Auckland's obsession with fancy burgers shows no sign of slowing. The newest grist to the grill? A super-smart Korean offering in the Grey Lynn shops.
The space that was most recently Dilecta has been made over with white walls, blond wood and idiosyncratic cartoon paintings, in the new permanent food base for Esther Jeong and Matt Shephard.
The pair previously proffered their Korean-meets-Western sensibility from pop-up dining experiences. Practice has, apparently, made perfect. The bricks-and-mortar business was just three days old when we visited, but the service was slick as a well-tempered skillet.
On a Sunday night, we took a stool in the covered, heated outdoor area that runs up the side of the kitchen. The clientele ranged from 30-somethings to families; the music from Dire Straits to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
And the food? What exactly happens when a cuisine famous for spicy fermentation meets a dish famous for - let's be honest - saturated fat?
In a word: deliciousness.
You'd have to have been a long way from the internet to have missed the current craze for kefir, kombucha, et al, but if you have yet to try kimchi, then Tiger Burger's "kimcheese fries" are your $11 gateway.
Order a beer (the list includes Epic, Funk Estate and South Korean Hite) because it is the perfect accompaniment to shoestring-cut chips sharpened with tangy, fermented, pickled cabbage and mellowed with aged cheddar.
Add a $12 bowl of fried chicken chunks - aka "Seoulful Bites". They come with a smoky-spicy-sweet housemade yang nyum sauce that is, sadly, not available to purchase by the bottle. (We were not, the waitperson advised, the first people to ask.)
Burgers are, obviously, the star attraction. All the protein is free-farmed and if meat is your thing, then the "bossam", with its twice-cooked pork belly paired with kimchi, lettuce and pickled daikon, is piggy heaven between two Loaf-brand brioche buns.
There are just four burgers on offer ($13-$14) - the aforementioned pork, grilled beef, double-fried chicken thigh and the vegetarian "goguma", which boasts a shiitake mushroom and kumara pattie and more of that moreish yang nyum sauce. It had the potential for carb-on-carb disaster but the pattie was crisp on the outside, fluffy inside, and made more interesting via the occasional chewy chunk of mushroom. Highly recommended.
There were two of us and two desserts on offer, so that was a no-brainer. Plus, it meant we got to chat to Jeong, who happened to walk past as I was frowning at the interior of the chapsal doughnut ($7). Yes, she explained patiently, it was meant to be like that. The traditional Korean street snack looks like a regular doughnut but is slightly sticky and glutinous inside. At Tiger Burger, they add kumara for sweetness and a condensed coconut milk dipping sauce. The result is belly-stickingly good.
On a lighter note, you should definitely get the spiced apple dumplings ($8). The pretty little steamed parcels, containing almost marmalade-like chunks of apple steeped in plum wine, were a taste revelation.
Tiger Burger may be about the burgers, but you should definitely stick around for dessert.
Our table of two spent $84.