Smile Dessert, Somerville, Auckland

Smile Dessert is a dessert restaurant chain from China which has recently arrived in Auckland. The Somerville branch opened in December 2015, and we were informed by the manager that the Dominion Road branch is expected to open soon.

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There has been a flurry of Asian dessert restaurants opening in Auckland in the last year, from global chains to homegrown cafes. There is Meet Fresh (Taiwanese), Mellow (local), Snowman Café (Korean), Fresh (Korean), Fukurou Patisserie (Malaysian). It’s wonderful to see Asian flavours creating a foothold in what must be the last bastion of Western cuisine, desserts. Asian flavours typically mean a lot of green tea and red bean flavours, but Smile Dessert the most recent newcomer to these shores is showcasing mango and the most Asian of flavours…durian. Continue reading

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Fukurou Patisserie, Newmarket, Auckland

Fukurou Patisserie specializes in mille crêpes (or crêpe cakes). These cakes are built with layers of paper-thin crêpes and flavoured cream fillings. Though not quite a thousand layers as their French name implies, they are still impressive at 18 – 20 layers. Mille crêpes have taken Asia by storm, and these delicate desserts with their caramelized tops have finally arrived in New Zealand.

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The store is tucked away in the courtyard of the Newmarket train station. As an aside, Fukurou means ‘protection from hardship’ in Japanese. Due to its similarity to fukuro or owl, this bird has become a very popular lucky charm in Japan and is the mascot of Fukurou Patisserie. Continue reading

The Bodhi Tree, Ilam, Christchurch

The Bodhi Tree is a rare gem. It is a brilliant Burmese restaurant in Christchurch. That in itself is unusual. The only place you can find Burmese restaurants in New Zealand is in Christchurch. In general, Christchurch doesn’t do very well with ethnic eateries (I lived there for 7 years and visit at least once every year). The Bodhi Tree is different, intriguing and most of all, delicious.

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The Bodhi Tree doesn’t try to dumb down its cuisine, it’s asking diners to share in the traditional Burmese cuisine and learn some of its culture. Burmese food has influences from its Chinese and Indian neighbours. There are some familiar flavours with its curries and sauces, but there are surprising combinations that just works.

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The Tannery, New Lynn, Auckland

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The Tannery is a joint venture between Mt Atkinson Coffee and Kohu Road Ice-cream. It may sound like an odd pairing, but it actually works remarkably well. Besides, who doesn’t love ice-cream, and I know plenty of coffee-addicted people. The Tannery absolutely lives up to Mt Atkinson’s tagline: Refined Westie. The building’s previous life was a tannery but it’s all grown up. The space uses the exposed timber framing to full industrial chic effect and panelling to recreate the Mt Atkinson peaks. Continue reading

Hawker foods to eat in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Petaling Jaya (PJ) is part of Greater Kuala Lumpur, but is really its own city. KL sits within Wilayah Persekutuan (Federal Territory) and is governed directly by the federal government whereas PJ is under state government. It’s all very confusing to an outsider like myself. Though I flew into KL International Airport, which technically isn’t even in KL (it’s in Sepang), this trip I spent all my time in PJ. I covered satay in detail in a previous post, and here are some further hawker foods to get acquainted with in PJ. All of these places are my brother-in-law’s (BH) favourites.

Nasi lemak is a breakfast dish, often available in banana leaf bungkus (pack) ready to go from wet markets, kopitiams (food courts) and curry houses. Nasi lemak is a simple idea, and when done well, is ridiculously good. The body of a good nasi lemak is the coconut rice, then you must have excellent sambal, crispy ikan bilis (anchovies), half a boiled egg and roasted peanuts. Sometimes the ikan bilis is cooked with the sambal, sometimes you get a couple slices of cucumber. The nasi lemak truck outside the condo complex we were staying offered up a myriad of other extras, such as fried chicken. Every nasi lemak I had was good, some were downright amazing. 

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Nasi lemak food truck

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A day trip to Melaka, Malaysia

Melaka (or Malacca) is a UNESCO heritage site situated an easy 2-hour drive south of Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Expressway. Since its founding in the 14th century by a Sumatran prince, Melaka became a very important port for centuries by the colonising Portuguese, Dutch and then the British. Port of Malacca and its sheltered bay provided a welcomed stopping point for the trade route between China and India. All these cultures, plus the arrival of the Chinese from British colonies created an intruiging melting pot in Melaka. One of these is the unique Peranakan (Straits Chinese) culture.

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Geeks on Sainsbury, Morningside, Auckland

I love neighbourhood cafes; they bring a relaxed focal point to the community. In Morningside, a slowly gentrifying neighbourhood, Geeks on Sainsbury has brought the suburb a step up on the trendy scale. The commercial complex it is located in is drab and sleepy, and thoroughly in need of a boost.

The workspace is divided in Coffee Geeks and Kitchen Geeks. They serve up coffee from a boutique Wellington roaster, Red Rabbit Roastery, and check out the explanation of an espresso on the blackboard. I really like how Geeks have focused on the provenance of their ingredients. They serve Six Barrel Sodas, Aoraki salmon, Best Ugly bagels and Pokeno bacon.

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Nanam Eatery, Royal Oak, Auckland

Nanam Eatery has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of Coco Restaurant. We loved Coco and its very talented chef Daniel Nguyen; it was unfortunate the market wasn’t ready for modern Vietnamese fine dining without the plush accoutrements. The owners of Nanam worked at Coco, and they have created an exceptional smart casual modern Filipino restaurant which works well with its environment.

My experience with Filipino cuisine spans all of one restaurant, and I found the liberal use of vinegar takes some getting used to. However, Nanam’s chef does a  gentle introduction to Filipino flavours, taking what makes Filipino food unique and interesting whilst adding them to dishes which are more readily recognisable.

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