There isn't a sriracha bottle in sight at this sleek and modern Thai eatery in Remuera, reviewed by Kim Knight.
602 Remuera Rd, Remuera
Ph: (09) 523 2626
WE THOUGHT: 17 - Great
WE SPENT: $190 for two
Only one of my nostrils was working the night I went to Ginger.
A head cold had taken out the other and, perhaps, my critical faculties. I tasted six dishes. Delicious, I said. Delicious, delicious and very delicious.
I consulted my dining companion. I took leftovers home for further analysis. Everywhere, the same verdict - Ginger is a wee gem.
It's not just the food. I don't know if the pendant lights are Tom Dixon originals but the molten metal makes a sleek and modern statement. On one pale pink wall, the only adornment is the restaurant's name writ brave and large. The multi-page menus are cloth-bound. The plates are smooth, matte ceramic. There is not a sriracha bottle in sight.
Ginger is classy, its food is (mostly) delicious and the service extends to your choice of sparkling, still or tap. This is not your usual neighbourhood Thai.
Once, Thai was my international cuisine of choice. Now, we are spoiled for choice. Eat the globe and then some - it had been a long time between tom yums. Ginger has this spicy soup, of course, but there was so much else to consider.
I knew the skewers of chargrilled scallops ($14) were probably going to be a mistake, given my limited ability to taste but Rachel confirmed the dish was simply bland. Gorgeous presentation (singed fresh pineapple, a strip of scarlet capsicum) but ultimately it was more flair than flavour.
Once, when someone said "fish cake" they meant smoked haddock and spud. If you were really flash, you opened a tin of salmon. Today, we appreciate the springy, zingy beauty of the Thai version - but I am ruined because I live with a kayak fisherman and I grow my own coriander. Homemade fishcakes are fresh and fat and bouncy. They're a little rugged around the edges, hot from the pan and maybe they're not that authentic but the ones at Ginger ($12.50 for four) were, literally, a little flat.
Is this Auckland's most culturally complicated dumpling?
Icecream baguette? Newmarket dishes a new dessert star
Enough complaining! A signature "taco" ($6.50) was a tumble of everything that is good about Thai cuisine. Sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter - a perfect, prawny, herbaceous jumble on a clever little crisp of deep purple kūmara.
Real thought has gone into the presentation. It is not easy, for example, to make a massaman curry look good. This dish was a long, slow day on the stove that had nipped into a Smith & Caughey's counter for a zhuzh-up on the way home. The potatoes had been shaped for fine dining, not chopped for a stew and the lamb was still on the shank. There was a decorative strip of crispy fried kūmara, a pale purple pansy and a single fleck of coriander. I slurped like a happy little pig in pretty muck.
Ginger's menu is long but "tacos" aside, it feels like the focus is on traditional Thai food and flavours, rather than the current trend to fusion (and confusion). There are banquet options and two full pages devoted to vegetarians (tofu everything, plus a good range of meat-free appetisers, including the ka ree puffs and a tom kha minus the gai soup). From the front, we chose a Ginger stir-fry. It did contain ginger, but the capital letter actually signified its signature status. The bowl was heaped. I counted beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, capsicum, courgette and baby corn among the veges that were slicked in a coconut and kaffir lime-scented sauce with just enough heat to make it all quite interesting. Bonus: a whole stem of green peppercorns and really chunky strips of chicken that really tasted like chicken. Excellent value at $25.
We didn't need a third main but the barbecue section intrigued. I feared the salmon ($29.50) had been overcooked, then I realised it was just an expert caramelisation. Underneath, the fish was sumptuously flaky and a pile of fresh salad added to our vegetable count.
There was no dessert menu, explained the waitperson. I was busy mentally deducting points when she explained that was because they were made fresh each day and changed according to the chef. Yes please, we would have the creme brulee ($14) to share. The sugary top had a toasty depth I haven't experienced before (brown sugar? Palm sugar?) and the plate was a delightful garden of fresh and freeze-dried fruit colour.
Allow me to whinge a moment about the temperature of the room (one portable gas heater was just not doing the job) but everything else about Ginger warmed me to my cold-soaked core.