic drinks.



The karaage chicken arrived first. The light crust on the fried chicken was surprisingly thin, yet gave a satisfying crunch which yielded the incredible filling. The chicken inside was moist and juicy, the mayonnaise and lemon taking the fatty edge off. One of the best karaage chickens I've had the pleasure of eating.
The rest of the dishes shortly arrived, but they never reached the highs of the chicken.


The delicate gyoza were enjoyable, the waitress showing us how to make the dipping sauce (cheat code: it's half soy sauce and half vinegar). The tsukemono were lacking any hint of the sour, fermented flavour I'd associated with pickled vegetables. Instead tasting like they had been soaked in water.
Meh.
Then it was onto to the much anticipated ramen.


The bowl was filled with variety of ingredients including black fungus and one perfectly cooked egg, with an almost gelatinous yolk. The toppings helped fill out the bowl and provide variety of flavours and textures. The pork had a hint of juiciness to it, without losing its firm texture. The soup though...was on the thinner and blander side. The consistency and level of fattiness kept the broth light, but it tasted rather flat, lacking that flavour punch. As a result what could have been a memorable, unique soup, was very much unremarkable.

Aside from the excellent karaage chicken, the rest of the meal at Ramen Takara was rather flat. Most disappointing was the ramen, which was entirely forgettable. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the staff very friendly. I can see Takara being a good place for a small bite, and drinks in Ponsonby, but for a Japanese feast you'll have to look elsewhere.

7/10