Hammerheads Seafood Restaurant and Bar

Yes I am nuts – too much disposable income. Just kidding. It was for a special occassion so don’t get all excited that I’m quadrupling my budget for eat outs. Hammerheads is quite famous (apparently) for its seafood. I decided to try Hammerheads because I’ve heard good things about it (and also bad). For those who don’t know where it is, it’s quite near Kelly Tarlton’s Antartic Encounter and Underwater World, on the way to Mission Bay if you’re coming from town.

Looking at the menu in Hammerheads can be quite intimidating, nothing costs below $10 except for the beer. But I think it’s a must try (in a lifetime) for a special event. So when you get that bonus, or win that Lotto ticket, why not?

Some of the food sampled are shown below:

Seared Scallops.

Grilled Snapper Fillet.

Beef Fillet

Baked Valrhona Liquer and Chocolate Cake.

Dining at Hammerheads really did hurt when paying up. They even have an “electronic tip” option on their Eftpos machine!!! I think people just have too much frickin’ money. Service-wise, they didn’t do so well for my table. I guess they were busy tending the ones that were paying $100 per head. I have read reviews that their service was the best. But I felt that was not the case.

I think there would probably be places that serve the same dish at much lower prices, but at Hammerheads they are of a high standard to be honest (and the view is pretty awesome). The starter was scallops for $23, for 2 pieces it’s not a lot but it’s fresh and the sauce was quite delightful. The mains were the beef fillet and snapper, and surprisingly I preferred the beef. The snapper was $36.50 and beef fillet was $38. Not bad pricing eh?

In the end, I found their dessert to be the best I’ve had for a long time. The chocolate cake is rich and for $17 it is quite reasonable. Worth it. Overall, a good experience and no complains about the food.

Personally, a rating of 9/10. Great food. But not for the thrifty. It’ll be a looooong time till I come back to this place, perhaps when I get that pay rise or promotion. =)

Valentino’s Gelato

It’s been a while since I’ve tried a gelato, and it was quite interesting to see this place in the city. Valentino’s Gelato is located at the Auckland Ferry Building. You could say it’s quite close to the Britomart, or you can definitely see it when you’re taking a ferry to Waiheke or Devonport. I sampled their Passionfruit gelato for $4.50. Picture below:

Passionfruit gelato.

Just a couple of comments, apparently this flavour is an “award winner”. But personally, I think it’s a tad too sour, and thus took quite a bit of effort to enjoy it. I’ve also tried the chocolate a couple of weeks ago, which is also an “award winner”.  To me, it was a bit too sweet for my liking. They’re definitely not the only gelato shops I’ve seen. I’ve spotted one in Mission Bay and another in Newmarket (same business I believe).

If you don’t know what a gelato is, have a look at the Wiki entry. From my knowledge, they’re more flavourful and less fattening (slightly) than ice cream. The problem with gelato is unfamiliar terriroty. I’m always thinking, “Which one?”

In terms of rating, Valentino’s Gelato gets a 7/10. My last two trips there have been average, the flavours are a bit too intense for me (sour + sweet).

Mentatz

By now you’ve probably figured out that I “hang out” in town. Yes, very true, mainly because I work smack in the middle of the city, unlike my previous job.

Anyway, tried Mentatz, which is another Japanese ramen-ish place located in Lorne Street. It’s somewhere near Esquires. To be honest, my first few times here was average. I think because I tried to be adventurous and chose the non-standard ramen. On this particular occassion, we chose the basics – Shoyu Ramen (the 1st choice) and Katsudon. Both for under $10 (I believe.) Bah, it’s cheap anyway.

Picture below:

Katsu Don.

Shoyu Ramen.

Personally, these two dishes above are fantastic. Tasted great and it’s frickin’ cheap. I guess the only negative part is that it can be quite busy. I don’t really have much to say but to rate it 9/10.  A cheap eat after work or uni. =)

Also, right at the end of Lorne Street is a Korean pan cake shop. Here is a link with more pictures. I tried the cheese pancake before for $3 and it tasted great. It’s like pizza! They have a ham and cheese as well. I am not too sure about the chicken/beef ones. But you can tell it’s popular, there’s always a line!

Taller Park

You must be thinking “What the f*** is he doing there?”

Yes, yes, I was hungry and it was late, and Taller Park was the only “decent” place open at night. Taller Park is not exactly famous for their hygiene (apparently there’s been rumours/”reports”). They are located on Wyndham Street, just off Queen Street. If you know where Kathmandu in town is, it’s sorta near there.

