Restaurant Review: Gusto at the Grand

Situated inside SkyCity Grand (where the old Dine by Peter Gordon once stood), Gusto is a rustic Italian cuisine with plates designed to share. It is advertised to use simple food and ingredients with a menu designed by Sean Connolly.

I have been to Gusto previously (prior to me keeping a food blog) and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the food there too much as it was quite salty. Months later today I thought I’d give it another chance when my friend wanted to have Italian cuisine for dinner.

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The menu

My friend and I were looking for a smaller meal tonight, so we went straight to the pasta and leave a little room for dessert. We ordered the mushroom risotto and fresh clam spaghetti, with seasonal asparagus tossed in lemon butter sprinkled with Parmesan cheese as a side to share.

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I love the freshness in the clam spaghetti, in fact, it was so light and tasty I felt I could have another order of that. My friend who had the risotto felt her food was very salty and I agree. We couldn’t finish the risotto in the end (despite me still feeling I was able to eat another main) because it was really quite salty. (Felt like my kidneys had to work hard to get rid of the salt!)

For dessert we ordered the much loved Lewis Road pannacotta, with strawberry and rhubarb, and the Bombolini filled with nutella (guilty pleasure). They were both really good but the portion is seriously for sharing only. I’ll recommend sharing between 2-3 for these desserts as they are quite big.

Overall the mean was fulfilling but I won’t say it is up to the standard or expectations of the other restaurants within the complex.

I’ll give it 2/5 for the amount of salt used in food!

SKYCITY Grand Hotel
90 Federal Street, Auckland

OPENING HOURS

Breakfast
Monday-Friday 6.30am-10.30am
Saturday & Sunday 6.30am-11.00am

Lunch
Daily 12pm-2.30pm

Dinner
Daily 5pm–late

Restaurant Review: Bedford Soda & Liquor

Meatballs!

I never liked meatballs. To my surprise I went to this place which you’ll only be fed by meatballs and I absolutely loved it!

Let me correct myself, they too have other non-meatball type food, but they are just to compliment the meatballs. You need to have the meatballs.

Enough said. Let’s have a look at them:

Bedford_Food_Menu_Feb_2015_lo-res

This is the menu you scribble on

Yup, so pick a meat (3 balls per order), pick a sauce (or two), pick something to go underneath the meat, and pick some greens for a balanced meal! If you feel like sharing you can also order a Board of Balls (on the flip side of the menu, each other is 6 balls + 2 sauces) and have the “under balls” and “greens” as sides to share.  The results?

(yup I went twice recently!)

The ambiance? It’ s a great casual dining place which doesn’t take bookings. The ambiance is great but can be a bit noisy, so if you are looking for a quiet place to chat you might have to look elsewhere.

The food? Good overall but I have to say the quality is inconsistent. Well don’t get me wrong, the food is good on both accounts but having ordered same items on two separate visits allows me to compare the quality. For example, polenta (the white mushy thing in a bowl) tastes differently each time. Better the first time, too bland the second time. Then the signature beef balls, nicely cooked to medium the first time, second time it was too overcooked so slightly on the dry side. Same goes with the salad…you get the idea. It can taste a little different sometimes.

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More balls….sweet balls

Then we ordered some donut balls. They were actually very hard 😦 what happen to the fluffy little donut balls???

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We also ordered some sodas in my second visit. Nice and refreshing, but a tad too sweeeeeet. We ordered cocktails in the first visit and they were very mild (this is according to a non-alcoholic person!).

Although there were flaws in my experience at Bedford, it is still a place I’d recommend for a casual dining. Price is reasonable and food is still very good value for the money.

I’ll give it 3.5/5.

Bedford Soda & Liquor
Ponsonby Central, Shop 10, Cnr of Richmond Rd and Richmond Lane, Ponsonby, Auckland
Tel: 09 378 7362
E-mail: drink@bedfordsodaliquor.co.nz
Open Monday to Sunday from midday to midnight
http://www.bedfordsodaliquor.co.nz/

Restaurant Review: Casablanca Mediterranean Cafe and Bar

Sunday brunch is always enjoyable, especially when you are spending time with your family. It is a bliss. Today we went to Casablanca Cafe at Mt Wellington and were not disappointed.

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The environment was beautiful, relaxing couches and unique bronze tables that sets the Mediterranean atmosphere pretty well.

