An authentic northern Chinese eatery has opened its doors on Lorne Street, bringing the flavours of the far east to New Zealand via handmade morsels.
Sunnytown arrives in central city Auckland from Chinese hospitality veterans Belinda Zhang and Dong Wang. First impressions of the pair's first New Zealand restaurant suggest that it's a promising destination for dinner — on this occasion, there was still a queue waiting outside at around 7.30pm. At the front of the building are huge glass windows that showcase the chefs (dressed in full whites) loading delicious-looking buns into stacks of steam trays. The visual appeal is magnified as the steam wafts to the ceiling.
The whole ordering process is very streamlined. Instead of being taken straight to our table, we were directed to place our orders at the counter before sitting down. Sunnytown seems to follow a more fast food-like and efficient model compared to most other conventional restaurants. Fortunately, they have a relatively small menu which makes those on-the-spot decisions much easier.
Between the two of us, we ordered the prawn and pork siu mai ($14), pork buns ($10 for two) and a bowl of beef noodle soup to share. The noodle soup portions are more than enough for two, and it's such a good call for between $10-13.8o each. Hungry eaters rejoice. After we've placed our orders, we were given a buzzer which helps the staff know which table the dishes are for when they become ready — an exciting innovation in the ordering and serving process.
Within about five minutes of sitting down, our buns and siu mai arrived. The staff at Sunnytown seem to have pre-steamed a lot of the buns on the side, so they can be served as soon as orders have been placed. The pork buns were full of flavour and very juicy. The buns are slightly sweet in taste and super fluffy in texture. Each bite was extremely satisfying, and the serving size of four buns per tray is perfect for two diners to share. The siu mai was also bursting with the flavour of pork and fresh prawns. I loved the addition of sweet corn and peas that balanced the otherwise heavier taste of pork. We also shared a bowl of beef noodle soup. The soup was quite diluted, and I thought it could do with a bit more seasoning. However, the beef cubes itself were stewed perfectly. The meat was so tender that it melts in your mouth.
Overall, Sunnytown is a rising star on Lorne Street where many great food destinations reside. It has a small but inviting menu of dishes that taste authentic, homely and flavourful. Vegetarians will also be able to find something for them from the vegetarian buns and plain noodle options. As someone who enjoys a bit of spice, I'm already planning my next trip to Sunnytown to taste the spicy wontons or dandan noodles.