Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Incredible New Ramen Restaurant in Mt Eden

It’s easy for cheap restaurants to get a strong following quickly in Auckland, because people who use Instagram can afford to eat there. While fine dining power hitters like the French Café, The Grove and Sidart need one or two years and one or two awards before a buzz develops around them, somewhere like Peasant on Dominion Road can open up and within a couple of weeks most of Auckland has seen their fresh spring rolls through a Lo-Fi filter.

I couldn’t believe how long it took for the word to spread about Kazuya, a fine dining restaurant I wrote about here and in Metro, where the service and food are both impossible to fault, where every ingredient has a good story behind it, and where they serve a dish with thirty different types of vegetable on the plate, each with a different texture. Three years later I’m still telling respectable food-loving people about it for the first time.

I ate at the brand new Zool Zool today, which is destined for social media greatness because it’s inexpensive and just a short ironic bus ride from the flatting suburbs. But it’s also destined for greatness greatness because the food is amazing, the drinks list incredible and guess who’s behind it? The guys from Kazuya, above, who’ve found a new and more accessible way to be perfect.

Zool Zool, in Mt Eden village, serves ramen soup – broth + noodles + garnish, as defined in the menu – a subset of Japanese which some people in particular get ridiculously excited about. Until now Auckland ramenism has centred around the very good Ramen Do up the road, and while the food there is excellent, there’s probably not a lot of what you’d call atmosphere – just friendly people and a big pot simmering on the stove.

Zool Zool is much more Westerner-friendly – the menu gives you a lot of good info on what you’re eating and drinking and why. “Zool Zool” is an onomatopoeic word for the sound you make when you’re slurping, and there’s a cute note on the blackboard to explain why that’s a thing, too. Aside from the standard, incredibly tasty, soup they also do a selection of brothless ramens, where you get the noodles and some ingredients and just a little intense liquid at the bottom. This works well for raw garnishes as below, the concentrated broth acting like a sort of salad dressing when you stir it up. This brothless thing is Zool Zool’s own little idea and it’ll be fun to see if people go for it.

If you’ve ever been to Kazuya you’ll know Mojo, the Francophile sommelier who is unmistakeably Japanese but loves his Burgundies and stinky cheese. He’s curated a wicked drinks list here, built around whiskey highballs, a strong cocktail which is important in Japan because, well you can read about it on the menu. He also offers wines by the glass and half bottle arranged on the list by matching soup type. The whole thing is so fucking cool, I wanted to eat every meal here for the next week. And there’s enough variation in the menu that you could almost do that.

I found Zool Zool through my wife who found it through food writer Anna King-Shahab’s facebook page, thanks Anna, but the other exciting thing is that it’s appeared virtually nowhere else. But of course it will, because it’s a great story and half the city’s journalists live within 400 metres of the restaurant and because, as previously discussed, it’s easy and cheap for anyone with a phone to roll in and give it a go. There’s room for about 60 people to eat at once, so once word starts to get around I reckon it’ll be absolutely everywhere fast.

But give me this one night to be the first one to tell you about it, and to tell you that it is really really very very good, and that Auckland has been so lucky these last few years to have new openings every month, and that this is one of the best of them, a beautiful, sweet, delicious little room, which over a single lunch became one of my favourite places in the city.
For boring SEO-based reasons I am obliged to tell you that this was written by MC and comedian Jesse Mulligan and that you can find out more on this excellent website.