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EHN x SAAN

EHN x SAAN

We’re very happy. When Saan opened last year, serving its mixture of Lanna and Northern Thai dishes, we were very excited: this is some of the best Thai food in town, at once sour and tangy and fermented. Their sai ua is a thing of beauty.

Now, you can join us at Saan for a very special one-off menu in their very beautiful private dining room. The meal starts with a Chiang Rai spicy soup and takes in somtum and pork ribs, fermented pork and sausage, and poached Cloudy Bay clams. There’s a chargrilled whole fish and chargrilled lemongrass chicken and – of course – loads of sticky rice and condiments.

Tickets are $110 and include wine matching. Tickets are – as always – incredibly limited and available via PayPal below.





JIMMY THE COOK

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We weren’t very happy when Jimmy “the Fish” Gerard shut up shop in Ponsonby late last year: his Lion Red beer batter and gruff demeanour were the perfect antidote to Ponsonby Central’s hipster surrounds. So we rejoiced when he popped up in the back corner of the Grey Lynn Returned Services Club. There are families with kids, guys playing pool, men in high-vis.

He still does seafood, thank goodness: tarakihi when it’s fresh, pan-fried with caper butter and served with chips and a really good iceberg lettuce salad ($18) or in his aforementioned Lion Red beer batter ($15 adults, $10 kids). His fish pie, which is his mum’s recipe (the secret ingredient is – yes – tinned asparagus) you can dine in on for a tenner, or take home to heat yourself. Recently – and this isn’t said lightly – we ate just about the best gnocchi we’ve ever tasted: pan fried with a crisp edge but all softly-softly on the inside, with a browned sage butter and punctuated with salty, perfect prosciutto. It was $10. We also loved his polenta chips with mayo and salsa ($5) and his crayfish bisque ($5) – “It’s a soup,” says the blackboard menu.

It’s a rotating menu of whatever is good and available. Sometimes for pudding he’ll put on creme caramel; the other day we had beef cheek ragu with mash and broccoli ($18), and it was perfectly, meltingly, falling apart and rich, on mash that tasted homemade. One punter was taking his ragout home in plastic containers: when he asked for his broccoli, Jimmy handed him half a head raw. He was busy. DM

HOURS Dinner, Wednesday to Saturday.

ADDRESS Grey Lynn RSC, 1 Francis Street, Grey Lynn.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Cash only – though the bar will let you withdraw some. Also: it’s just Jimmy cooking, sometimes with a helper, so it can take a while.

 

KISS KISS

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Photographs: David Straight

Sometimes, you want something a bit better than fluorescent lights and Chinese gameshows. So let us rejoice in the third restaurant opening of Jasper and Ludo Maignot and Celeste Thornley (L’Oeuf & Chinoiserie), northern-Thai all-dayer Kiss Kiss. There are communal wooden tables, pastel mosaics, indoor palms and kitschy parasols; the cocktail menu is a Viewmaster.

The food is good: northern-style Thai, so it’s sour and tangy. It’s also fun and cheap. By day, there’s muesli with rose-kissed yoghurt ($13.50) served with lemongrass-stewed apple, and there’s a fragrant Scotch egg ($19), redolent with kaffir lime and served with sour pickled cabbage and pumpkin puree – bloody delicious. The fish cakes ($19) are served with srihacha hollandaise – though we struggled to find the fish on one visit. And we loved an intriguing crispy rice salad ($18.90) served with pork sausage and herbs.

At night there are sensational ribs ($16) with Jaew sauce (a warming dry chilli), a side dish that could contend with any main. There’s also a serviceable Pad Thai, obviously, and a whole deep-fried snapper ($21.50) with a tamarind-garlic-chilli sauce, at once sweet and tangy and sour. The pork belly curry ($16) is good – though not the best we’ve had, a bit off balance. But the sai oua ($16) – northern-style sausage, the litmus test of any northern Thai restaurant – is superbly fragrant, served with a blistering naan phrik num.

Our only gripe? The service can be a little haphazard: in particular, they have a till system that saw one of our reviewers wait 15 minutes to pay. But that was in its opening weeks and it’s easy to like Kiss Kiss – expect to see more joints like this. KR & SFG

HOURS Lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday.

ADDRESS 1 Rocklands Ave, Balmoral, ph 600-3076. No website but here is the Facebook page.

IMPORTANT DETAILS No bookings. Get in early or go late.

AUCKLAND RESTAURANT MONTH

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Photographs by David Straight

Auckland Restaurant Month runs throughout August and there’s rather a lot on offer this year. International chefs take over some of our favourite kitchens – including Momofuku Sei­ōbo at The Grove and Pope Joan at Odettes – while dozens of restaurants offer up special set menus every night in August; there are a few other events you won’t want to miss either, including the Cult Project at Misters serving rescued food. Bewildered? Here are our picks.

