Tuesday, August 26

Food Review: Johnny Barr's

Cuisine: American bistro
Price: <$20 a main course
Location: 12 Jellicoe Street, Auckland
Website: http://www.johnnybarrs.com/home-splash/

Johnny Barr’s is one of the many clean, upmarket restaurants which line Auckland’s Viaduct. Walking past these restaurants I didn't expect much, my impression being style over substance. Johnny Barr’s almost proved me wrong, serving mostly delicious fare. Reading the menu, I came across many tantalising options including chicken waffles and cheese steak sandwiches. I hadn't eaten fish and chips in a long time, so I ordered that and the cheese cake. My friends also ordered some of the restaurant’s speciality ‘thickshakes’.

My first dining experience at Johnny’s started off poorly when the food took over 20 minutes to arrive. When the food actually came I was impressed by the clean presentation, which made for some great looking photos! I was finally able to dig in!


Monday, August 25

An End To Drinking? An End To Drinking!

It was a typical Saturday night. Had dinner with friends, came back to mine to drink. The night ended with me hurting some people close to me. Going forward it’s really simple; no more drinking in the flat. This has been a long time coming but I need to give up drinking before I end up hurting others again.

Friday, August 22

Food Review: Aoyama

Cuisine: Japanese
Price: $1 per sushi piece, $14 for ramen
Location: 2/4 Orbit Drive, Albany, Auckland
Website: NA

Not ramen ho!

Aoyama is one of the many Japanese 'restaurants' that litter Auckland. The vast majority of which are the equivalent of McDonald's, serving deceptively soulless, mechanical and profit driven food. I wasn't expecting much from Aoyama, and that was entirely the correct attitude. The large selection of sushi was poorly crafted and mostly the disgusting Western variety. I ordered a few pieces of the more traditional options including teka nigiri, it was inoffensively ordinary and nothing more. I also ordered the spicy seafood ramen, there being no option for proper ramen. The bowl came with a nice diversity of sea food, including mussels and scallops, though they were over cooked and tasted like they were recently frozen. The broth was completely bland and I had to season it with soy sauce to make it edible. The only real upside was that it was a large serving and I was stuffed after finishing the bowl.

Aoyama is yet another soulless Japanese restaurant, which offers a poor imitation of real Japanese food. The slight upside is that the food isn't appalling and it does come in large quantities. You could do a lot worse, but then you could do a hell of a lot better.

5/10

Thursday, August 21

The Flatmate Dilemma

I'd like to think of myself as a decisive person, one who doesn't dabble in mediocrity. I'd like to think that if I have a problem, I sort it and fast. However ever since I moved to Auckland I've faced a dilemma I haven't yet solved. I'm living in a three bedroom, two bathroom flat with two male flat mates. It’s liveable but it’s not perfect, nor are my flat mates. On one hand the rent is fantastic; $180 per week for 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms in Auckland city. I know people who are sharing with 7 people who are paying similar rent. One of my flat mates is really cool, the other one is all right. The location is reasonable; half an hour walk to Britomart and 5 minutes from Ponsonby. On the down side the flat is incredibly drab and borderline ugly. My flat mates, while pleasant enough, still retain an adolescent male mentality were dirt and grime accumulation is okay.

For instance this morning I found the bathroom sink filled with burned fatty flakes from a frying pan. Often the stove tops and wall are covered in grease splatters. So far they've done their part when I ask them to help clean, but rarely do they do it of their own accord. I hate the idea of having to mother people, especially grown men. I'm pretty anal about cleanliness (thanks to my mum and sisters), which I actually really appreciate because it means my space is usually very presentable, hygienic and tidy. The other problem I've found is my flat mates also seem quite happy to living in dilapidation. The living room is essentially bare with only broken chairs, a mouldy sofa and one ironing board. There is no colour, vibrancy or life. One of my friends has also encouraged me to move out, saying I can do better in terms of location and flat mates. Further fuelling my desire for change is recent exposure to what our place could look like. The other day I visited neighbours who live in the same apartment complex, and saw a much more welcoming and impressive living space. They actually had a dining table!

The dilemma is this: Do I stay in mediocre accommodation, with dirty flat mates and good rent or do I move to nicer accommodation, take the risk with new flat mates and ultimately pay more?

For now I'm encouraging my flat mates to be cleaner and to spruce up the accommodation, so we’ll see how that goes. Either way for now I am staying put until my work visa comes through. If I get a work visa then I can re-examine this issue. If I don't then I'll stay put, since there is no point in paying significantly more rent when I will be leaving within a year.

Wednesday, August 13

Always Look...Smell Your Best

Recently my eczema has been really bad, to the point that my entire body is dry and itchy. Last night I had a particularly bad spell, where I scratched all over. As a result I decided not to shower, wanting to avoid the physical pain that the water would bring to my wounds and to stop my skin drying out further.
So the next morning I gave myself a wet wipe clean around the major areas, to make sure I didn't smell too bad, ultimately not worried since I'm mainly surrounded by guys and rarely in close proximity to them. I figured I could get away with not showering for two days. Then the day took an unusual turn. 

First I had a meeting in a crowded room. Then I had to leave that meeting in close proximity to other people. Then one of the only two attractive girls in the office, came and talked to me for the first time.

At least I would have made a strong first impression on her.

FML.