The first thing you can try to spot in Taller Park is their food premises grading certificate; it’s located behind the eftpos machine with the letter “E” covered by a cup or something. I was thinking, “Should I risk this?” Hehe, who cares, so I went in. I have tried this place a few times and quite like some of the dishes.

The menu was long and eventually decided on the same thing! I know, the combination rice (soya chicken + BBQ pork). But, the cool thing about this place is their large pearl milk tea (or green tea) drinks. For this occassion, we ordered the acidophilus green tea with pearl, and this is a special one. Pictures are shown below:

Combination Rice.

Acidophilus Green Tea with Pearl.

The combination rice was pretty good, plus there was the usual free soup. Also, I quite like the tofu side that came with the rice. For $10, it was huge and to be honest, tasted pretty good. I think Taller Park has a lot of potential, they just seriously need to work on getting a better food premises grading.

The drink was very good, the acidophilus green tea is quite a unique drink. It’s hard to describe but I do highly recommend it. For $4.30, you get the green tea, for $1 extra, you can have the pearls.

For this particular occassion, I don’t have any complains. It’s been more than a week since I had their dish and my tummy seems fine. Taking into account the size of the dish and its cost, and the unique green tea drink, I’ll give Taller Park an 8/10.

Gloria Jeans Coffee (Dressmart)

I feel a bit bad about writing this post, but I feel I had to express my disgust at one of the coffee shops in Dressmart. Gloria Jeans Coffee is a ‘specialty’ coffee retailer and a franchise organisation. So every GJ shop you see is a franchise, which typically means it’s owned and managed by a local.

I am a frequent traveller to Dressmart; obviously because they have the best range of clothes and at cheap prices. You seriously can’t complain. They have a few coffee shops in Dressmart to give shoppers a rest and have a cup of coffee. On two occassions I’ve tried the GJ coffee shop and twice their drinks just tasted like sh*t. I mean, when you pay $4.40 plus for ‘specialty’ coffee, you want to get the best for your money.

Trust me, for this *particular* shop, I don’t think they deserve to be a GJ franchise and should have new management. This is the story, a couple of weeks ago, I tried the mud slide mocha. On the picture it looked great but in reality, it looked like they just decided to rebrand a cup of brown-coloured frothy milk with too much sugar in it. And most recently, I tried the small iced GJ coffee, and it’s basically a cup of milk + espresso + syrup + ice. This franchise made it in less than 1 minute. That’s about it, nothing special and usually no problem to me. But for $4.40, I was expecting something special and it was just reconstituted milk + too much syrup.

And I feel bad writing about this because I know some people who own a GJ franchise. On this occassion, this branch is pathetic. I think they were trying to cut cost, or plainly can’t make coffee. I tried it twice (giving them a 2nd chance) and seriously, they just can’t make coffee.

A rating is no use for this Gloria Jeans in Dressmart. All I can say, don’t try it. Go to the Starbucks. In fact, I make better instant coffee than this place, and I am serious!

Kongfu Tea Restaurant

It’s been a long and strange week for me, which made it quite difficult to get the “energy” to post a review. As I was thinking through about what to post, I decided on this one. It’s a place I randomly went into a few weeks ago – Kongfu Tea restaurant. They are located on Khyber Pass Road, very close to the Cock & Bull and opposite Selera.

One thing kept bugging me as I went inside. Everyting seems quite familiar and I realised it was formerly a Japanese restaurant. It still had the remnants of a Japanese  restaurant (furniture and even napkins!!). Anyway, Kongfu Tea restaurant offers ‘specialty’ Chinese dishes, i.e. from a certain province/dialect. We ordered two dishes as below:

Beef Rice Noodle Soup.

Braised Duck on Rice.

I bought the standard “safe” dish obviously, the beef rice noodle soup. For the size, it’s damn good value for money – only $7! Although it lacked a bit of taste, I think it’s a good thing (less MSG, less salt). There is the option to add chilli/soya sauce, which I rarely do. There was also the braised duck on rice, with minced garlic vinegar sauce and pork stomach salted vegetable soup; phew, that’s a mouthful. As I said before, that’s a specialty dish from a Chinese province. I quite like that as well, for $11 it’s quite filling and has a unique taste – especially the soup. =)

I guess if you want to be adventurous, try the ‘specialty’ dishes, and be prepared for the interesting ones like the soup above. Overall, I think the place deserve a 7.5/10. There are many dishes from standard dishes you’d see at many Chinese places, and also options to go for non-standard dishes. Also, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. So go for it!

Ponsonby Food Court

If you’re ever in the Ponsonby area, you’re practically spoiled for choice. Unfortunately, like me, I’m on an average salary and can’t afford the luxury of dining in some of Ponsonby’s best (although I’d love to).

