For worthy eating and drinking experiences around Wellington, NZ (and the greater region) – you can also catch Heather out and about hosting Zest Food Tours around the city…

Archive for the category “Asian / Indian”


PappaRich has opened in Grey Street opposite the Intercontinental.

It’s pretty much the Malaysian Macca’s, albiet with a little more class. So wouldn’t normally be on my radar, but for the roti’s and hainan bread – both are excellent. The hainan is gorgeous steamed with butter and sugar, and choose any roti – you won’t go wrong.


The chain started in Kuala Lumpar, and is now in Australia, Brunei, China, South Korea, Singapore, USA and little ol’ NZ (Auckland first in 2015).

It’s pretty much self-service – you write your own orders from a large glossy menu and then hit a green button on the table for collection – but the menu is very colourful and and easy to read.

The down-side to all of this was evidenced a little later when the food came in random sequences, with one meal nearly finished before the rest arrived, and the coconut jam roti (which was excellent) arriving later again.

Unbeknown to me it takes longer to craft, so either the kitchen don’t plan for these things, or its custom to just receive each item as it’s ready (which you don’t know because there isn’t an order-taker to tell you!) or you should mark your order in some way to indicate sequence (yep, you get the picture).

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The rest of the food was fresh and pleasant (fairly mild), and there look to be some interesting desserts for another adventure.

PappaRich is not licenced, but there’s a large selection of non-alcs from Cham (mixed coffee and tea served cold with ice) to fresh juices, a couple of hot offerings, and the many mugs of milky concoctions.

The almond grass jelly drink was a bit odd-sounding (right up my alley then!), but was actually rather fun and tasty – turns out those big straws are just the ticket for slurping up cubes of jelly.


Seven days from 11am.

3B/1 Grey Street

Gotta Go to Mr Go

An Asian hawker-style street food establishment has gone into the old Pizza King premises on Taranaki Street (near Courtenay). And its good.

Fresh, light and flavourful food, with nothing over $15 (the owners set the place up on a shoestring and are passing the savings on), Mr Go’s has a focus on community and melding together of influences – check out the history of Mr Go on their website.

We over-ordered to start given we didn’t expect significant quantity, and never made it to dessert. The food came pretty much all together, so we were able to sample all at once.

The most memorable items were the pulled pork bao bun; the housemade pineapple mint sparkling water; lightly coated popcorn chicken with an excellent Thai basil mayo; and the kung pao cauliflower (bring your spicy palate).

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There’s also cold beer on tap and by the bottle, a couple of ciders, a bunch of wines, various sodas and cocktails (many with asian flavours), and bottomless Supreme filter coffee. And the service was friendly and welcoming.

I’m so back there soon for another go (more moderately paced so I can fit dessert this time!).

Monday to Saturday 11am til late.

59 Taranaki Street.



Asiana Cooking School

Once hubby got past the ‘I’m paying for dinner and cooking it too????’, we had a grand time at the Asiana Cooking School.

Asiana roomThe school is in Tennyson Street, just a block down from Moore Wilson, and runs very slickly. Every person has a workstation with all the implements, ingredients, bowls, pans, recipes etc laid out ready to go, after you’ve first relaxed in the lounge side room enjoying the first tipple of the evening as everyone arrives.

Mindy tutors in a lovely open and informative manner, and happily shares tips throughout the evening – like the secret to stab-able (is that a word?) cooked courgette is to slice it on an angle. Simply but effective, and you won’t wind up with rings of courgette around your fork.

She demonstrates up the front first (so all recipes are relatively quick, you won’t spend all evening slaving over a hot pan), and then you’re let loose to replicate. Having the angled mirror above the demo bench works a treat so you can see exactly what’s being done no matter your position in the room.

On the night we went, the main was chicken in coconut sambal (the recipe helpfully adjusted to single portions), with banana roti to follow. Drooling yet? The sambal is a good example of a Malaysian dish which can be as hot or mild as you like (loads or a little sambal paste), is colourful, creamy and slightly sweet courtesy of the smidge of sugar added at the end.

We all managed the chicken pretty well, and made a fair go of the banana roti too (even him who was originally horrified at paying for a dinner he also had to cook, proudly proclaiming how well he’d beaten his roti into submission – something to do with the black bits on the underside maybe?).

Mindy had made the dough earlier to give it resting time, and we all discovered that the end product was actually easier to create than you’d imagine. We flattened, stretched and folded with flair, and learnt not to origami too many layers into the parcel so it didn’t end up doughy from too many layers to cook through. And to leave a little air at the edges on folding so it would puff up and offset any cooking shrinkage – aha!

Asiana platedTo finish the evening we sat at communal tables and enjoyed the fruits of our labour (plates with rice on magically appeared as we neared the end of our cooking), while Mindy’s staff cleaned up and re-set for the next day. What could be easier than that? And I even took leftovers home for lunch too.

Mindy has loads of classes each week and month, with an interesting array of recipes, so you’d be mad not to give this a go sometime. Especially in a group.