Friday, August 8

Food Review: Velvet Burger

Cuisine: Burgers (American Diner)
Price: $17 for burger and hash browns
Location: 18 Fort Street, Auckland
Website: http://www.velvetburger.co.nz/

Velvet Burger is yet another burger and diner style restaurant. The menu is primarily burger based, with a few other diner style options. I went for the namesake; The Velvet Burger, with hash browns on the side. The food was served within 10 minutes and I was treated to a large burger and a suitable bowl of hash brownies. The burger patty was a thick slab of venison with salad and a delicious sauce, which seemed to be composed of yoghurt and chilli. It was perfectly spicy, stimulating my taste buds, with the patty providing a satisfying juicy bite. The hash browns were over salted and became soggy pretty quickly. My friend’s kumera fries where crunchy on the outside and soft inside, a delicious combination. Next time I think I’ll stick with wedges or fries.

Velvet burger served up a great burger, with some mediocre hash browns. As far as burger joints go, Velvet Burger will treat you right. However it may be hard to justify going there, when better options exist nearby such as Burger Fuel and Burger Burger.

7/10

Thursday, August 7

Missing Pieces

I'm reading Haruki Murakami’s book Kafka On The Shore. It’s a captivating and bloody weird book. One part in particular draws my attention. In it our 15 year old antagonist (Kafka) sees the ‘ghost’ of a 15 year old girl and falls in love. He finds the spirit of this girl in a 50 year old lady. The ‘ghost’ is in fact the 15 year old version of this older woman. Kafka is able to form a short, intense, messed up relationship with this lady. Whatever it is, it’s love. Why does this series of events captivate me?

Kafka is able to find ‘true’ love, find a girl whom he treasures, a girl who makes him both nervous and joyous at the sight of her. Although this is a novel, and fiction often idealises various concepts and themes, I find my life lacking in ‘love’ and Kafka On The Shore only illuminated this fact. You see while I have no problem finding dates, or women to talk to, I've never felt any real connection to them. In a woman I implicitly want a sense of humour, good looks, intelligence, a love of food, is physically active, travelled, passionate and is emotionally stable. The majority of women don’t have these traits. The majority of women are complete bores. Despite my apparent high standards, there was one exception, my ex from Singapore who I dated for about a year.

She met many of my implicit criteria, but she had noticeable flaws. For instance she was deeply religious, yet ignorant of many religious themes. She couldn't accept that her job was making her miserable, and that she should move on to something that made her happy. I broke up with her because I was in New Zealand, and her Singapore, and long distance relationships don’t work. Despite these incompatibilities, and the uncertainty of our suitability long term, I loved her with all my heart. It didn't make sense to me on any level, yet there it was, she was the only girl I've ever loved. I still think of her a lot, and until recently made a concerted effort to regularly talk to her and try to be part of her life. For now I've given up on communicating with her, because it was a one sided exchange.

Saturday, August 2

Food Review: Le Garde Manger

Cuisine: French
Price: $50 for 3 courses
Location: 446 Queen Sreet, Auckland
Website: http://www.legardemanger.co.nz/

Le Garde Manger is one of a few French restaurants in Auckland, and I’d heard it offered authentic grub at a reasonable price. I hadn't tasted quality French food in far too long, so I was immediately tantalised by the promise of a great meal that wouldn't break your wallet. The restaurant is situated on Upper Queen Street and looks very unassuming, I’d walked past it dozens of times without realising it existed. The d├ęcor is somewhat rustic but inviting, with warm colours and cosy seating. We had booked a table for 8:30 pm, but it wasn't ready until almost 9 pm. Adding more salt to the wound was the waiter leading us out to the freezing cold back patio of the restaurant, to wait for our table. Some of our friends who arrived later, stayed in the restaurant where the waiter encouraged them to wait outside as well. They sensibly ignored him. After what seemed like a long wait, we were finally told our table was ready.

We sat in the toasty restaurant and opened up the menu. La Garde Manger offers a concise, yet diverse, range of dishes. There were plenty of French specialities such as tartiflette, coq au vin, Kir and les galettes. The authenticity of the ingredients further enthralled me. Many of them are imported from France, such as the cheeses and wines. My appetite began to grow as I imagine biting into some reblochon. For dinner I chose the French onion soup to start, tartiflette as a main and for dessert the crepe William.

Les galettes au hand.

Friday, August 1

New Zealand: Home Of The Mutts

Just a interesting observation I've made. In countries like the US and UK, the population is predominantly mono race, with under 5% (in some cases under 2%) of the population identifying as mixed race. In other words it's rare to meet somebody who is of mixed ethnicity. The same can't be said of New Zealand.

The indigenous population, the Maori's, are now almost exclusively mixed with Europeans. There are apparently no pure blood Maori's any more. It's also extremely common to meet phenotypically (i.e. they look) white Kiwis who are part Moari. The other day I met a tall, blue eyed, white, blonde haired Kiwi who I assumed was Nordic. He grandfather was Maori.

I didn't really notice it at first, but nobody here seems particularly surprised when they find out I'm Euroasian. This is in contrast to most other countries where being mixed makes me somewhat of an odd curiosity. I just realised the centuries of racial intermixing in New Zealand is probably why nobody bats an eyelid at me. I also haven't seen any real racism here, it's perhaps the least racist country I've ever been in. Yay for a country that's not racist, without being a bunch of over-sensitive twats!