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MASU x EHN

 

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You came from as far afield as Flat Bush and Birkdale and Henderson Valley and we’re very glad you did.

At Masu by Nic Watt last night, we ate some of the finest Japanese food we’ve yet tasted, with accompanying sakes – there was a dish of cold soba with a beautiful crab stock and little flaked pieces of crab, and a dish of foraged herbs with a yuzu dressing and tiny little radishes, slightly bitter and beautiful on the plate. There was rabbit – rabbit! – two ways and salmon three ways including one with charred kombu, the flavours interplaying and receding, refined and delicate and yet strong. The sakes were alternately dry and sweet and one was even funky in the way that a reductive wine is. They went beautifully with the food.

In short, we loved our dinner at Masu. Thank you to everyone who came and thank you to Meg Abbott-Walker for looking after us.

 

WANG WANG

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Photographs: David Straight

Its very brilliant moniker aside, Wang Wang Spring Pancake – to use its full name – is a small, spotlessly clean little shopfront on Dominion Road – the service is friendly, and they will happily tell you what to eat and how much. They serve many things here, but they’re side shows for the main event, chunbing which are the spring pancakes – in the north of China, they’re a traditional food for spring: light, stretchy pancakes wrapped around meat and vegetables. It’s known as biting the spring and it brings you good luck.

At Wang Wang, they serve these pancakes year round: you choose how many you want ($5 for 10 or $2.50 for five) and then what filling; we can highly recommend the pork with peking sauce ($13) which is dark and sticky, and the stir-fried potato noodle with chilli ($9.80) which is a wonderful thing: matchsticks of potato, stir-fried al dente and shockingly good. You wrap up the filling with a bit of spring onion inside the pancake and then you bite down and the potato is crunchy and the pork is sticky, and in this way they are wonderful any day of the year. SFG

HOURS Tuesday to Sunday, 12pm to 4pm, 5pm to 10pm.

ADDRESS 704 Dominion Road, Balmoral, ph 630 3916.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Trust them, reluctantly, when they say 10 pancakes and two fillings is more than enough for two people.

 

 

 

SUPPER CLUB: SAKE DEGUSTATION

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We’re pretty excited about this one.

Our latest supper club is at Masu by Nic Watt on September 3. It’s a sake degustation, which matches five exquisite spring-inspired courses from the Masu kitchen with some rare and unusual sake. We say it’s at the private table: you’ll find out on the night where you’re sitting and that’s a little bit special too.

We are only doing one evening for this dinner, and there are just 18 tickets available – so it will be a really intimate event. Tickets are $150 including sake matching, and can be purchased just below with your credit card. Looking forward to it!


Sake Degusation at Masu by Nic Watt



BREAKFAST: ORPHAN’S KITCHEN

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Orphans Kitchen reminds you just how delightful breakfast can be. You might have eaten dinner there since it opened a couple of years back – chef Tom Hishon takes a devilishly clever approach to simple and secondary ingredients, and the place is nicely casual without being sloppy. It’s lovely at night – small, with tongue-and-groove paneling and macrocarpa benchtops and stools with sheepskins on them – but by morning the place is awash with soft yellow light, which bounces off the walls and over your table. Of a weekday morning it could even be described as sedate.

The breakfast menu here doesn’t feature eggs benedict, and there is no chia seed bircher. Instead, Hishon takes the same approach to breakfast as he does to dinner – there are no rules, and very few things that are obviously breakfast but all of it is genius – as seen with the tenderly cooked sardine, served with horseradish and microgreens and a side of spelt toast that we ate recently: there was something faintly Swedish-ish about it. We also love the mushrooms with quark – multiple types of mushroom in a sticky dark broth with the tiniest blobs of quark and chervil. We should all eat soup for breakfast more often.

And there are some of the finest house-made crumpets ever produced, anywhere – they are big and almost cake like: chewy and slightly yeasty and they come with honey from the restaurant’s hives. And, there is a dish of poached eggs on brioche toast with meyer lemon curd and an anchovy, the dish artfully darting between salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth. Genius. SFG

 HOURS Wednesday to Friday from 7am, weekends from 8am.

ADDRESS 118 Ponsonby Road, Auckland, ph 378 7979.

COFFEE Supreme, naturally. There’s an espresso machine but they also serve a changing selection of single origin roasts in a Fetco filter, in a custom-made ceramic mug from Taus.

DUMPLING ACE

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Photographs: David Straight

We’re not quite sure why they called it Dumpling Ace. Don’t get us wrong, the dumplings here are very good indeed – we’ll get to them in a moment – but they’re not quite the star attraction. Dumpling Ace is a simple little restaurant in the Northcote Town Centre: bare timber-veneer tables, wooden chairs, slightly frazzled service – recently we waited 45 minutes for takeaways. You’ll find it next to the dodgy TAB bar and just along from Jiale Bun Shop (which isn’t as good as it used to be, but anyway).

There’s a – hurrah – short menu, which reflects the owners origins in Shaanxi just north of Sichuan in the west of China below Shanxi, which means there’s lamb and green peppercorns and chilli and barbecue. Be sure to try the chargrilled skewers dusted with chilli: they’re salty and spicy and tenderly smoky – the chicken “gizzards” ($12 for 10) and the lamb ($12 for 10) are particularly good. The stir-fried celery with black mushroom ($10) is pretty good too, and the dumplings are big and lumpy and juicy – we like the pork with cabbage ($10). But the handmade “shaved” or knife-cut noodles are the reason to come here – they’re a specialty of the region, long and thick and lumpy. They are very good simply wok-fried ($12) or served with sesame and chilli ($9), or in a salty mutton broth with seaweed and coriander ($8.50), and even better with pork, chilli and pepper ($12).

But our favourite dish? The fish fillet cooked with hot pepper and hot chilli in Sichuan style ($19.80), which is a beautiful broth with plenty of green pepper corns, salty and spicy and sour – it tickles the tastebuds and gets the shoulders going. Apparently, they told us last time – after we’d eaten, sadly – that it’s great with a side of those noodles. We’ll be back soon. SFG

HOURS 10am to 9pm, seven days

ADDRESS Northcote Town Centre, 39 Pearn Place, Northcote, ph 480 4898.

IMPORTANT DETAILS Noodles! Make sure you order noodles!