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We’re big fans of eating at the bar here at EHN – so we like the look of Raise the Bar, which gives you the opportunity to sit in some of the city’s nicest restaurants each Thursday night in August and have a glass of wine and a dish for $25. From happy experience, we can recommend the bar at Masu, which sits in the front of the restaurant, all glass and blonde timber and stone, with a view of the goings-on of Federal Street: you’ll eat crispy fried squid, green chilli and lime, matched with Babich Headwaters Block Organic Albarino 2015. (If you fancy a chaser, the Japanese craft beers here are very good as well.)

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Clooney has reopened after a brief hiatus, and it’s still one of the more striking dining rooms in Auckland. Owner Tony Stewart and chef Des Harris have developed an inventive seven-course dinner – a menu which costs $80 and happens to be vegetarian. That shouldn’t put anyone off. In fact, we want to eat it all. Fermented tomato with gooseberry for one course, and then plum, beetroot, shiso, sesame and kombu for another. Finished with burnt buffalo milk and valhrona, this is a modern, exciting menu. We can’t wait.

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Rockefeller, meanwhile, is one of the city’s finest places to eat oysters, with the added advantage of a list of vintage champagnes: you should go. It’s a beautiful space, all masculine steel and tiles and big heavy beams. For $40 in August, Rockefeller is doing a three-course lunch or dinner: there are freshly shucked oysters and beef tartare (“no wimps”) and chocolate nemesis for dessert. (The champagne will cost you extra.)

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The Grove is a long way – both in geography and style – from David Chang’s cult restaurant-bakery-magazine empire Momofuku, but we love them both without reservation. So we’re intrigued to check out A Taste of Momofuku Sei­ōbo on August 17, when Paul Carmichael – the executive chef of Momofuku Sei­ōbo in Sydney, the first Momofuku outside the United States – joins Ben Bayly in the kitchen at one of our favourite fine diners.

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Pope Joan is one of those Melbourne stalwarts that people still tell you to go to when you’re visiting. Seasonal and local drives the menu – from some of the best breakfasts in town right through to homegrown-vegetable laden dinners. Chef-Patron Matt Wilkinson is all about produce: his first book was called Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables and we’re big fans. Wilkinson is crossing the ditch for one night only, previewing his new Pope Joan menu in the beautifully serene Odettes. It’ll be served banquet-style, which we love, and promises to be inventive, fresh, and extremely tasty.

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We all know food waste is a huge problem, and Kiwi Harvest are more than walking the talk. Rescuing and repurposing food that would otherwise be thrown out is their game, and they have teamed up with the talented duo from pop-up The Cult Project at Misters, on Wyndham Street. We tried chefs Carlo and William’s food earlier this year, and haven’t stopped thinking about the creamed corn since.

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Have you been to Faro? People forget about it, tucked away on Lorne Street: it’s a Korean barbecue restaurant with fabulous service and a very nice fitout and food that is a big level up from your average Korean. For $40, you get two courses and a glass of wine and a choice of such specialties as Korean-style pancakes with kimchi, fish and zucchini and a choice of hot & spicy chicken or pork or beef on the charcoal grill. Well worth checking out.

This post was kindly supported by Auckland Tourism Events & Economic Development

BREAKFAST: MASU

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Photographs: David Straight

For a child of the 1980s, nothing was more fancy than breakfast out at a fancy hotel – the Regent, say, where the hot chocolate was rich and dark. Sadly, for the longest time, hotel breakfast didn’t measure up to these very high standards. Until, that is, Masu introduced the Sunday Nichiyo Brunch.

It costs $68, which is admittedly pricey, but it’s worth it. There is a buffet, the likes of which are usually found in big hotels in Asia where breakfast may be the best thing you eat all day and you feel slightly guilty about that. There is beautifully fresh, perfect sashimi and sushi, along with a pile of salads – grilled eggplant, beans, carrot – in earthenware bowls. There is, holy of all holies, a big pot of silken tofu which you spread with pickles and sprinkles, and there are great big hunks of grilled salmon.

Then you choose a dish from the lunch menu: we recommend the grilled baby chicken and the cedar plank salmon. At which point, the dessert platter arrives, a pile of ice with house-made ice cream, fruit and a couple of desserts. It can take a couple of hours to get to this point: this is how breakfast out should be. SFG

HOURS Sundays, 11am to 3pm.

ADDRESS SkyCity Grand Hotel, 90 Federal Street, City, ph 378 7979. masu.co.nz

COFFEE Not applicable. Order champagne.