Black Rice Fusion Asian
Found in Albany's new retail hub, this eatery brings together the flavours of imperial Chinese cooking and Southeast Asian street food.
Off the Albany Expressway and down Corinthian Drive is an unexpected dining precinct that feels like you're mingling in the far east. Springing to life over the past few years, retail hub Orchard Park now boasts dozens of authentic Asian eateries in a strip mall setting. Hong Kong Hotpot, Yue's Dumpling Kitchen, PinYue Shanghai Style, Golden City Chinese and Eden Noodles' second outpost — it's all there.
From the other side of the harbour, with a resume listing hot contemporary fusion restaurants Moo Chow Chow, Blue Breeze Inn, Woodpecker Hill and Mekong Baby, comes chef Kristy Chanusorn in Black Rice. Found in a large space on the corner of Orchard Park, the newish fusion restaurant brings together the flavours of imperial Chinese cooking — an influence from owner Dante Bai — with Southeast Asian street food.
Chef Chanusorn realises the fusion concept across bar snacks, small and large sharing plates. Headline dishes include the lamb ribs which have been marinated in Thai whiskey. The provided finger bowl has no place here as the succulent meat falls straight off the bone upon the breath of a fork.
Then there's the Thai-style fried chicken wings with garlic and chilli aioli. Arriving piping hot, the morsels are crispy and addictively salty. In this instance, the aioli was barely even touched. A healthy dose of chilli can be found in several of the dishes. While usually considered as a refresher, the ceviche with apple, coconut and pomegranate even comes with a decent kick. To cool down, try the refreshing lychee mojito or almond whiskey sour.
Large plates tick off all the proteins: caramelised pork belly, beef cheek green curry, soft-shell crab, whole fried fish, duck red curry and roasted salmon in banana leaf. Vegetarians are left in good hands too with classics like tofu penang curry, kung pao vegetables and pad thai.
Bai says that so often the Auckland Asian dining experience is all about the food, and not the ambience. As a way of spicing things up at Black Rice, the interior comes with all the frills: cushion-filled booths, birdcages hanging from the ceiling, fake turf flooring and a giant green velvet curtain.
Image: Beinn Chappie Law.