Auckland Restaurant Review: Gochu Goes All In On Modern Korean Flavour Bombs, And It’s (Still) Incredible

By Jesse Mulligan
Gochu’s charred chicken is served sizzling with a jug of liquid cheese. Photo / Babiche Martens


Cuisine: Modern Korean

Address: Commercial Bay, 1 Queen St, CBD

Phone: 0210 905 2396

Drinks: Fully licensed

Reservations: Accepted

From the menu: Oyster $7ea; duck parfait $6ea; torched salmon $6ea; pork belly ssam $7ea; tuna crudo $28; crispy eggplant $25; tomato parmigiana $24; charred chicken $39

Score: Rating 17/20

Score: 0-7 Steer clear. 8-12 Disappointing, give it a miss. 13-15 Good, give it a go. 16-18 Great, plan a visit. 19-20 Outstanding, don’t delay.

In April, I wrote down a long list of new and interesting restaurants to review and I’ve managed to cross most of them off. Night Car, Manzo, First Mates, FarinaAnise, Advieh, Okome. We are currently down to hotel restaurants (sadly not all as good as Advieh) and places I know will probably be good but which have never quite excited me enough to commit to.

Gemmi is one of those places. It’s a new restaurant in Commercial Bay from Namu Group, an operator that never puts a foot wrong. I’d assumed it would offer more of the Korean-inspired flavour bombs that have made their other venues famous. My fault for not checking online first, but when I sat down and looked at the menu, I realised that Gemmi is a pasta restaurant — not the Aigo-style K-pasta, but an old-school Italian restaurant serving carbonara, rigatoni alla vodka, and spaghetti with meatballs.

Gochu offers modern Korean cuisine with views of Auckland Harbour. Photo / Babiche Martens
Gochu offers modern Korean cuisine with views of Auckland Harbour. Photo / Babiche Martens

I sat there for a moment in the mostly empty restaurant. We’d walked through Gochu (another Namu-adjacent brand) on the way here and it had been buzzing. I’d also visited there during our Top 50 judging and eaten two dishes of a lifetime. Spaghetti and meatballs or modern Korean? I’m sorry, readers, I got up and went back to Gochu instead.

So, don’t let me stop you from going to Gemmi if you’re around Commercial Bay and in the mood for Italian. The staff were nice and the wine list looks good. But man, Gochu was incredible.

We started with an oyster each (you really only need one), served in its shell with some kimchi juice, giving a big hit of spicy acidity up front and a squeak of that sweet, briny oyster flavour out the back.

The oysters feature kimchi juice for a spicy, briny flavour. Photo / Babiche Martens
The oysters feature kimchi juice for a spicy, briny flavour. Photo / Babiche Martens

There are a few big power snacks like this and we loved them all — especially the salmon on a cracker, torched from above to cook and toast it, with a hot, mustardy mayo hidden somewhere underneath. Duck parfait is more traditional but just as delicious, served with plum and perilla on top, but most notably, tiny shattered pieces of almond to contrast with the silky pâté.

Apart from a round of cocktails that went missing when we first sat down, the service was friendly and hard to fault. For the second time at Commercial Bay this year, we got chatting to a hospitality worker who was several years into a New Zealand OE and hadn’t managed to travel outside of Auckland yet. Something is going wrong with that system, right? I mean, I know Covid kind of messed things up, but the worst thing about hearing that a waiter from Europe is too broke from living in Auckland to visit the South Island is that, as an Aucklander, you totally get it.

We had a good sample of Gochu’s menu, which has a lot of very good options. Eggplant and miso is a winning combo (we had a beautiful one last week at First Mates, Last Laugh) and here it just has a little tilt thanks to doenjang, Korean cuisine’s second most famous flavour paste which, while not interchangeable with miso, is fermented and soy-based too. The aubergine is listed as “crispy”, a nicer way of saying deep-fried, and came in a sort of smooth fish and chip batter with more treats at the bottom of the plate, including a silky, moreish, slightly tangy tofu cream which pops up in a few places on the menu.

The tomato parmigiana. Photo / Babiche Martens.
The tomato parmigiana. Photo / Babiche Martens.

“Parmigiana” is an even nicer way of saying deep-fried, and when I ordered their signature tomato dish, I was surprised to see it turn up like this — with a dark, savoury, crunchy crust. I was so glad we got it though — it’s about time chefs started treating tomatoes mean and keeping us keen, and the addition of stretchy stracciatella cheese and gochujang created multiple juicy layers of flavour.

Then there was the chicken, a total showstopper. No disrespect to our Auckland-imprisoned friend, but I feel like when a dish like this exists, waiters should bully you into ordering it. I would have been so dark if I’d missed this: a sizzling plate of scorched chicken served straight from the oven on what I think was a skillet. I lost track because then she was pouring a jug of liquid cheese over it all, and the whole thing was bubbling (honestly, unless you’re eating a dish like this, why has everybody started sharing static videos of food instead of photos?). With all that flavour, a simple bowl of rice on the side was perfect in the moment.

Gochu’s menu “has a lot of very good options”, says Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens
Gochu’s menu “has a lot of very good options”, says Jesse Mulligan. Photo / Babiche Martens

Our parking cost a total of four dollars in the Downtown carpark, but enjoy that while it lasts because, thanks to a council vote in November, in a year it’ll be knocked down and turned into something else. The something else will be more beautiful, but it won’t have parking spaces. You and I will still be living in a city with some of the best restaurants in the world, but only if we can find enough bright young visitors willing and able to work in them.

From dining out editor Jesse Mulligan.

The below-ground Queen St secret where skewers and vibes are served. Great food, a vibrant setting, and excellent service in an Auckland favourite.

The new late-night bar you’ve been looking for. Serving the flavours of northeastern China and gorgeous cocktails.

A very good steakhouse has risen in Remuera. Manzo delivers a luxurious dining experience with standout dishes like prawn terrine and Wagyu burgers.

Newly renovated Farina is the happiest Italian spot in Ponsonby. With an expanded and refreshed interior, Farina is buzzy and beautiful.

The North Shore has a little gem, and it’s an alfresco pasta spot. It is a food truck, with hand-made gnocchi and excellent individual tiramisu portions.

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