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We ordered some soothing herbal tea to start the morning. The waiters were knowledgeable and happy to recommend a suitable tea to our taste. We ordered two different types of mint tea and a classic apple tea

One of the mint tea

One of the mint teas

The on to our food. I have to say we really enjoyed everything. We ordered Baked beans (first), Creamy Mushrooms (second), and French Toast (last photo). They were flavoursome and a great portion. So if you are only looking for a small bite for brunch, you might have to come back for a proper lunch or dinner.

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Don’t get me wrong though, there are plenty of smaller portion plates, sides, or you can share!

On a different day we came back for brunch. Citron Chicken Tagine and Casa Breakfast. Very generous portions and again interesting mix of flavours. The Chicken Tagine has a mild heat in it with the mix of its very aromatic citrus flavour. The breakfast was a little simple in comparison, and the feta cheese was very rich (couldn’t manage all four cubes).

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High recommend. Branch in Orewa and Sylvia Park. http://casablancacafenz.co.nz/

Restaurant Review: Ramen Takara

So we went to Ramen Takara tonight and I have to admit, we will be critical! One of us have lived in Japan for a year, and the others have either frequently visited Japan and speak Japanese, or have gone around the world trying ramen from various countries.

Back to Ramen Takara. Atmosphere – tick!

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Menu – tick! It has a good variety of food and we even ordered a few little plates to share.

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The ramen – hmmmm….best I could give it is a pass. The egg was nice, the noodle was fine, the soup was very salty but I could accept it. If you have had ramen before you will know, one of the other major factor of the ramen is the pork! Comes with the order was two slices of chashu, I was very hungry that night so asked for extra order. First I was stunted by the price (right I saw that on the menu and wanted it anyway so I am not complaining). But what I am complaining about is the quality of it!!! I got 4 extra slices for a side order of chashu, and just about to enjoy them, I realise I couldn’t bite one through! It was really tough and very very chewy. None of the chashu I’ve eaten was this tough!

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Great disappointment by the ramen chashu, but all other food were adequate. Not that I will be rushing by in again, or recommend this place if you are looking for good ramen, which is their core product!

http://www.ramentakara.co.nz/ponsonby.php

Restaurant Review: Cafe Hanoi

Auckland Heart of the City Restaurant Month!

Our usual party of 5 has gone food hunting again, this time we went for the Restaurant Month – Cafe Hanoi!

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Behind the red doors it lies a warm, welcoming place. No booking is taken for dinner, but you can book for the private function room or drop in a little earlier to ‘reserve’ a table. On the night we were there, there were a few large parties but the service was prompt and attentive.

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We ordered three portion of the Restaurant Month set menu and “modern Vietnamese” dishes, which includes:

  • Phở Ga – Traditional Vietnamese chicken noodle soup (Restaurant Month set)
    Gỏi cuốn -Summer rolls of roasted pork, shrimp, fresh herbs & peanuts (Restaurant Month set)
  • Nộm bò khô – Home-cured spicy dried beef salad w green papaya, sesame & crushed peanuts (Restaurant Month set)
  • Bún chả – Hanoi-style grilled pork w nuoc cham, rice noodles & fragrant herbs (Restaurant Month set)
  • Chả cá – Wok seared market fish marinated in turmeric, shrimp paste, ginger & galangal w round beans, peanuts & rice noodles (Restaurant Month set)
  • Tiger prawn cutlets coated in young green rice w house chilli sauce
  • Chicken thigh w kaffir lime, lemongrass, ginger & okra
  • Roasted loligo squid stuffed w pork, wood ear mushrooms & glass noodles w a hot & sour tamarind sauce; and
  • Pork spare ribs, twice cooked w five spice, ginger sesame & grilled lime
Tiger prawn cutlets and three Phở Ga (chicken noodle soup)

Tiger prawn cutlets and three Phở Ga (chicken noodle soup)

from left Bún chả - Hanoi-style grilled pork Chả cá - Wok seared market fish Nộm bò khô – Home-cured spicy dried beef salad plus a steamed rice

from left
Bún chả – Hanoi-style grilled pork
Chả cá – Wok seared market fish
Nộm bò khô – Home-cured spicy dried beef salad
plus a steamed rice

from top... Pork spare ribs Chicken thigh w kaffir lime

from top…
Pork spare ribs
Chicken thigh w kaffir lime

(yes, the Roasted loligo squid stuffed w pork and Gỏi cuốn -Summer rolls were so good we demolished them before any photos were taken.)

