A’meza is not the typical eatery you’ll find lining Dominion Road’s notorious Asian-centric strip. And, while its menu, and the chefs that create it, are from the Philippines, there’s little this eatery shares with its neighbours other than their location. In fact, if we take into account the whole of the Auckland region, this is one new opening that certainly stands out… Here’s why:
We don’t often talk about service when it comes to a restaurants offerings, but indeed it’s a crucial draw-card when recommending a place to a friend, and certainly a huge factor when deciding on whether or not to return. At A’meza the service is oh-so friendly (but not in an overbearing way), knowledgeable and charming—with one of the two owners leaving the kitchen to deliver dishes to the tables, just because she wants to.
Said owner, Leah Escondo and her partner (in both life and the kitchen), Wilfred Laysico are as welcoming as they are passionate. And their passion resonates throughout their brand-spanking-new eatery in a way that almost makes you feel you’ve wandered off the street and into their home, but not in a creepy, intruder-type way. The interior has been well-thought out; the rich wooden floors and tables are broken up with licks of black, pops of greenery and beautiful high-studs.
As mentioned, the owners/chefs originate from the Philippines. And here’s a fun foodie-fact: Hispanics immigrated to the South East Asian country over 500 years ago—which of course means their cuisine reflects this. Asides from that, the Pan Asian influences come from their Northern neighbours of China and Korea—this is one myriad of flavours you don’t want to miss.
To begin, the house made Pandesal (sweet bread) looks like it belongs on the dessert menu. Resembling a doughnut, these light and fluffy balls of dough—typically a breakfast food—are served alongside a perfect cornell of milk curd and a dusting of lavender salt. The oxtail cannelloni is a clever take on the humble spring roll. The hand rolled pastry is perfectly flaky, the braised meat within, tender and flavoursome. The prawn beignets are a must to start—a delightful bowl of prawn fritters made with dense dough, golden thanks to a quick dip in hot oil. Animal lovers aren’t forgotten here. Their beetroot entree is a vibrant artwork of paper thin slices, sauces and baked rounds of the vegetable the dish inherits its name from—the sweetness balanced out with tart apple, milk curd, sesame and salted yolk.
The confit leg of duck is crisp and the meat itself pulls away from the bone effortlessly. The gnocchi is a playful spin on the classic Italian potato pasta, bright green, thanks to the addition of coriander. But the star of the show has to be the market fish, which was hapuka the day we visited. The flaky fillet is perched atop a creamy serve of laksa risotto and garnished with crispy lotus root, radish, peanuts and pea shoots.
A’meza certainly shines among its companions—the exciting and new twist on Asian cuisine, the subtle flavours, the premium produce used, the extensive wine and cocktail list, the beautiful setting and most of all, the warm hospitality, makes this new opening one to add to your to-do list… It’s certainly on ours… Even if we just went. Yes, it’s that good.
For more details on A'meza, including opening hours, click here.
Image credit: Lauren Matilda Matthews