|Entrance to Spring Trees restaurant.|
The menu was huge, both in terms of the size of the pages and the number of items available. It was full of colour pictures, some taking up a whole page.
|Large full colour menu with lots of pages.|
The setting was new and modern. There was a dining room on the right, a series of booths on the left of the corridor, and private rooms down the back, which you can have a nosy at on the way to the bathroom. Along the way, you'll also see some food storage areas that are less tidy too. The restaurant was pretty much full, so I would recommend you make a booking.
|Dining room area.|
The service was fine, the usual busy Chinese restaurant experience. Our teapots were filled when empty, and we were able to order extra rice. Staff switched happily to English when we struggled with Mandarin. When we went to pay and asked for takeaway boxes, we were given a choice between free polystyrene ones, or plastic ones with a fee. (I recommend the plastic ones, not only because they are more environmentally friendly, but also because you don't want to run the risk of spilling red chilli oil everywhere.)
What we ate included:
- Nanjing-style salted duck 金陵盐水鸭 ($12) - as the name suggests, this was salty. It was also chilled, with relatively dry flesh, like tasty preserved meat.
- Mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐 ($8) - this Sichuan dish with bean curd and pork mince was really well done, and the portion size was huge for the price.
|Nanjing-style salted duck and mapo tofu.|
- Mixed beef and honeycomb with chilli sauce 夫妻肺片 ($10) - there didn't seem to be any honeycomb tripe here; not sure if they didn't have any or if my parents asked for just beef without me hearing. This cold dish had nice flavours, as with everything else we ate.
|Beef with chilli sauce.|
- Griddle cooked lotus root 干锅莲片 ($12) - there was a generous serving of lotus root pieces with little pork slices, set atop a platter with a tea light underneath. Just a little bit spicy, we enjoyed the crisp and slightly sticky nature of this dish.
|Griddle cooked lotus root.|
- Fried pork with cabbage 手撕包菜小炒肉 ($10) - this was less cabbage than it looks in the photo, because there was a lot of meat underneath. In hindsight, we should have ordered another dish with greens. Despite being cooked with chilli oil like many other Sichuan dishes, this was not very hot and did taste different from everything else.
|Fried pork with cabbage.|
- Delicious dasheen roll 香芋吐丝卷 ($5) - literally "taro toast roll", these cigars were dipped into crispy sesame at each end, and filled with a sweet taro paste. The toast part itself was not particularly crunchy, probably due to their reheating method, but can't really complain for that amount of money.
|Taro toast rolls.|
- White rice ($1 per bowl) - if all the dishes above seemed ridiculously cheap, the rice made up for it by being rather steep. Each bowl was tiny, maybe only three soup spoons worth. I guess they have to make their money somehow.
Overall, Spring Trees is a great choice for flavourful Sichuan food, with low prices and decent surroundings. It will be a relatively oily meal which you will want to supplement with plenty of white rice, but the dishes are skilfully cooked and well worth trying. Call ahead as this place is popular.
Spring Trees (早春二月)
100 Carlton Gore Road, Newmarket, Auckland
(09) 302 0465
According to their business card, they also have a satellite branch at Unit 13, 16 Gooch Place, Meadowland, Auckland, (09) 533 5008.