Address: 1180 Great North Rd
Phone: (09) 815 6667

I had peered through this Pt Chev place's grimy street-front windows a few times, and felt somewhat put off by the sign that said the entrance was around the back. But when I did finally get to that entrance, I discovered it was quite a grand affair, with an archway and concrete lions and providential flashes of red.

As restaurant names go, Jiang Yi Hu Grill-lamb Shoulder is a bloody good one, I reckon, and not just because it is unambiguous. I know there is a persuasive political case for eating less meat - I eat it once a week these days and there was a time when I ate it once an hour - but I react to the words "lamb shoulder" the way some people react to the words "triple chocolate": by salivating like Pavlov's dogs.

I had never really thought of Chinese as a barbecue culture, but the helpful manager, who goes by the name Eric, told me that barbecue is central to the culinary tradition of Liaoning Province, which nestles against the North Korean border in the country's northeast.

The company name, Mt Hannashan, which will get you more Google hits than Jiang Yi Hu, comes from the name of South Korea's highest mountain. Jiang Yi Hu, if I understood Eric rightly, is both the name of one of the owners and a word with very positive associations of getting together for a good time.

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"We like barbecue very much," he told me, "and the lamb in New Zealand is very good." If I hadn't already eaten there, that would have been all the invitation I needed.

Barbecued lamb shoulder is certainly the order of the day at Jiang Yi Hu. They seat you either side of a table-top firepit in which hexagonal bricks of high-quality Japanese charcoal ­are already glowing.

You may think this was madness in February, though an industrial-strength fan mists the entire room and anyway, no matter how hot it is outside, you'll think it's cool when you get back out there.

Lamb shoulder over glowing charcoals at Jiang Yi Hu Grill restaurant. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Lamb shoulder over glowing charcoals at Jiang Yi Hu Grill restaurant. Photo / Steven McNicholl

So anyway, the shoulder arrives on a spit. You turn it from time to time as it slow-roasts and you carve bits off it with knives almost long enough to protect your knuckles from blistering. If you're a bunch of blokes, as we were, you tell old war stories, ensuring you're on the winning side, because that's what blokes do at barbecues.

Little bowls of seasoning (mint jelly, chilli, cumin) help things along but the lamb doesn't need to be regarded as the extent of it. I didn't see any snarlers but the Chinese predilection for nose-to-tail eating and straightforward nomenclature included options such tendons, testicles, gizzards and heart.

We ordered a half-dozen sides, emphasising the cooling (cucumber) or astringent (bean sprouts in a vinegary dressing) and emerged more experienced, if not exactly transported. There is better barbecue to be found to be sure, but you've never had a meat feast quite like this.

Lamb $38kg; side dishes $2 (rice)-$28 (short ribs).
Verdict: If you can't stand the heat, walk away from the table.