The Kimchi Project

8.3Overall Score

18-20 Lorne Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
09 302 4002
Mon to Thurs 8am – 10pm, Fri to Sat 8am – 11pm
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New Zealand doesn’t really have a national cuisine. Actually scratch that New Zealand has three cuisines, the inherited English lamb and potatoes, the Maori seafood and game and now a surprisingly good Asian food scene.

In the New Zealand way of things, they do all three of these expertly, if you want great lamb, go to NZ, if you want great seafood, then New Zealand and now it seems if you want great Asian, then go to New Zealand

I say surprising, because unless you travel to Auckland a bit, you don’t think of it as an Asian City, you think of it as green, harbor sided, having appalling traffic being pretty, being windy, but not Asian.

But it is, or at least it is now.

On the first night there I ate at the Kimchi Project, which is at 18 Lorne Street,  in the Central, the geographic and economic heart of the city, flanked by expensive apartments, law firms and busy shopping centres.

Lorne Street isn’t really a street, it’s a single lane road, paved with black stones lined by coffee shops and Asian restaurants with people sitting in the street eating and talking and hilariously in age of political correctness – smoking Shisha in a fug of tobacco smoke.

The Kimchi Project doesn’t look Korean. Or not at least what I think of Korean – wooden walls and wood block prints and open grills. The Kimchi Project is white walls and light wooden furniture and greenery and slim young waitresses all dressed in black, as if they were sharing their time with being props people in a nearby theatre.

The Kimchi Project looked much more like a restaurant you would find in Norway or even Amsterdam than an Asian restaurant in Central Auckland.

The surprise that you get when you go there, and I heartily recommend that you should  is that the narrow front, opens into a green a lively covered courtyard with tables and chairs for about 60.

We ordered from the big sharing menu the soft shell crab salad, the waffle cut fry’s and the spicy pork ribs along with a bottle of Pinot Gris from Malborough.

The menu is extensive with a range of dishes and a good list of wines and craft beers.

The soft shell crab salad was large and well balanced with more than enough crab for three hearty eaters.

Soft shell crab can be very bad, oily overcooked and dead, but this wasn’t lightly cooked and fresh – it came with the right crunch and the salad was sharp and fresh.

The waffle cut fry’s a bit of potato heaven – by making the potato a waffle, they increase the friable area. This is a trap. By making the fry’s sieve shaped they can become a trap for grease and can taste like oil. The chef’s at the Kimchi Project have worked out how to do this without making the fry’s an oil fest.

They add them to a sharp aioli, with yet more Kimchi which gives you the acidic crunch that you want.

Our third dish was the Spicy Pork Ribs, of which there was a small mountain on a large plate.

The ribs were nicely spicy – so that you got the pleasure of the spice without the burnt mouth that sends you reaching for the water glass and were plump and juicy and ultimately defeated us to the point that we got a doggy bag.

Here’s what’s good: The food, the space and the wine list; here’s what’s indifferent – the service. On the relatively quiet end of a late Saturday night 0ur waitress was knowledgeable, engaging and efficient, but not one step of the procedure of ordering food and wine or getting the bill moved forward without someone at the table waving at her like a long lost relative across a crowded room.

Images via The Kimchi Project’s Facebook Page