Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Meal in Brief: The Garden Shed

We came here because we were looking for brunch in Mount Eden, and The Garden Shed had newly opened where Thai Eden used to be.

Garden themed decor throughout.

The menu was in a hardcover, fabric-covered ring binder, using all the right phrases like "sourced fresh from local suppliers", "higher welfare meats" and "organic milk". The "fine bistro fare" on offer was divided into multiple menus: Share with Friends, Weekend Brunch, Lunch, Mains and Dessert. These listed a large variety of food, from fried snacks like deep-fried ham and gruyere sandwiches, to brunch options with eggs, pancakes, etc., to wild boar dogs to chicken schnitzel to home made pansotti. There were also plenty of drink options, as this place also has a bar at the front.

Intro in menu.

The setting was bright, airy and garden-themed, with a large courtyard out the back with a water feature trickling down corrugated iron. Every table had fresh flowers, and there were hanging pot plants, pitchforks and plenty of wooden fittings. It was also beautifully smoke-free, including in the outdoor area.

Courtyard area.

Bar area.

The service was very good even though the wait staff all seemed very young. Water was topped up periodically.

What we ate included:
  • Buckwheat Pancakes with maple roasted stonefruit and Whitestone butter ($16.90) - this was delicious, but came with too much syrup and too little butter. We ordered extra bacon and were disappointed with how little there was, but we were charged only an extra $3.50, rather than the $5.90 printed in the menu.
Buckwheat pancakes with added bacon.
  • Garden Breakfast with soft poached eggs, topped with crispy quinoa and garden herbs with sugar snaps, oven roasted tomatoes and toasted sourdough ($16.90) - this had good flavours, and felt light and vibrant. If you are used to a large breakfast, you might need to order something else to supplement it though.
Garden breakfast.

Overall, this was a great place for a summer brunch, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. The food was well presented and skilfully cooked. We weren't sure about the garden theme initially, but they have made it work, and there were plenty of other customers from a range of age groups.

Restaurant Details

470 Mount Eden Road, Mount Eden, Auckland
(09) 630 3393

The Garden Shed from the street.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A is for Ajitsuke Tamago

This post is part of my Dishing Around Auckland: A - Z Challenge.

It's been a good few months since I decided I would set myself an A - Z Challenge for eating various dishes. I've been busy, of course, but A is not exactly an easy letter of the alphabet to start with either. The only dishes starting with A I could think of, which were not desserts, were things borrowed from other countries. I haven't yet tried an arepa in South America, so I am in no position to judge what I find here in Auckland. Instead, I have picked ajitsuke tamago, which is not really a dish, but an important component of one.

Ajitsuke tamago.

For those of you who have not come across the term before, it refers to the marinated egg which is often served with ramen. As I mentioned in my previous post on Japanese eggs, the yolk should be just beginning to set: a gooey centre which is translucent, but not runny. No matter how good the ramen might actually be, I am always a little disappointed if it is served with a fully boiled egg with a powdery yolk!

1) Tanpopo Ramen

At Tanpopo Ramen, you don't automatically get egg with your noodles. You have to order it as an extra, and it arrives as a whole egg, still chilled from the refrigerator. But do it, because it is good, as is their piping hot soup base, I might add!

Miso ramen with extra egg.

Presumably named after the 1985 movie "Tampopo", a Japanese comedy featuring ramen, this basic little store now also has a branch in Howick. Owner Michio trained the young couple running Little Ramen Bar in Melbourne as well.

2) Ramen Do

When Ramen Do opened in 2012, they made exactly the kind of fully boiled egg I complain about. You can still see pictures of them on their website. By the time I blogged about the eatery, however, they had learnt to make beautiful eggs, and were at the top of their game for the ramen too. Since then, I have heard consistently bad reviews for their short-lived city branch, and on our latest visit to their original Eden Terrace branch, the soup and noodles were unfortunately also disappointing.Their business card and street signage have been changed, so perhaps there are new owners?

Egg a little too underdone.

The eggs erred on the side of liquid yolks, but this is preferable to overcooked egg. I also liked the fact that you get half an egg by default with every ramen.

3) Ramen Takara

Ramen Takara is a bit further from the central city than the other places mentioned here: all the way in Browns Bay, but with the bonus of being near the beach.

Despite being more beautifully fitted out, and having plenty of choices in the menu (thick or thin noodles, unusual combinations like spicy black sesame, clearly marked gluten free and vegetarian alternatives), the egg we ordered was slightly overcooked, pale and powdery at the edges.

Spicy black tan-tan ramen, with extra egg.

Still, the centre of the egg was a beautiful vibrant orange. And we haven't eaten here enough times to know whether this was an anomaly.

4) Maruten Ramen

Maruten Ramen is only a little stall in the Mercury Plaza food court, but it has some restaurant level touches. For example:
  • there's a choice of thick or thin homemade noodles for your ramen; you can also ask for the noodles to be cooked firmer or softer as you prefer
  • they have smooth, round bamboo chopsticks, rather than the pull-apart disposable ones (never mind that even some high-end Japanese restaurants like Masu use pull-apart disposable chopsticks)
  • the moyashi (bean sprout) ramen we ordered came with an unseasoned chicken broth, in case we needed to thin out the thick and salty soup base; they also gave us some vinegar to adjust the flavour to taste
  • they gave us complimentary dessert (not sure if this is standard practice)!
  • when we asked for a takeaway container, the chef said we could ask for more bean sprouts and less noodle next time
  • they had Japanese comic books you can borrow, which we saw people reading on a couple of tables
  • when we walked past on the way out of the food court, they saw us and called out to us
So what about the eggs? Some ramen varieties already come with half an egg, while others do not. However, you can always ask for an egg as an extra topping. In my previous meal, there was a bit of inconsistency with the doneness of the eggs. This time, the eggs were a bit too cooked at the edges. Not quite perfect, but much better than the fully boiled eggs at most other ramen eateries here.

