Culprit (Auckland CBD, New Zealand)
On our last restaurant review I mentioned it was our second time dining outside after the lockdown here in New Zealand was lifted, where we splurged on a staycation date with the Mrs. That last review was our teatime and this post was our dinner. Our place of choice is Culprit, a restaurant in Auckland CBD with an amazing concept.
Culprit as their site mentioned is inspired New Zealand local bounty, childhood & travels through the States & Europe. That is why on the menu you will see names of producers and they company they are with beside the dish on offer. Their dishes are dishes are about showcasing what they do, keeping it simple, fun, fresh and delicious. Entrees or appetizers are served on a yum cha style cart where 8 to 9 individually priced seasonal bites (not Asian dumplings) will be offered to your table for you to select. Each offering on yum cha will have a price tag indicated on the tray, so you do not need to ask for a price. Another interesting concept here is the heavy use of secondary cuts and unloved bits and pieces of meat hence you will see items such as chicken liver, bone marrow, flank steak, pig face and ugly carrots, but don’t let those choice of cuts put you off as these guys deliver it better than the good cuts you know of.
Booking is necessary because this place is always packed, so if you don’t want a long wait or disappointment, then its best to have your tables booked before your visit. Once sorted all you have to worry is what to grab on that cart.
As mentioned earlier, we came here for a dinner, it was 7:00 PM so it was prime time, the place was busy, but they have lots of attendants to help you to your table and order. Upon seating you would notice a paper on the table similar to yum cha where they tick the prices of the item you grabbed. Initially you will be served with a small amount of soup, to keep that appetite running, it was in the form of cauliflower puree with truffle (if my palate is correct, I did not get name when it was served to us. It was a good soup to start with, so full of umami, you will start salivating, triggering those taste buds to grab what is available on cart.
Like most yum cha style restaurants it can be disappointing, especially when other tables had finished what’s on offer, that is what happened to us, basically the cart goes to the farthest place from the kitchen, down to the nearest one. We were seated, two tables apart from the kitchen so we always see empty tray or trays that are unpopular. We waited for a while, around 30 minutes until I asked the waiter whether we can order separately rather than wait for the cart. He said it’s possible, so take this tip if you don’t want to wait for the cart. What is good, the ones on offer in the cart is written on the menu so you can pick and choose from there put it on order. We grabbed some Sesame & Spelt Sourdough / Tom & Josh – Daily Bread, Roast Bone Marrow (NZ$14.00) served with pickle gel, vogels, parsley salad / Kate & Craig – Pamu Farms and Parfait & Donuts served with chicken liver parfait, pinot noir syrup / Ben & George – Bostocks Organic.
Twenty minutes later, our orders have not arrived, and we noticed those who came later than us had their orders already, so we called another waiter by the name of Eden and told her the scenario. We waited for 50 minutes and the only thing we had was that free soup, she was very apologetic and told us to give her a few minutes and she will prioritise our orders. She looked at their system and it seems that it was not logged hence the orders did not come in. The first waiter might be really busy and forgot place that order. So Eden asked us what we ordered, so we told her the three items we initially mentioned. She left and in a matter of minutes, she was carrying our order. Again in an apologetic tone, she told us the starters will be on the house due to the inconvenience caused.
As we enjoy our starters, she constantly asks us how our order was, or if we are ready for our next one. We thought she was just doing it because of the scenario, but as we notice her, her service to other tables are the same, she really do care about their customer, kudos to her, she was one of the best waiters we had encountered.
Sesame & Spelt Sourdough was really nice, dough was dense and stretchy, it went perfectly good with that chicken liver parfait instead of the Roast Bone Marrow that it was paired with. The Donuts on the other hand went well with the Roast Bone Marrow, so we thought they should swap the accompaniments on each to have a better experience. Chicken liver parfait, was amazing, very buttery and well-seasoned. Roast Bone Marrow on the other hand lacked some seasoning but by adding some salt, it brought out its flavours.
Appetizer done, so we ordered our mains. We were planning to have Beef Bavette and the Pig Face, but Eden told us the servings are quite huge so it’s better to start with one and see from there. Again a nice suggestion from her, usually most waiters don’t care, just order what you want, and they will deliver it without suggestions. So we grabbed one and Pig Face / Freedom Farms, Southern Alps (NZ$35.00) it is. The name might sound unappealing but don’t worry it was not served in a pig’s head face form, probably it was the cheek part where it was cut in an edible looking slice.
Basically it’s a braised pork jowl served with persimmon, radicchio, black garlic, puffed crackling. It was really nice, it was fork tender, melt in your mouth experience, well-seasoned and balanced flavours. Persimmon was a nice sweet addition that complemented that bitter radicchio, this plate was spot on, add to that the crispy pork crackling on top, it was excellent all the way through.
Along with the pork we also had this Crinkle Cut Golden Kumara Fries somewhere in Pukekohe (NZ$10.00) which is hand cut, parsley fried and served with kiwi onion ranch. It has a nice crisp outside, which probably is from a tapioca flour, potato or sweet potato flour, it was not your average fries. It was like a mashed sweet potato in a crispy coating that is perfectly matched with a sweet and tangy ranch.
We enjoyed our dinner with some wine, the Mrs choice was Astrolabe Rose Marlborough NZ 2018 (NZ$14.00), a delicate rose gold hue with the scent of rhubarb and rosewater. It was mildly dry and a medium bodied wine with round with hints of stone fruits and quince. For me it was Seresin, Pinot Noir Marlborough NZ 2016 (NZ$16.00), it was earthy, herbal with hints of dark fruit, it was a really nice Pinot Noir, usually I am faithful with Central Otagos but this Marlborough changed my mind.
After dinner we were offered with some desserts, and we grabbed some “Lemon Meringue’ Trifle (NZ$9.00) served with Kiwifruit, lime curd, golden syrup cookie crumbs. This was a nice dessert at the same time a good palate cleanser, refreshing, sweet, tangy and cold.
Overall, we had a nice dinner, while it was not a good start, that combination for great food plus the amazing service of Eden, made the night really memorable. So if you happen to dine in here, look for Eden so you are guaranteed to have a great service.
Address: Level 1/12 Wyndham Street, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
Phone: +649 377 5992