After a confusing start to the evening, Digital Editor Izzy Brimeau enjoyed a selection of Asian-fusion dishes at a new restaurant in Auckland’s Herne Bay. One in particular stood out above the rest…
It’s not often that I have such a comical interaction when being seated at a restaurant “Hi, I have a booking for Izzy,” “Yes, this is Izzy. Would you like a table?” “Yes, I have a booking under Izzy,” “So you would like a table?” “Oh no, my name is Izzy, I’ve booked a table for two.” After getting to the bottom of the reservation dilemma, we were shown to a table and our dining experience began.
The best word to describe Izzy’s interior is ‘simple’. Think table, chairs, minimal artwork and the sort of ambience one might expect at a BYO restaurant on Ponsonby Road. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If anything, it allows you to focus more of your attention on the food.
Because I like to be prepared (read: Because I’m always thinking about food), I had already studied the menu and selected the dishes I’d most like to try. I politely acted unsure and asked for recommendations. Much to my pleasure, Nam, the youthful owner, suggested both the Miso Yuzu Glaze Eggplant and the Spiced Lamb Rump.
My boyfriend and I began with Nam’s suggestion of Crab Taquitos and a personal favourite of ours: Fresh Rolls. The taquitos were everything you could want in a starter – flavour, texture and it left us wanting more. The mini taco shell was thin and provided a satisfying crunch, the filling was a moreish combination of delicate crab, tamarind sauce and arugula. The kick of chilli and the squeeze of lemon took the dish to the final level. Thanks to our friendly waiter, we decided to add another one to the dish rather than fight over the third and final taquito.
Sadly, the same could not be said for the Fresh Rolls. Fridge-cold and a little inadequate on the prawn front. I could have easily passed on the rolls for more taquitos.
You guessed it, for mains we ordered Miso Yuzu Glaze Eggplant and Spiced Lamb Rump. We were not disappointed. The lamb was tender, juicy and cooked to the rarer side of medium rare. There was a large amount of fat that ran down the side of the lamb rump, which could have been further rendered and caramelised, but was easily removed. The dukkah-style topping, coconut yoghurt and lemongrass jus added to the dish, but the lamb itself was so flavoursome it was easy to enjoy on its own.
It was the eggplant, however, that stole the show. A hefty half sat to one side of the plate. The flesh was melt-in-the mouth and had soaked up all the elements in the miso and yuzu glaze. Next to this was a mound of avocado hummus. It may sound odd – both stand-alone and paired with the eggplant – but this was a treat for the tastebuds. Nam told us that it’s made with avocados, tahini and chickpeas. It was smooth, creamy and addictive.
A well had been made in the centre – this was filled with nuoc cham, and pomegranate seeds were scattered across the top. It was delicious slathered on the eggplant, eaten on its own or smeared on Izzy’s buttery, flaky roti bread. It exceeded my expectations.
After sharing two small plates, two larger plates and a plate of roti – I was moments away from unbuttoning my jeans – we agreed that we were both too full for dessert. Had I been wearing stretchy pants, I would have tucked into the Roti Ice Cream, which looked to be made up of roti topped with gingernut ice cream and salted caramel sauce. Heaven.
Izzy is noticeably new to Herne Bay. But serving innovative dishes with big flavour, I can foresee this restaurant being another firm favourite with locals and passers-by alike.
38 Jervois Road,
Opening Hours: Tues – Sat 12pm-3pm and 5pm-late