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Photographs: David Straight

Even food reviewers get it wrong sometimes. I’ve been driving down Mokoia Road for the better part of three years now, yet for some reason I’d always written off Malaysia Recipes It’s in a strip mall just up from the gas station, opposite the Domino’s. Such inauspicious surroundings: such an obvious place to find good food.

As it turns out: Malaysia Recipes is great. There are a few tables and the obligatory posters of Malaysia, and free tea. Drop by on a weekday and it’s full of Malaysian tradesmen slurping sweet Malaysian coffee and wolfing down big plates of noodles. The menu is confusing: they offer fish and chips and fried rice for some reason, and not all the dishes are good – avoid the sambal chicken ($18), for instance.

Stick with the classics and it’s brolliant: I am in love with their “Penang fried kuay teow” ($10 for lunch, $13.90 for dinner), which comes with noodles that are beautifully blackened, and plenty of heat – just as a Malaysian tiler would have it. SFG

HOURS Lunch 11am to 3pm, dinner 5pm to 9pm. Closed Tuesdays.

ADDRESS 174 Mokoia Road, Birkenhead, ph 481 1123.

IMPORTANT DETAILS They do bak kut teh on the weekends – a bone broth of spices and herbs; you don’t often see this so do check it out.



You might have heard that our friends at Orphans Kitchen were so busy running a restaurant that they neglected to renew their booze licence, so for the next few weeks they can only do ticketed events. Which is very unfortunate for them, but we thought it was a wonderful chance to stage a bit of a sit-in at Orphans this Saturday.

Chef Tom Hishon has come up with a terrific menu – it’s a five-course autumnal feast, classically thoughtful Orphans food: starting with Bluff oysters and proceeding past their legendary bread to red deer tartare, pork hock and then on to cheese. All this is a very reasonable $85, with a cash bar on the night.

There are two seatings, one at 6.30pm and one at 8.30pm* – choose which option you’d like on the PayPal link below. Hope to see you there!

6.30 or 8.30pm
Saturday March 28
Orphans Kitchen
118 Ponsonby Road

*Please note this has changed from the previously advised sitting of 9pm.



Photographs: David Straight

Over two nights – February 25 and March 4 – we held a supper club downstairs at Cafe Hanoi’s parlour. It was a home-style feast: lots of shared plates and some dishes you might not associate with Vietnamese cooking. Personal favourite: the caramelised hotpot of mullet with galangal – we’ve heard rumours it might wind up on the menu upstairs. Thank you to Cafe Hanoi and thank you to everyone who came along. We’re looking forward to the next event already!



Photographs: David Straight 

Remember Two Monkeys? Just in case: a glass box with a blue-painted steel frame, dirty floors, formica tables, ordinary food. Last year, brothers Simon and John Yip (their mum is Vietnamese) took over the space, painted it white, polished the concrete floor and installed timber tables, metal chairs and industrial drop pendants. It is at once warm and simple and a little bit genius: home-style food, hip hop on the stereo, cute environs and – one day, soon we hope – a booze licence.

It got a flurry of reviews when it opened in October – but for us, the menu didn’t quite hold together; too many dishes were similar, even though the menu was designed to be shared. But there were some particularly excellent grilled chicken skewers ($14) and beautiful pork rice paper rolls ($12), their skin bubbled and crunchy, and there was a dish of pork belly with a tamarind and ginger sauce ($19), at once sticky and sweet and sour. We loved a roasted duck leg with a tangelo salad and taro crisps ($20), and everything came with plenty of herbs. But we also had a pho ($15) without enough beef in it one lunchtime, and a dish of skate wings with dill, turmeric and vermicelli ($19) that verged on bland.

The other day, we went in for an early lunch of pho, and a cold-press coffee with coconut milk and palm sugar, an interpretation of café suda, iced coffee, which in Vietnam comes with a slug of coconut milk but which here had a gentler flavour and a less sticky texture. The pho, equally, was brilliant: a generous serving of beef with a beautiful deep stock and a mountain of herbs. Service was good. The stereo was up. In short: the city needs about 20 joints like this. SFG

HOURS Lunch and dinner, 12pm to 3pm

ADDRESS 191 Dominion Road, Mt Eden, ph 638-6403.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Not yet licensed – we can’t wait.



Aside from its very splendid name, Uncle Man is a bit of a find. It’s on Karangahape Road, in a very lovely high-ceilinged space that used to be a comic-book shop, only now they have posters from Malaysia all over the walls and lovely big dark wooden tables. It can get very noisy.

Don’t be nervous about the menu, which is a jaunty blue and yellow, with helpful pictures – for some reason they also feature Chinese and European food (spaghetti bolognese, anyone?), which we’ve never bothered with. You’re here for Malaysian and in particular, you are here for roti, which they make to order, and which are flaky and delicate – the dessert roti, a tall cone of delicate, tissue-like roti, is a thing of beauty.

There is an entirely excellent roti canai curry chicken ($11) as well, not to mention the beef rendang ($13.50). We’ve also eaten mee rebus ($11.50), which is egg noodles in a sweet-potato gravy, which verges on too sweet in the Malaysian way, but is saved by the spice and the peanuts. You must also consider, one day, coming for breakfast and ordering kaya toast ($5): sweet creamy coconut jam on soft white-trash bread with soft boiled eggs and sweet soy sauce. Wash it down with a sweet Malaysian kopi: it’s hard to feel there is much wrong with the world with a breakfast like this. SFG

HOURS Breakfast, lunch and dinner, 10.30am to 9.30pm.

ADDRESS 277 Karangahape Road, Newton, ph 377-1799.

IMPORTANT DETAILS The kaya toast is great. Honest.