SUP290422eating You can't beat a superb restaurant meal experience Photo / 123rf
In one episode of Parts Unknown, I remember the late great Anthony Bourdain sitting alone in an opulent dining room somewhere, I think, in Europe. He's served an extravagant, undoubtedly delicious meal accompanied by very expensive wine.
Being a melancholic sort, prone to self-loathing and feelings of guilt, Bourdain ruminates on the super-rich who live this life of luxury every day. Always eating great food, cooked and served by other people.
Surely, he muses, after a while, there must only be the boredom and the ennui of meaningless days.
He wants to believe the super-rich aren't happy, that they're miserable in their life of lavish opulence.
But then he changes tact, wondering if, in fact, the joke is on us and they are actually incredibly happy.
It's typical Bourdain, letting himself get tied up in contradictions and uncertainties. Making for great prose and great TV.
The scene has stuck with me. Because if there's anything I would fancy about being super-rich, it would be eating incredible food in restaurants every night.
That really doesn't sound too bad. How could you possibly not be happy living that life? No cooking dinner at the end of the day, no dishes, just wonderful food, a little wine, in the company of family and friends.
Until now, though, I didn't really have a setting for this imaginary life. Not until I went, for the first time, to the Terra Restaurant in Paihia.
It was a whim. An attempt to cheer up my wife with an impromptu adventure. Inspired by a review I'd read in the NZ Herald.
From the first slurped mouthful of an Orongo Bay oyster with tamarind and coriander, I was transported.
Then a sourdough crumpet stacked with venison and tamarillo. Equally divine.
Both served snack size, as Terra, in response to the uncertainties of Covid, has gone to a degustation menu. For the uninitiated, that's a set menu of small dishes.
It was meant to be temporary but, having proved popular, they've kept going with it.
On this night, nine exquisite creations passed my lips, including palate cleansers and two desserts.
Hard to pick favourites, but the sweet pea/wasabi sorbet with slightly burnt rice cracker blew the mind and the taste buds.
The salmon, cassava, rhubarb and buttermilk in a bowl was truly the most unique dish I've ever tasted.
But everything we were served was a talking point. So we strained for better and better superlatives to describe what we were eating.
We became food bores. Our taped conversations played back to us now would make us cringe.
That was six months ago. We've been back for a wedding anniversary since. The menu completely changed, and if anything, better than the first time.
Corn three ways had my wife in raptures. She keeps bringing up the corn spare ribs. It takes real culinary talent to turn something simple into a memorable standout.
The problem now is that I don't want to eat out anywhere else.
I don't want to disrespect other restaurants I've been to in Northland, but there's nothing I've experienced that compares to what Marcus, the chef at Terra, is doing.
When we went, it was $75 a head. Looking at the website now, I notice that the price has gone up to $85. That's certainly pushing the upper threshold for our budget for eating out.
But everywhere seems to be getting more expensive, and sometimes the quality is no better than what you can do at home. What Terra offers, I couldn't possibly emulate.
So maybe it's a once-a-year treat (or perhaps twice, it's so good).
On the present menu, I see wallaby, juniper and long keeper onion. Intriguing.
Damn those people who can afford to eat at places like Terra all the time. I'm not going to be jealous. I'm not