It was basically a random thing to go to this foodcourt, as I don’t pass by Ponsonby Food Court that often. If you don’t know where it is, it’s located on Ponsonby Road, near-ish to Burger Fuel. Actually, I had the opportunity to dine here many times about 2 years ago when I “lived” there. Couple years down the track, it hasn’t changed, except the new addition of the Mexican place.

The night we dined, it was packed so it must be good. We tried two dishes, a Japanese and Vietnamese dish. The foodcourt has various other cuisines, check out their website. Some pictures below:

Chicken Donburi.

Ginger Chicken on Rice.

The chicken donburi was actually not bad for $10 (from Dami Sushi). It’s an all-time favourite. Unfortunately, I thought the dish could do with less salt/soya sauce. Perhaps, a majority of people like it salty, like most people like their coffee with sugar (baseless conclusion FYI). The ginger chicken on rice was also very nice for $11.50 (from Mekong Vietnamese). Apparently, it’s quite a popular dish in the foodcourt. However, I’m not a big fan of crispy skin chicken, and thought the meat was a bit dry. Anyway, for $11.50, it’s quite a large dish.

I didn’t try the other stuff, the Indian and Chinese stores looked a bit plain. The Italian kinda isolated. The Malaysian store is well-placed, perhaps might try it. The Mexican and Thai seems popular. And last but not least, the guys in the middle doing the drinks – raking all the cash with their overpriced drinks and so-called juices.

Overall, Ponsonby Foodcourt is not bad. I haven’t been there for a while. It definitely has variety and it’s cheap in an “uptown” suburb. But I think the “authenticity” of the food here has been modified to suit. For this particular night, 7/10. There are better foodcourts out there I think.

Jolin Shanghai Restaurant

I can’t remember clearly how I got these pictures – but I did, so I have no choice but to  “review” it. I googled this restaurant’s name and guess what, there were a couple of reviews, one with pictures HERE and one without but is quite descriptive HERE. Both had generally above average-ish reviews. So, do have a look at those first before you read my biased version!

The main reason for coming to this place was the first impression I got. Earlier in the year, I used to venture through Dominion Road often, for some apparent reason. I always seem to notice this “green” coloured restaurant which looked packed every night (it’s near Foodtown Mt Eden). Perhaps it’s the condensation giving that illusion – who knows. I was craving for something one night and knew Jolin would be open late-ish, so I decided to try it out. I selected one of their hot pot dishes as shown below:

Chicken Hot Pot.

Another view of the above.

Personally, this hot pot is not my kind of thing but it did the job of satisfying my hunger. It was quite a spicy dish and rather difficult to eat as well because of the bones. Just looking around, I saw some dishes that looked good (and even on the pictures) and I believe Jolin really try their best to appeal to the wider community i.e. Kiwis etc.

No ratings tonight. I don’t even remember the price of the dish but definitely not below $15. Yes, yes I’m being a bit of a slack for not doing a proper review. But hey, at least you’ll know how the dishes roughly look like. And from the other reviews, it seems like there are good dishes that you can try here.

Newmarket Plaza Food Court

This is the infamous Newmarket Plaza Food Court (and a massive post). I know, I’m probably boring everyone with the same old type of food and “area”. But don’t worry, I am working on going to the outskirts of Auckland very soon – seriously! But this post will have variety as I have collected a few things for everyone to see. If you’re one of those people working in Newmarket on weekdays, or those who shop there during the weekend, maybe this post will help with your barrier of resistance when pondering into the land of the unknown – that is the Newmarket Plaza Food Court.

Personally, foodcourts tend to confuse potential customers with billions of choices at affordable prices. At times, I really hate it. It drives me crazy. And also, how do these places come up with all these ideas and fit so many pictures in one menu. But, rest assure, Newmarket Plaza is a milder version. There is no overkill of choices, still plenty but not unreasonable like some places *ahem* CBD *ahem*.

LAKSA HOUSE

This is a Malaysian place – two things tend to be quite popular here. The Hainanese Chicken Rice and Hokkien Mee (based on observation). I’ve tried the chicken rice and it’s fantastic. I haven’t tried the Hokkien mee yet. Occassionally I try the other stuff, for example, the Kueh Tieu Mee shown below. This dish costs me $9.50 I believe.

Kueh Tieu Mee.

Personally, I would recommend the chicken rice, and the rice noodle dishes i.e. kueh tieu mee, wat tan hor and char kueh tieu. They’ve also got curry chicken on rice and curry laksa noodle soup, but I haven’t tried them in a while. My rating? Based on the recent dishes I had here – it’s an 8/10. It’s very nice and you’d expect to pay $10.