39 Tennyson Street.


Annam Vietnamese and Hillside suburban bliss

A couple of places I’ve reviewed for KNOW Wellington in recent months in case you missed them over there:

Annam – the re-model of Arbitrageur into a joint venture by Chris Green and Nam relocated from the Willis Street Village – French-influenced Vietnamese street food and cocktails in a funky casual Indochine setting. No bookings, expect to wave down a staff member when you need one, and enjoy true subtle-flavoured Vietnamese food  – check out the review here.


Hillside Kitchen and Cellar on the corner of Tinakori Road and Hill Street – blackboard plates and a range of scones during the day, $55 or $65 set dinners at night with wine, craft beer or non-alcoholic drink matching options. Ever-changing, fresh and interesting, all outstanding, and much made in-house – check out the review here.

NBAs of mid-2018 Hillside is now completely plant-based, and a full cafe/restaurant with menu options only (i.e. no counter food, deli section or scones).


Apache – where Hanoi met Paris

So after I didn’t buy a bikini (who knew that was going to be such a traumatic experience?), I decided to pop into the new Apache in Wakefield Street for a Vietnamese lunch to recover.

It was a little past peak lunch hour and not too busy, but I was still pretty amazed when my fresh green papaya salad arrived about four minutes after I’d ordered it. Was this a good sign or not?

Apache intro

Actually it was all good. The salad had all the right ingredients (thinly shredded papaya and veggies, cherry tomatoes, chili peppers, lime, peanuts, dried shrimp, fish sauce, etc) and met the Vietnamese requirement of balancing sweet, spicy, salty and sour in each dish.

My ‘buffalo boy’ coconut gelato, kaffir lime and jackfruit smoothie arrived with nary a buffalo in sight and reminded me of drinking just-whipped vanilla instant pudding (don’t knock it til you try it), with only a subtle back note of coconut. Unexpected. But very moorish.

Apache lunch

Apache is Le Minh’s first restaurant after cheffing around Wellington for 10+ years in various South East Asian establishments. He grew up in northern Vietnam, influenced by past French occupation (hence the baguettes, pate and bitter chocolate mousse on the menu) and focused on fragrant, fresh and light food (as opposed to the more Chinese-influenced denser foods of southern Vietnam).

I practiced my talent for choosing the one dish not available by ordering the Sago Vanilla Pudding with caramelized banana and coconut praline and having the pear and ginger crumble from the cabinet (the bikini experience still fresh in mind, I bypassed the bitter chocolate mousse or pina colada with coconut ash mousse alternatives).  The crumble was superb and a steal at only $4 (but is this a survivable price point?).

Apache dessert

Le’s aim is to offer high quality northern fresh Vietnamese, hence the use of wagyu beef, free-range pork belly, fresh kaffir lime and lemongrass etc in the main dishes, and many fresh fruits and vegetables in the house-made juices, smoothies and afternoon tea sweets in the cabinet.

I’m going back soon (on a non-bikini shopping day) for the Sea Meets Land king fish – twice cooked pork belly with Viet slaw, blue ginger and dried chili caramel, and the Chasing Dragon cocktail.

Lunchtimes 7 days (and possibly some dinners once they’re settled in).

122 Wakefield Street.

PS. Now doing dinners Wednesday to Saturday.

Love you longtime Monsoon Poon…

I’ve had a hankering to revisit Monsoon Poon for some time.  Memories of fun with friends, a buzzy atmosphere, fresh and spicy foods (firecracker sliders anyone?), and delicious dessert cocktails kept popping into my mind.

And they didn’t disappoint.

Monsoon Poon entreeOn this occasion a joint Wanzi’s entree (crispy bean curd, smoked pork, spring onion and panko crumbs with honey chilli ginger soy dipping sauce) initiated the tastebuds nicely.  Followed by a mix of chili duck and pineapple curry and Bangkok street noodles with tamarind, chicken, chilli and crushed cashews. All light and delicious (the curry was a thin broth not heavy sauce, and noodles of the thin rice variety).

A pitcher of Kingfisher beer disappeared at about the same pace as the food, and one was left with a lovely warm glow in the tummy and a peaceful easy feeling overall.  What more could you ask for a casual mid-week jaunt?

Monsoon Poon decorThere’s lots of warm red decor, interesting artefacts and attentive staff at Monsoon Poon, and they easily cope with small or large groups (with a pleasant bar to wait in if a table isn’t immediately available).

On this occasion we didn’t have room for dessert, but the fortune cookie box, Malaysian sago pudding, cardamom and orange creme brûlée, vanilla bean, hazelnut and cappuccino cinnamon gelato with salted caramel and crushed hazelnut praline all appealed.  Next time.

Love you long time Monsoon Poon.

12 Blair Street.

Monsoon poon map






Tatsushi (finally!)

UPDATE: Now relocated to a bigger space in Edward Street (the old Vivo) and still great sashimi.

At long last.

And it was worth the wait.  Fresh and tasty Japanese done with delightful service in a warm cosy environment (although beware the noise level when a group of 10 arrive in that little space!).

Tatsushi menu

People talk about their sashimi platter, and it was very good.  The platter changes daily depending on what fresh fish they’ve procured, and on this occasion had salmon, trevally, jack mackerel, terakihi and kingfish.  A tasty mix. There’s also other daily specials to complement the interesting standard menu.

