Korean food fills me with trepidation; I find most dishes too spicy, and some really bland. And kimchi sets my mouth on fire in an unpleasant way.
I think I’ve given it a fair go; Middle Brother is married to a Korean and I’ve been to half a dozen Korean restaurants over the years. While I don’t make a conscious decision to go to Korean restaurants, I’m always happy to tag along with my dining companions. So, it was with some caution when Little Brother and his wife decided on Nol Bu Ne when our visit to the Diwali Festival in Aotea Square left us hungry and searching for some decent food.
Nol Bu Ne is located on the first floor; I suggest you take the advice taped to the wall, and take the stairs rather than wait for lethargic elevator. There are menu pictures taped on the wall heralding the restaurant. Nol Bu Ne has been around for a long time, and seems popular by the tables of happy diners. While the deco seems standard for a cheap and cheerful eatery, the mirrored ceiling was a bit of a surprise.
The first win for Nol Bu Ne was the pictorial menu. Some of these dishes had basic descriptions, so being able to visualize the dish was helpful. Also, Little Brother and sis-in-law are old hats at Nol Bu Ne, and suggested some dishes. The mackerel with rice and noodles in cold soup were recommended. Nol Be Ne also serves Japanese (e.g. katsu, udon) and Chinese (e.g. ginseng, offal) dishes.
Sis-in-law went with her favourite, – al tang, a spicy fish roe soup with rice ($12). This is completely new to me and probably would never have ordered this, but the fish roe is delicious, slightly chewy and balanced the spiciness of the soup.
Little Brother got the bulgogi (marinated grilled beef, $12). This was mainly for the kids, who enjoyed the sweet soy chargrilled taste.
I stayed safe with my BBQ eel ($20, your usual Japanese terikayi unagi, okay I cheated), served on a hot plate with slivers of fresh ginger and slices of preserved ginger.
All dishes come with rice and banchan (sides dishes). Banchan is my favourite part of Korean cuisine; small dishes of cold vegetables. There were four offered; two kimchis (cabbage and radish), gamja jorim (soy sauce braised potatoes) and miyeok muchim (seaweed marinated with vinegar, sugar and salt). I stayed away from the kimchis, and really enjoyed the other two, especially the miyeok. These are refilled on demand.
Nol Bu Ne also provides complimentary hot tea. The atmosphere is cheerful and clean, with prompt and efficient service. This eatery is exceptional value in the CBD. I might even make a conscious decision to return.
Nol Bu Ne Restaurant
10 Wellesley Street East, Auckland
Ph: 09-307 0188
Open 7 days; 11am – 11pm