PASSION FOOD

This place has a Hong Kong flair to it – dead poultry hanging for all to see. It’s hard to notice this place because they are the odd one out, hiding in the corner on the way to the toilet. One thing you have to try is the combination rice. You’re thinking *yawn* combo rice again!? But hey, I love that stuff.  Remember that it’s not listed in the menu (only one meat with rice is listed). But just ask for it i.e. a two combo rice. Not surprisingly, my favourite is the BBQ pork and soya chicken. For this post, I tried the roast duck and soya chicken. Again, a fantastic combo and it’s cheap! Around $10 only.

Combination Rice (Roast Duck and Soya Chicken).

Hard to rate this place. It may be difficult to eat the meat dishes because of the bones etc. But there is no complaints from my side. The standard rating, 8/10. You ain’t gonna be disappointed. If so, let me know!

NEW VILLAGE KOREAN FOOD

You can’t go wrong with Spicy Pork on Rice at this Korean place. $10 is the price you pay for most of the dish, and it usually comes with three side dishes and a soup. Magnifique! On a different occassion, we bought two dishes (BBQ Chicken and Dolsot Bibimbap), and they gave 5 different side dishes! That’s generous!!

Spicy Pork with Rice.

Dolsot Bibimbap

BBQ Chicken with Rice

New Village rocks because of their generosity. The bibimbap and bbq dishes are my recommendations. The serving size is also large. My rating for this place is 9/10. It’s got flavour, variety and all for $10 (usually).

SILK THAI

I have almost no recollection of this dish but it’s that Thai place. It’s not particularly popular for some reason. Maybe because they’re not noisy enough and don’t have big flames in the kitchen. I’ve tried one of their curry dish below, I think it’s mango curry or something. Silk Thai has come a long way, about a year ago, they were severely lacking in appeal. I think they probably got a marketing guy to help them out and I think it helps. They’ve got pictures now and the food looks good.

Unknown Curry Dish.

From memory, the curry dish is reasonable (curry soup didn’t look “curry-ish” enough, as if they put lots of cornflour). Other than that, no issue whatsoever. Also, I’ve tried the satay chicken before, and it’s what I would recommend as a side dish. Price wise, I have almost no recollection.

A rating would be unfair as I only have one single dish reviewed, and I don’t even know the name of it. But, Silk Thai offers an alternative to its high-performing neighbours (New Village, Passion Food and Laksa House). Thai always seems to be a “Kiwi” favourite and perhaps they’re taking advantage of it.

BAR IN THE CAFE

I had a post about this place a couple of months ago – just for one drink! The Asian Coffee is highly recommended by me.  Seriously, don’t buy those sugary bottled drinks, try the fresh sugary coffee instead. If it’s too hot, get the iced version – the Iced Asian Coffee is only $4. It’s like the funky Asian version of the Starbucks Frappuccino.

Iced Asian Coffee.

If you want to rate this place, it’s hard. For bottled drinks, it’s not worth rating. For desserts, I’ve never tried it. For the fresh coffee, damn good! 9/10!

My friends, overall this is my pathetic attempt to do a bundled “foodcourt” review. It’s hard because I can’t seem to remember prices and things like that – so prefer one off visits. But if you have comments, please feel free to make them!

The Newmarket Plaza – it has variety, it is affordable and depending on which dish you choose, you can get a fantastic meal (and drink).

Lai Lai Noodle Cafe

This place is kinda cool. Lai Lai Noodle Cafe is a tiny place hidden among the shops in Remuera. To be exact, it’s right inside Remuera Mall. If you know where the Remuera shops are, it’s on the right hand side coming from Newmarket. I guess the first mission is to find it.

I’ve been to Lai Lai Noodle Cafe many times, often for lunch. It’s quite a refreshing place, especially the noodle soups. Apparently, it’s an establishment, as it is owned by the same person for 11 years (I read this somewhere). So, it’s got history, plus I think the owner is some martial arts expert!

On this particular review, there were two dishes we tried as seen below.

Minced Pork on Noodle.

Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Both dishes were affordable and delicious. I couldn’t remember the exact price but I think the Hainanese Chicken Rice was $9 and the noodle was $7. However, the thing that bugs me is that they have no Eftpos – so you need to bring cash. Also, they close on one of the days during the weekend, which sucks as well.

They also offer other dishes like fried chicken with noodle soup, beef noodle soup etc, as well as side dishes. For a small place, it’s pretty outstanding and I think the reason why it’s still there for 11 years. Personally, I recommend the noodle soup. If you’re on a diet, stay away from the fried dishes.

My rating for this place, a cool 8.5/10. You gotta find the place first though. Good luck!