Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Vinyl Coffee Shop

Whenever I return to Auckland from Wellington, I am thankful for the range and quality of the Asian food available in New Zealand's largest city, but somewhat disappointed by the lack of cafes which match the calibre of those the capital.

Well, one little gem goes somewhat towards alleviating that void: Vinyl Coffee Shop, with its posters on the wall, handwritten chalkboard signs and offerings for both meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans, has exactly that feel I associate with arty types and students. There's a bit of bare brickwork on one wall, naked lightblubs, giant Jaffas in a jar on the counter, and little knick-knacks on the tables: a bear-shaped glass here, a mini air hockey table there.

Vinyl is a little place with a laid-back, hipster feel
This little place only has eight tables (three small ones and three larger ones inside, and two tiny circular tables outside), so it's not surprising that it's often full, especially since that wee kitchen somehow manages to create some good food.

This morning, we had the cheese burger with curly fries, served in ciabatta bread because they'd run out of hamburger buns.  The lamb pattie was perfectly cooked, soft and juicy in the middle.  There were rocket leaves in the burger and we even found a lemon pip as evidence that they made their own mayonnaise.  The fries were also delicious, golden and crispy.

Cheese burger, with lamb pattie, tomato, avocado, rocket, homemade mayonnaise and curly fries
You get to feel good too.  Apart from catering to vegans with tofu and vegetable options, Vinyl uses free range eggs and free range streaky bacon.  We'll overlook the fact that their curly fries are imported from Canada.

My main complaint is that they close too early---don't come here if you are looking for a late lunch, as the kitchen is only open till 2pm in the weekends.  Also, eggs don't really belong in a burrito, and it would be nice if they offered a side salad.  Otherwise, we love this place!

Panda Recommends

Mains: Cheese Burger ($14, or $16 with curly fries) [Added 29 June 2013: you can also ask for this medium-rare]
Sides: Curly Fries with Mayo ($5)
Avoid items with scrambled eggs, such as the Spanish eggs, or the breakfast burrito - somehow it ends up bland and rubbery.

Vegie Pandas
Vegetarians and vegans alike can rejoice.  From the Tofu Scramble to the Vege Stack, this cafe has definitely got something for you.

Menu - page 1
Menu - page 2
Restaurant Details

[Added 10 January 2016: Vinyl has now moved into the same space as its sister restaurant Ralph's, around the corner with the entrance on Walters Road, where Serafin used to be.]

Vinyl Coffee Shop
218 Dominion Road, Mount Eden, Auckland
(09) 623 3821

Opening hours:
Mondays to Fridays 7am - 3:30pm
Saturdays to Sundays 9am - 3pm

Vinyl is a little cafe on Dominion Road

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review: Genzui Ramen Bar

Whenever we are at a loss as to what to eat for lunch, we always seem to end up at the same place: a sleek little eatery called Genzui, tucked away off the street.  The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and there is something for everyone, from vegetarians to those avoiding carbs.

Genzui is a popular lunch venue
Despite calling itself a ramen bar, there is actually plenty on offer other than these wheat noodles. You can order dishes on rice, as well as purely meat-based ones, or salads (with or without meat) for those looking for a vegetable fix.

Apart from the broth in the ramen bowls sometimes being a little too salty, the only disadvantage of choosing this place for a meal is that it is always full at lunchtime! Turnover is quick, however, and we have never had to wait more than a few minutes before finding a seat (though we do also try to avoid the peak hour).

As with most Asian restaurants, don't expect all the dishes to arrive at the same time.  Tuck in as soon as a dish is brought out, and enjoy!

Autumn special: Miso Butter Corn Ramen

Spicy Chicken Don
[Added 4 August 2011:

We had dinner at Genzui tonight, as we were rushing to get to the lecture on carbohydrates at the university.  I asked what the meaning of Genzui was, and was told that it is the name of the owner's son.  This owner is also the the owner of Mentatz, that Japanese eatery on Lorne Street that is hugely popular with students.  The waitress pointed to a chef in the kitchen as she mentioned him.  This guy knows how to get his hands dirty!

Oh, and you can indulge your inner health freak by ordering extra vegetables.  The mini salad only costs $2 and comes with a dob of Japanese mayonnaise and a light vinaigrette.   I don't know how they chop the cabbage so thinly... I have never managed it at home.  I guess I am easily impressed.  :)

Mini salad, with salmon sashimi in the background

Panda Recommends

Mains: Chicken Miso Katsu Don ($9.50), though most other dishes are good too, so just order whatever takes your fancy.  I prefer the don dishes here, while the ramen seem to be better at Genzui's sister restaurant Mentatz.

Vegie Pandas
The Vege Ramen is probably not for you, unless you are happy with chicken stock in your soup.  There are some tofu dishes (e.g. Curry Tofu Don, Tofu Steak) and suitable side dishes and salads, though.

Menu - page 1
Menu - page 2
Restaurant Details

Genzui Ramen Bar
128 Albert Street, Auckland Central (foyer of the Crowne Plaza Hotel)
(09) 358 0240

Opening hours:
Mondays to Fridays 11:30am - 10pm
Saturdays to Sundays 6pm - 10pm

Genzui is situated in the foyer of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  Go down the escalators, right to the bottom, and you will reach the Atrium on Elliott foodcourt.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Free Food Lectures @ The University of Auckland

I don't often read those newsletters from my alma mater, but this month, something caught my eye.  For four Thursdays from the end of the month, there will be a lecture given on a food-related topic as part of the Vice Chancellor's Lecture Series: Good Food, Good Health.

The titles look pretty interesting, especially the third one, so I've signed up for double tickets to all of them already.  Check them out!

28 July - Diet and obesity: down a road less travelled
4 August - Carbohydrates: friend or foe?
11 August - Myths, molecules and 5% magic
18 August - The fetus and newborn: critical gourmands

Flyer - page 1

Flyer - page 2
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