Syo-yu ramen with extra egg.


Have you come across any other ramen shops with ajitsuke tamago? Or do you not care about the state of the egg if the rest of the dish is good?

[Added 10 June 2016: The newish Ramen Lab also has some good looking eggs]

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Review: Better Burger, Britomart

When we first visited Better Burger a year and a half ago, we were not that impressed. The staff took forever to get the orders out, and the thin beef patty in the burger was dry. It was dark at night, with loud music intruding from the Britomart Country Club next door. There was no way it could be compared with Burger Burger, which opened in Ponsonby Central around the same time (and is now about to open a Newmarket branch).

While we would hesitate to call Better Burger better (they make a different style of burger, so not really comparable anyway), we have come to enjoy eating at this downtown venue, which uses quality ingredients and offers tasty food at very reasonable prices indeed. It's even better than its main rival in some ways, because it is central (not far from the Britomart train station), and the cheeseburgers have the processed cheese you expect from American burgers!

Double cheese burger.

Due to the thinness of the patties, they can only really be a medium doneness rather than medium-rare, but we now always order the double cheeseburger and they have managed to maintain the juiciness of the meat (though the cooking level can be variable depending on who you get).

Better Burger also has a superior vegetarian burger, which is filled with a crumbed portabello mushroom, along with the usual lettuce, tomato, red onion and cheese.

Crumbed portabello mushroom in vegetarian burger with upsized fries.

There isn't much else you can get with your burgers. You can have a combo with hand-cut fries and a soft drink, or upgrade to a shake (or order an alcoholic beverage from the BCC next door). There's no side of vegetables, potatoes in different shapes, a weekly special, or anything particularly "gourmet", but there is beauty in the simplity here. Oh, and the paper wrap sporting their attractive logo conveniently catches the drips which threaten to ruin your dining experience. What more could you ask for?

Picture perfect fast food meal.

Panda Recommends

There isn't much to choose from, so you hardly need our advice, but the double cheeseburger ($7) will satisfy your craving. The fries ($4) are good too, and you can upsize for an extra dollar ($5).

Vegie Pandas
You have one option, the mushroom burger ($6.50), but it's a great one. If you are after greens though, you are out of luck, unless you count the lettuce in your burger.

Short menu.

Restaurant Details

[Added 2 May 2015: Better Burger now has a second branch in Vulcan Lane.]

Better Burger
31 Galway Street, Britomart, Auckland Central
(09) 303 2541

Opening hours:
Sundays to Tuesdays 12pm - 10pm
Wednesdays to Saturdays 12pm till late

Better Burger can be found next to the Britomart Country Club.
(This is where I would normally embed a map showing where the place is, but Google's updated My Maps does not have an easy way for me to centre it on one placemark...)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Meal in Brief: Mi *CLOSED*

[Added 24 February 2015: Mi is also listed in my more recent post B is for Bánh Mì]
[Added 10 June 2015: Unfortunately, this little shop has been unexpectedly forced to close]

We came here because this newly painted hole-in-the-wall caught our eye. It's so close to the Sky Tower and other great eateries too (in case you are wondering, Depot and the Federal Delicatessen just a few metres away are both closed until 13 January).

Mi opened on Monday this week, while the city was barely waking from the holidays.

The menu was brief and to the point: this place sells bánh mì (Vietnamese style baguette sandwiches). They come in two sizes ("mi" or "mini mi") and you can choose from 7 different fillings, along with various spreads and topping ingredients.

Simple menu at Mi.

The setting was well designed, clean and modern, but strictly takeaway only. There is no space for sitting in this little shop.

There is just enough room for the till here.

The service was friendly, though it seemed inefficient for the staff to tick every single checkbox on the order form for every base or topping option (you want to include everything you can, from the pickled carrot to the mint and coriander; we skipped the sauces though).

What we ate included:

  • BBQ Pork Mi ($11) - we ordered this with both the chicken pate and mayo bases, as well as all the toppings. The flavours were great and there was plenty of everything, from bread to meat to pickled carrots, but the most amazing thing about this sandwich was the baguette, which was soft on the inside, but lightly crispy on the outside, and oh so fresh and fragrant!
BBQ Pork Mi.

  • Miso Tofu Mi ($11) - this had the same delicious bread. The organic miso tofu was fine, but didn't go so well with the rest of the ingredients. We would try the egg filling for a vegetarian sandwich next time.
Miso Tofu Mi.

Overall, this was the best bánh mì we have had, in Auckland or anywhere else, in recent times. Each sandwich was very substantial, so we would consider going for the "mini mi" ($9) next time. The food was beautifully fresh, and we have been looking in vain till now for the perfection attained by this light and crackly bread! Go tomorrow (Thursday 8 January 2015) if you can, otherwise you will need to wait until they re-open on Monday 19 January.

Restaurant Details

I don't have the official address, but if you walk left from The Fed (86 Federal Street), you will see it tucked around the corner behind Gloria Jean's.

[Updated 18 January 2015: According to their newly created Facebook page, the address is 66 Victoria Street West, but the entrance is off Federal Street.]

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Auckland Diner's Diary: December 2014

Happy New Year! Not as much seems to have happened in the last month as everyone prepares for the holidays, but perhaps I was just too pre-occupied with other things...

Asian Eats

Other International Flavours

Cafes and Bars
Coming Soon


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