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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.

TRAVEL: ADELAIDE

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Food shots @ Orana 23/12/2013126723-4“Radelaide” as the local crowd have affectionately named it, is buzzing. Nestled in the midst of three major Australian wine regions (Clare Valley, Mclaren Vale and the Barossa) it’s delightfully bohemian.

Sarah’s Sister’s Sustainable Cafe is a beachfront institution. Sarah has been the poster girl for Adelaide’s environmentally conscious for almost two decades. It’s a testament to how involved the café is in local sustainablity projects, but mostly to the quality of the food. Forget raw, this is comfortable vegetarian/ vegan fare in what is essentially a giant tapestry tent. It’s less like an urban outfitters ad than it sounds- Think rich sauces, lentils, vegetarian cheeses and fair trade coffee. Sit and be mindful, they’ve nailed the busy yet calming vibe. 117 Semaphore Road, Semaphore

The Seasonal Garden Café in the Adelaide hills, makes some of the best kumara chips I’ve ever eaten. They come with a whipped avocado dip, which is delicious, and has the added benefit of making you feel healthy while you eat fried potato. It’s a quaint, county bumpkin kind of joint in the German settlement of Handhorf- you could walk right by it… Don’t. 100 Main Road, Hahndorf

CREAM (Coffee Rules Everything Around Me) is so hip that you’ll sort of wonder why you’re there until one of the friendly dudes that runs the place starts chatting to you. They’re so cool, even the names of the roasts are a quiet ode to Wu Tang. The coffee is amazing too, house blend, guest blend or filter. 4/49 Jetty Road, Brighton

Orana has a long waitlist: I’m still on the fence about whether that’s justified. It’s degustation only, at $295 per person for food and wine in the evenings and $150 on a Friday lunch. Jock Zonfrillo’s concept is an authentic Australian cuisine, which is slightly unbelievable coming from a UK expat. You’re likely to forgive him, however, after you’ve made your way through 15 “snacks”, three mains and dessert. We ate ants – how fucking sophisticated. KR

THE CULT PROJECT

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Photographs: David Straight

The Cult Project is Carlo Buenaventura and William Cook, two fine young chefs with impressive CVs who between them have cooked at the Matterhorn in Wellington, the Town Mouse in Melbourne and Orphans Kitchen. Now, they’ve started The Cult Project, a series of popup dinners at Madame George and The Late Night Diner. Starting tomorrow night, they’ll be serving multi-course dinners twice a week until March. Tickets are available online and cost $60 for three courses.

Ambitious, but we reckon they’re up to it. At a recent tasting at Madame George recently, they served up the menu for their first two dinners. There was an entree of gem lettuce, grilled and then chilled and served with sunflower seed “sour cream”, a fish sauce dressing made from kahawai – kahawai! – and aromatic herbs including curry leaves. It was an inspired dish, by turns crunchy and cold, with a faintly grilled flavour that wasn’t overpowering. We also ate perfectly grilled beef flank, served with crunchy endive and a cucumber and kombucha vinaigrette which was also served with roasted avocado: normally we run a mile from warm avocado but somehow, it just worked, adding texture and flavour to a beautifully restrained dish. On the side, creamed corn with goat curd and shiso, which was one of the best things I’ve eaten this year. To finish, a curry vadouvan with goat milk and verbena, which was by turns savoury and sweet, and which I liked a lot.

Buenaventura originally hails from the Phillipines, while Cook grew up in England. The food  they make draws on those influences – as with the fish sauce dressing on the gem lettuce (Buenaventura) and the curry vadouvan, which Cook created in a homage to his childhood. Which is lovely, but the bottom line for us? This is carefully composed, technically accomplished food – there’s a crisp, clean sort of feeling to  it, with distinctive flavours. Make sure you support them. SFG

HOURS Dinner Tuesday and Friday until March, further dates TBC.

ADDRESS Madame George, 490 Karangahape Road; Late Night Diner, 152B Ponsonby Road. thecultproject.co.nz

IMPORTANT DETAILS Tickets don’t include booze – there’s a cash bar on the night.

EHN x CASSIA

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We’re super excited to invite you to our next supper club at Cassia on February 24. If you haven’t been, Cassia is the modern Indian restaurant of Sidart‘s Sid Sahrawat: the restaurant takes Indian classics and pushes them about, twisting and pulling so they’re at once recognisable and new. The service is casual but accomplished and the room is beautiful, in a bricky bunker on Fort Lane in Britomart.

On February 24, we’ll be sitting down to a special menu of new dishes that have not been tried by the public before – five fabulous courses which may or may not include such things as skirt steak, onion ash and sorrel sorbet. The menu’s still being worked on, but you get the idea: this is Indian food, just not quite as you know it. We’re matching this with some special wine (and possibly a beer), and we’ll kick everything off with a bespoke aperitif created by Cassia’s highly excellent barmen.

We’re looking forward to it – tickets are $150 for food and wine, and available below. We hope to see you there.