Chinoiserie may only have been open a short while, but word has spread throughout the foodie world about this outstanding new “on trend” casual bar and eatery with a Taiwanese twist.
Located in suburban Mt Albert, Chinoiserie is the creation of the team from L’Oeuf which is located next door. Chinoiserie describes itself as a bar and eatery serving Taiwanese street food. Based upon the crowds there on a Tuesday night, they have struck a very responsive chord. In fact, like Al Brown’s Depot that started a whole new genre of restaurants, I would say that Chinoiserie has struck a market that was just waiting for it to happen.
The decor is simple but stylish. The red lanterns hanging outside will tell you that you have arrived at the right spot. There are a couple of tables suitable for groups outside, while inside there is a row of smaller tables along one wall and a long counter top along the kitchen area. No problem seeing the cooking action here!
We grabbed a table and perused the short menu. Everything on the menu fits into our Cheapeats budget (as befits a place with a focus on street food), so we made the classic budget mistake of being greedy and ordering almost everything on the menu! And it was so good that we ordered some items twice!
Once you decide on your food you place your order at the front counter. You can run a tab, which we did, so that you can order more dishes and drinks if you wish or stagger your order to suit your appetite.
The food arrives in no particular order, so if you want your sweets last or fries first, order accordingly.
There are four different Gua Bao, or steamed milk buns, on the menu and we decided on the Pork Bun ($8). The sides are deceptive – several should really be called “larger dishes”. We ordered the Asian Slaw ($10), Erk’s Sticky Chicken Nibbles ($12) and the Coconut Crusted Squid Rings ($12). There are also nibbles to have with a drink: Fries with wasabi mayo ($6); Edamame Beans )$5) and Szechuan Pepper Peanuts ($5).
We placed our order and sipped on the housemade ice tea ($5) while we waited for our food. This took probably all of five minutes! The steamed bun arrived and it looked like a slice of dense commercial white bread that had been folded over its contents. There the similarity ended – the house made bun was soft and warm and the slice of braised five spiced pork belly was tender and flavourful. It was served with homemade Gong sauce (tangy hoisin/soy style sauce). There are also bottles of homemade Gong sauce and chill sauce on the tables, and you can purchase the Gong sauce to take home.
The rest of the food arrived in quick succession. The coleslaw was so good that we immediately ordered a second portion. The cabbage was very finely shredded and served with a sesame oil vinaigrette. No quarrels with the crispy squid either, although we couldn’t really taste the coconut crust. The chicken nibbles were the winner on the day – six juicy pieces liberally doused with a spicy sauce. Literally finger lickin’ good. Again, a second serving on order!
We saw another table of punters eat the Taiwanese doughnut dessert ($8), served with chocolate sauce and coconut threads. Delicious as it looked, we ordered the Black Sticky Rice ($8) served with salted coconut cream to take home. I love black sticky rice and this was warm comfort-style food, although I would have liked more coconut cream.
Chinoiserie has a short but good wine and beer list and cocktails are freshly prepared. When we left the place was buzzing, with people eating and drinking, enjoying the food and the vibe. We loved it and know that you will, too!