Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Auckland Day 1 continued: Eleven dollar water

[Note: Also written on Monday. Jet lag warning applies. Furthermore, this computer is terrible with the blogger application so all these posts will have messed-up formatting.]

After our restorative naps, my mom and I set out to explore Auckland on our first day here. One of our first stops, of course, was lunch. We poked around a few places but finally found a cute alleyway with several restaurants spilling out onto the pedestrian sidewalk. We looked at a few menus and ultimately settled on a place called Aquamatta, primarily for the reason that the restaurant had enclosed indoor tables rather than a storefront open to the elements. It’s sort of cold and windy here.

Anyway, the restaurant was empty except for one other party there for lunch. We were handed the menus and wine list, which we ignored, because it was 1PM on a Monday afternoon and neither of us had slept appreciably in the past 48 hours. But we studied the food menus, made our choices, ordered drinks, and waited while the cook in the open kitchen clanged noisily in the echoing restaurant. Did I mention it was pretty empty in there?

My mom’s order of sparkling water appeared, presented in a cool artisinal bottle. As soon as I saw that bottle, my “this is absurdly expensive” alarm bells went off, and sure enough, when the bill came it was revealed that that modest bottle of water cost $11NZ, which is about $9, for all you non-cosmopolitan folks. Whoops.

Water. Made of gold.

After a long enough wait to know that the chef was truly making everything to order, our food appeared. My mom ordered a Caesar salad with squid and anchovies. The squid came fried, which perturbed my mom, but she decided to suck it up and eat it anyway. The ultimate verdict: very good, and salty (which is a good thing).

Caesar salad, in tiny bowl

We shared an order of bruschetta. The bread was fresh, thick, and dense, with oil from the topping soaking into the bread and causing a mild sog effect. The topping was a simple tomato concoction—not much seasoning to speak of, but pure-tasting and good. I added a sprinkle of grana padano cheese, which came from my entrée, to the bruschetta, which improved it immeasurably.

Plank of bruschetta. They weren't messing around.

That same entrée was a bowl of pureed vegetable soup. It came as a HUGE tureen of piping-hot soup with a faint trail of olive oil drizzled on the top. The soup tasted mainly of tomato, but it had a bit of texture, not velvety but with the merest bit of distinction between the broth the vegetable matter. The soup came with a small mini-tureen of grana padano cheese, which, when put on the soup, melted completely with no trace of flavor left behind (it was much better used on the bruschetta). There were also some accompanying croutons, which I gave to my mom for use on her salad.

Note: there is no picture here because I thought I took a picture of my soup but apparently it disappeared into the bowels of my camera, never to be seen again. See also: Extreme jet lag.

Overall, it was a good and extremely filling meal (I’m still full and am writing this on Monday night). The food was fresh and clearly made with care, although some of it could have used a bit more seasoning. And I’ll admit that I’m new to New Zealand, but I’m not sure where they get off charging $11NZ for a bottle of water. No matter—it was a good meal, and it got our shopping day off to a good start.

N.B. I don’t think I’m going to award spatulas on this trip, because I really don’t feel I have enough of a rubric to compare NZ restaurants to American ones, so I’m not sure I’m being fair. Also I’m lazy, and I’m on vacation! No spatulas for you!

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