and dessert…

  • Bánh trôi Tàu – a traditional warm Vietnamese dessert w sesame dumplings, peanuts & coconut (Restaurant Month set)
  • Sago pudding in white chocolate & yoghurt cream w palm sugar caramel
  • Mango mousse w fresh shredded coconut & candied green rice
  • Hot soy milk doughnut w cinnamon sugar & caramel sauce
Mango mousse (left), Sago pudding (right)

Mango mousse (left), Sago pudding (right)

Mango mousse (left), hot soy milk doughnut with cinnamon (right), Bánh trôi Tàu - a traditional warm Vietnamese dessert (bottom)

Mango mousse (left), hot soy milk doughnut with cinnamon (right), Bánh trôi Tàu – a traditional warm Vietnamese 

The mango mousse was so light and tasty we felt we could have one each!

Overall the meal was fantastic, service was great although it was a very busy night for the restaurant. Food were so good we all kept our heads down and ate them all in no time!

http://www.heartofthecity.co.nz/restaurant-month
http://www.cafehanoi.co.nz/

Restaurant Review: @Bangkok

Cheap eats…ahhh so important! What would I do without you cheap eat restaurants!? I mean, who doesn’t like to go out for a little gathering with friends, but who can always afford $50 on food for a dinner all the time?

Tonight we were a large group of 13 including a toddler who was very happy to eat anything.

For the ease of sharing we split the table into two ends, so we were sharing things between 6 adults. We ordered a beef salad, raw prawn salad, a prawn tom yum soup in steamboat, green curry with pork, basil and beef stir fry and chicken pad thai. While the other half of the table has ordered a whole lemon and chili snapper, a tom yum beef noodle, basil and beef stir fry and duck green curry. We also ordered plenty of ugly rotti and few steamed rice to share.

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The food were so good I only managed to take these two photos and then we dug in!

The beef salad end up being my favourite of the night. We asked for medium and it was just the right heat, while the beef were tender, mixes well with the cruntchy salads. The tom yum soup was a little sweet to my liking, and we think the coconut milk doesn’t do so well being cooked/heated continuously in this steamboat. Next time we would have just asked for it in a big pot.

Portion wise I would recommend no more than 6 people to share each plate, because it all end up being 1-1.5 piece of every plate. Excellent for tasting or if you are not too hungry; but if you are, aim for 1-1.5 plate per person.

Price range: $25-30 for a shared meal with BYO wine and a few beers for most.
Address: 438 New North Rd, Kingsland, Auckland 1021.
Parking: street parking or car park just before the restaurant.
Booking: recommended if you don’t want to be disappointed! Plenty of people have called and dropped in to pick up takeaway throughout the night too.

Restaurant Review: Ostro High Tea

Need I say more about Ostro? Excellent service, great good, fantastic ambiance….together with great company, it is always my choice of restaurant when it comes to a treat.

Today we were there for a baby shower. Typical high teas usually contain items that are unsuitable for pregnant women, but Ostro has kindly prepared in advance items that the mother-to-be can have before we asked (we did mention when we make the booking though), service – tick!

I find it tricky to see their high tea menu online, so here's a copy!

I find it tricky to locate their high tea menu online, so here’s a copy!

As you can see, some of the savoury items are pretty standard. My favourite is the Toasted Brioche and the Cheese & Bacon Scones. The Toasted Brioche was light and flavorsome. It was served as a skinny long strip I can easily for two, three, or four of those.

The beauty of the Cheese & Bacon Scones is not just in the fluffiness of the scones, but it was the whipped maple butter that caught my attention! Sweet butter? It was a bit strange in the first bite, but second and third bite comes I grew to like to sweet butter. It perfectly balances with the savouriness of the scone but not too overriding.

Here'e the stack (minus the savioury scones and pregnancy friendly sandwiches)

Here’e the stack (minus the savioury scones and pregnancy friendly sandwiches)

I never have much of a sweet tooth so to be honest I have not tasted every item of the sweet (there was a little girl and she happily ate all my sweets). What’s worth mentioning is the Veuve Clicquot & Lychee Marshmallow, this was the only item everybody were fighting for, young and old.

Close up of the sweets for those who like sweet. Oops the marshmallow was about to be divided!

Close up of the sweets for those who like sweet. Oops the marshmallow was about to be divided!

The high tea was accompanied by a wide range of bottomless tea. At $55 per person I’d say we all had a pretty decent feed and a fantastic time.

Ostro High Tea is served from 3:30 to 6pm, every Sunday. Booking essential.