The man who ate Lincoln Rd has saved the biggest - and supposedly the best - for last. Next week, in the penultimate episode of the most culturally revealing series in New Zealand journalism, I venture to the empire of supersize, the big Mac of Plenty, the original fries with that - yeah, so I'm going to McDonald's. On Tuesday, I visited the only restaurant on Lincoln Rd or indeed in all of West Auckland with claims to culinary sophistication and style, Chikos, in the stripmall in front of Mazuran's wines.
The reviews have been sensational. Carrol du Chateau in the Herald, last year: "In just a few months, Chikos has shot to fame. Foodies from all over the city seem to be travelling to the unglamorous Lincoln Rd to try the modern European menu with its exotic references to Filipino and Spanish cuisines....Chikos fair sizzles with glamour and excitement...Every flavour, from Bangkok to Bali, Tokyo to London and Texas, gets a showing here."
The "unglamorous" slap was a bit on the nose, and the same tone was struck by Viva food critic Jesse Mulligan who poked his elegant little snoot into Chikos around the same time: "Atmosphere-wise, they've done the best they can with a slightly challenging venue - the southwest corner of a Lincoln Rd strip mall." God almighty. Who are these people? What's their problem? Where do they live?
Mulligan has claims as a comedian, as does his friend Ben Hurley, who was his dining companion at Chikos. Together they came up with an absolute zinger: "Hurley loved his comparatively classic nasi goreng, so much so that he was planning to return with his family the following day." A zinger, because: they're kidding, right? I ordered the nasi goreng on Tuesday and it was just about the worst meal I've eaten on Lincoln Rd all year.
I didn't mind the fried egg on top. "Classic", as the dainty Mulligan says. But I've had more nasi gorengs than hot dinners, and one thing I know about the meal is that it blends small pieces of meat and vegetables within a hot, spicey bed of rice. It's difficult to get wrong but Chikos made it look easy. They served some big tough chunks of chicken on either side of a hot, not especially spicey bed of rice.
I stared at it when the chef brought it to my table. He said, "Would you like a steak sandwich?" I was baffled by the random question and said no I didn't, but I wished I'd begged yes please. The waitress told me later that he'd confused my table for another table. No harm done but the chef's confusion went deeper than that. What sort of nasi goreng did he think he was cooking? The chicken was dry and fatty, the rice lacked any punch, there were some pieces of bok choy lying around like they'd been drowned, and one or two sprouts tagged along for the dreary ride.
I fully expected Chikos to top the chart of my favourite food joints on Lincoln Rd. It won't make the top 20. I thought back to my year filling my face on Lincoln Rd, and longed to be at Nandos down the street, at Ruang Thong Thai 4 or Indian Green Garden across the road, at Mexicali, Pizza Hut, Pita Pit, Genghis Khan, BBQ Hut Nood Les - two or three doors away in the same stripmall as Chikos is Shen's Takeaways, and they do a better nasi goreng for half the price ($11).
What an unhappy near-ending to the series. Thank God I'm going to McDonald's next week. All the best to Chikos; one bad meal doth not a bad restaurant make; if only I'd ordered the pork and prawn quesadillas with grilled tiger prawn, or the crispy pata pork knuckle with tom yum; du Chateau loved the place, I hope Mulligan and Hurley died laughing with joy; yay for foodies; the man who ate Lincoln Rd has simpler tastes, and simply can't be bothered with Chikos, but I'm not going to go out negging on Lincoln Rd, so no rating.