Finding great takeout food is no longer a chore. Auckland is full of excellent places offering quick, healthy fare. Here are the winners of Viva's annual Gourmet Takeout Food Awards:
BEST OVERALL AND BEST THAI
1 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby, ph (09) 378 1776
KaiMana has an impressive pedigree. Owner Mana Kaewkhantee set up Joy Bong, one of the city's most successful Thai restaurants, eight years ago.
Now he's opened a new eatery every bit as good, if not better. With a wide-ranging menu featuring northern Thailand cuisine, KaiMana is a must-visit.
Our favourites: steamed spicy whole snapper, barbecue duck red curry; and what would a Thai meal be without Phad Tai king prawns - this is the best we've had, with no skimping on the prawns. There are 34 dishes on the menu and we'll be going back to try the rest.
Cost: Main dishes from $14.50 to $21.
Viva also recommends: Thai Isaan, Birkenhead.
183 Symonds St, City, ph (09) 309 5609
After attempting to make sushi a few months ago, we have new respect for the professionals. It's not as easy as it looks to make those perfectly formed little seaweed rolls with wonderful fillings. Bian do it better than anyone. Traditionalists may tut-tut over some of their fillings - green beans or pumpkin with red pepper - but we love the imagination.
This is the freshest, tastiest sushi we've had. It has all the favourites - such as California roll, teriyaki chicken and salmon - and you can get 40 or 60-piece party platters. We'd happily order one just for ourselves.
Cost: $1 to $1.30 for rolled sushi, party platters $45 to $65.
10 Vulcan Lane, City, ph (09) 303 3624
If they took the tofu burger off the menu at Raw Power there would be a vegetarian uprising. Marinated tofu between big slabs of toasted foccacia with loads of other good-for-you goodies and dressings.
It's so perfect you don't want to mess with it. If they did, we'd start a petition - and probably get Hollywood backing. Raw Power was a favourite of Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay hubby Chris Martin when they visited Auckland last year.
Pick and mix your own salad from 10 varieties, including dishes based on rice or noodles, or choose from the eclectic menu.
Cost: Salads $8 or $15, menu items $5 to $17.
47 Ponsonby Rd, ph (09) 360 1989
Easily one of the most stylish takeout spots on Ponsonby Rd, Otto Woo matches the chic design with topnotch food.
These are the best noodles in town - fast, fresh and great value with knockout flavours.
We know of one couple who eat here three times a week - they have a revolving menu of their favourites: cashew chicken with leek and mandarin; prawn tempura with shrimp and spinach and spiced stir-fried pork with chinese broccoli and bok choy.
We would be tempted to do the same if we lived close. Maybe Otto Woo could open a few stores in the suburbs. Pretty please?
Cost: Main dishes from $10 to $13.50.
Viva also recommends: Renkon, Parnell
113 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, ph (09) 360 4414
Ponsonby is constantly changing. Places close and others appear almost overnight in their place. But we pray that 113 Ponsonby Rd stays the way it is - forever.
The very thought of not being able to duck in for a slice (yes, all right, three slices) of authentic Italian pizza at Il Buco doesn't bear thinking about.
We've loved this place since it opened three years ago.
This is about as good as pizza gets this side of Rome, with traditional thin crust and a great range of toppings.
Buy it by the slice or the box and choose from more than 20 varieties. We loved the mozzarella, potato, rosemary, and the spinach, chilli and blue cheese. Divine.
Cost: $4 a pizza slice or $35 for a box of 10 mixed slices.
Viva also recommends: GPK, Ponsonby and Melt, Grey Lynn.
cnr Tamaki Dve & Atkin Ave Mission Bay, ph (09) 528 4551
This little restaurant, open for just over a year, won our hearts - and stomachs - with its gorgeous Italian cuisine.
We could go on and on about the spinach and ricotta ravioli in sage and butter sauce, and there isn't enough space on these pages to tell you just how divine the tiramisu is. We'll make do with light, dreamy and perfect.
The takeout dishes come in large foil containers which keep the food warm on the drive home or while you find a nice spot to picnic on Mission Bay beach.
There are about 20 dishes on the menu. The seafood risotto is a favourite.
Highly recommended: Delicious, Grey Lynn and Mama Rosa, Mission Bay
BEST MIDDLE EASTERN
240 Ponsonby Rd, City, ph (09) 376 9303
This place comes with a warning. It's so popular that there can be a bit of a wait, especially on weekends. So if you're the impatient sort, phone in your order well ahead.
However, this is a nice place to spend time waiting for your chawarma or pita.
There are good magazines, and barstools on which you can perch and watch your food being prepared or do some Ponsonby people-watching.
And the food is hard to go past.
There are a range of pitas, chawarmas and salads - the Persian couscous and fattoush salads are highly recommended - and no order is complete without a serving of koftas (bite-size croquettes) with sweet chilli aioli. Another warning: they're addictive.
Cost: $8.40 to $9.80 for chawarmas and pitas, $11.20 to $11.90 for salads.
Also at 20 Anzac Ave, Takapuna.
271 Karangahape Rd, City, ph (09) 377 0007
At Viva we like to discover new and exciting places but try as we might we have never found a better Indian takeout than Satya. It won our inaugural awards in 2003 and has featured on our winner's list ever since. The food is fresh, flavours authentic, the service fast and friendly and the menu (Southern-Indian-inspired which means the dishes are healthier and lighter) is extensive - there are 40 entrees and main dishes.
Our pick: dahi puri (crisp little squares with a topping of potato, yoghurt, spices and tamarind), chicken tikka masala, prawn maharaja curry and mango chicken.
Cost: Main dishes from $14.95 to $17.95.
Also at 515 Sandringham Rd.
54 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay, ph (09) 361 6157
Why bother opening the fridge or a cookbook - we could happily dine on Dida's great gourmet salads, sandwiches, cakes and takehome meals every day. And not a pot or pan to wash.
There are nine salads - different each day - as well as pies, tarts, cold-cuts, cheeses and prepack meals such as lasagne and fish pie. From next month Dida's will also offer vacuum-packed takehome tapas.
Cost: Salads from $5 to $12.50, meals $8.95 to $17.50.
Viva also recommends: Essential Deli, Mt Eden; Rocket Kitchen, Ponsonby; Benson Rd Deli, Remuera
319 Queen St, City, ph (09) 379 5353
The only drawback to getting takeaways from Tanuki is that once you get there you don't want to leave. The friendly staff will do anything you ask, it's cosy, and there's always sumo wrestling on the telly.
Sometimes though, time is against us and it has to be a takeout. We can only go so long without the deep-fried melt-in-the-mouth tofu in a hot dashi broth, crisply battered seafood and vegetable tempura, the salmon and avocado rolls and the steamed broccoli in sesame mayo sauce.
Cost: Dishes from $4.80 to $32.