Thursday, April 22, 2010

Metro Top 50 announced

Metro has released its latest list of Auckland's Top 50 restaurants, always an excellent starting point for getting a handle on the city's big names. I don't know enough about restaurant/publishing politics to critique the way the list is put together, but the results looks pretty good to me. I've managed to wangle an invitation to the awards ceremony on Monday night, which I'm most excited about, but until the big winners in each of 15 categories are announced at that event, here are a few observations from the list:

SIDART enters the Top 50 with a bullet, as do newcomers Coco's Cantina, La Cigale and Mondial. La Cigale (they do the French market in Parnell) is somewhere I'm desperate to check out, and their slow cook nights will start to look even better as winter approaches. Coco's sounds great and Mondial is the closest you'll get to authentic Europe in Auckland, so it's awesome to see all of these making the list.

There are a few other new places on the list, and they've nudged out some massive names, like Andiamo – the proprietors of which will feel like throwing themselves off Hopetoun Bridge, what with that and the recent one star review in the Herald on Sunday. Far be it from me to question the culinary instincts of a chef who puts Thai Chicken Curry on an Italian themed menu, but it may well be time for a little self examination.

Jervois Steak House is missing too, which is upsetting. Their sides have been a little ho-hum on the last couple of visits, but the location and service are brilliant, and the meat unrivalled. They'll be wondering what they've done wrong.

Neither Kermadec nor Bracu appear either. They're run by the same people as I understand, so maybe something's up. I had a great meal at Bracu in June last year, but a return visit was very average, and the level of service seems to be about on par for an upmarket restaurant whose staff catchment area includes Bombay and Pokeno.

In the city, Monsoon Poon is in and Rice is out. Not to be too worthy, but Monsoon Poon always strikes me as having a name and branding not entirely respectful of the Asian nations it plundered to create the menu. Last time I visited their Wellington restaurant the window had a signwritten slogan which read 'me love you long time'. Ha ha ha! Just like a desperate Vietnamese prostitute might say to an American soldier who had just taken advantage of her services! Geddit?!

Rice on the other hand has always been good and is date night of choice for many of my friends, including my colleague and lovely friend Joe. Mind you she sort of has to go there for dates, given that her husband works 60 hours a week running the place.

On the bright side, and while we're on the topic of central city Asian fusion, it warmed my heart to see Chow miss the list. I've always found the food there a bit bland and the service unspeakable – last time I visited was just after a wine tasting and we were desperate for some food. “Forty minutes”, said the guy behind the counter without smiling or looking up, and to this day I fantasise about grabbing the mincing little sourpuss around the neck with two hands and throwing him into Fanshawe Street traffic.

But that's the problem with being insulted by restaurant staff – you don't expect it, you're ill prepared to deal with it, and more often than not you take it like a bitch and walk out without getting a chance to express your crimson rage. Thank goodness for blogs.

Those are the inclusions and omissions that stand out for me, but do let me know if you spot any more and I'll include them in my next post. You can download the announcement and full list here.