The best way to approach Tatsushi is to share, so we combined two sashimi platters among four of us (which they thoughtfully delivered in one large bowl), with a variety of other smaller nibbles – daikon salad, fried bean curd, tempura asparagus, cucumber and calamari salad, miso, etc.  The chefs are very visible to diners, so one can see and appreciate the hand-crafting involved.

Tatsushi shasimi

Check out this previous Stuff article which outlines the background of owner Mikuni and his philosophy on fresh and hand made ingredients.

A plum wine with hot water worked perfectly for this kid (soothing and sweet without being too strong), while others enjoyed Japanese beers and kiwi wine.

And the verdict?  We’d all be back again.  Soon.  Very soon.

Tatsushi decor

Tatsushi do lunchtimes Tuesday to Friday, and dinners Thursday to Saturday.  They are very popular and it pays to book well in advance.  They’re also doing a craft beer and Japanese food match on 1 and 2 October for anyone of a mind.

99 Victoria Street, right beside Asian Kitchen (I feel another eat coming on…).

Oishii (Japanese for yum!).



Cinta Malaysian Kitchen

Cinta on Manners Street has been mentioned to me by three people lately as really good, so I made an effort to truck on down and see for myself.

Cinta sign

We went for mid-week date night (Wednesday) and the place was very busy, with a number of bigger groups (methinks Vic University graduates each brandishing their own bottle of wine to continue their graduation day celebrations), so we lucked into the only (just vacated) space available.

To be honest, although my lemon chicken was clean, fresh and crisp (and I enjoyed it), his beef koong po was reported as a bit salty and slightly chewy.  So not super-outstanding.

Cinta food

However the helpings are generous, and the prices cheap ($10-$12 per main, $6 for a perfectly pleasant glass of wine), so I can see why it potentially rates well.

The setting is very simple and plain, but the service respectful and efficient.

Given I quite like a little ambience when I’m dining (other than that provided by nearby big groups), I’d potentially come here for takeaways more than a dine-in experience, as there are other cheapies in places life Leftbank, or tucked around Victoria, or around Allen and Blair, which have have a bit more ambience going on as well for that all round experience.

1/119 Manners Street

Cinta map



Ancestral yakitori

Finally I’ve managed to get my butt on the lovely warm concrete seats in the Ancestral courtyard (very cool, err warm) and try out their yakitori offerings.


Because I’d been drinking elsewhere beforehand I didn’t imbibe, but did count 37 wines by the glass, 8 sakes, a big range of whisk(e)ys, and several chinese teas for two (without even getting to their cocktail list). Phew!

We chose about six plates between the two of us, which turned out to be about right, including beef, lamb, chicken, mushrooms, eggplant/peppers and seaweed salad (highly recommended by a waitress to a friend previously).

Ancestral skewers

Not convinced the seaweed salad was anything to write home about, but the skewers were all tender, flavourful and well presented.

Part of the fun of eating this way is the theatre of someone cooking near you, and the fun of trying many things.

Ancestral certainly have a polished system, with friendly staff, and even though it was only midweek, the courtyard was full.

Ancestral chef

The only thing I disliked was the smokers at the very next table puffing away, which does taint the whole dining experience.

Although I’ve personally found the indoor restaurant at Ancestral overpriced and underwhelming (and heard the same again from someone else recently), the yakitori value and delivery is about right.

Also for males, I’m told they should go check out the bathrooms – pitch black and a little eerie – although not so much for the ladies who experience varying shades of white and cream.

31-33 Courtenay Place

Ancestral map

Rock Yard Vietnamese, Allen Street

And so we have another Vietnamese in Wellington.  And not bad it is either.

Rock Yard is found down Allen Street in one of those ubiquitous spaces that all look/feel the same, but they have managed to make their establishment feel modern and sharp with sleek black and white. (There is some incongruity though with blue flashing neon on entry above the water feature – although on reflection, Vietnam does have a mix of tradition and new flashing neon in the bigger centres.)

Rock Yard table

The food here is fresh and crisp, the staff friendly, and the set up has been done well (despite the blue flashing neon!).

The small plates include options like water fern cake, chicken ham, summer (cold rice wrapped) or deep fried spring rolls, and (on the night we were there anyway) a tripe dish, which no-one was quite game to try. And they were all quite sizeable for small plates.

The big plates include options like pho (one of the best I’ve had in Wellington), crispy vietnamese pancake (remarked as needing a bit more salt to enhance flavour), spicy lemongrass chicken (conversely reasonably spicy), prawn salad etc.  Next time I’m going to try the Vietnamese braised fish in claypot to see how that stacks up.

Rock Yard food

They also promote their range of cocktails as being creative, so I might just have to check them out next time too (simply in the interests of research you understand). And you can ring and order take-out too.  Nice.

For a cheap, cheerful and fresh dinner in a pleasant setting, Rock Yard would definitely pop into my head (even though there was a fire alarm on the night we went and we had to enjoy our dinner in two stages!).

18 Allen StreetRock Yard map

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