When you think of Asian cuisine, Korean food may not be at the forefront of your cravings but it absolutely should be. It’s unique, tasty and yes, there’s more to Korean food than just BBQ meat! Whether you have a hankering for fried chicken or want to get your micronutrients in a flavourful way, the versatility of Korean dishes is perfect for you. Here are some places to get the best Korean food in Auckland.
Let’s start this off with a true and authentic Korean eatery. BannSang don’t just serve up bomb tasting and authentic Korean food but they also stay true to one of the many Korean dining experiences. South Korea is quite a fast paced country so many of the restaurants tend to encourage a speedy culture. BannSang replicates with their fast pace and cluttered tables with side dishes, sizzling hot plates of grilled meats and massive soul warming sharing pots. Head on over to BannSang if you’re wanting to experience an authentic, casual Korean dining experience. BannSang’s stand out dish is their wine samgyupsal, pork belly doused in red wine to bring out the smokiness of the pork while adding moisture, YUM.
From the streets of Korea to your table in Kingsland, you don’t want to miss local legend Chicka. Decked out with a retro fit-out, the joint is a perfect marriage of the two most important food groups—fried chicken and beer. Served up piping hot, golden and crunchy alongside three wicked sauces, it’s no doubt their classic Korean fried chicken is the talk of the town. With a whopping six fried chicken varieties alone, be sure not to forget a side of ooey gooey corn cheesy for the ultimate feast.
Hansik Restaurant & Bar
Offering more of a fine-dining vibe and slower paced part of Korean cuisine, Hansik Restaurant & Bar is a great place to sit down and really take a good moment to enjoy the unique and complex Korean flavours. Each dish is an accurate representation of one of the many traditional dining experiences in Korea. Hansik clearly puts delicate care and thought to all elements of the food they send out of their kitchen from taste, texture and presentation. The raw beef carpaccio is a must when it comes to this eatery. We know, raw beef may sound a little odd but once paired with a creamy egg yolk, it all makes sense. Hansik also has a wide menu of traditional Korean alcohol such as premium quality rice wine or plum wine to compliment the Korean food.
No. 1 Pancake
Street food is a huge thing in Korea and Auckland has been blessed with a Korean pancake house that has landed itself on food network shows in South Korea itself! No. 1 Pancake located has been booming for almost 15 years now and there’s a very good reason for that. These aren’t just your regular pancakes with maple syrup from any old café. These guys cook to order to make your pancake as fresh as possible with surprise fillings. What makes Korean pancakes different to the regular ones we’re so used to mainly comes down to the texture. Crispy on the outside and super chewy on the inside and all the excitement is filled inside, not on top. The OG is the cinnamon sugar pancake but don’t be scared to branch out to the savoury options like the beef and cheese.
Fried chicken may not sound authentic or Korean but don’t knock it till you try it. Korean fried chicken takes it to the next level with their special sauce that marinates the crispy and super tender chicken. The sauce is sweet with a hint of spice and there really isn’t anything like it. If you’re a little anxious about going for the full blown Korean dining experience, consider this your gateway to Korean cuisine. KS Chicken in Albany is the fried chicken hub amongst the Koreans in Auckland as these guys don’t fool around and they stay true to the Korean formula of fried chicken.
We all have those days when we don’t know what the heck we crave. Half of you wants to try something a little new and different and half of you just can’t shake off the need for a good old burger, why not do both? Tiger Burger put a modern Korean twist to Western burgers and add in the infamous Korean fried chicken with the magic sauce, kimchi for the spicy lovers and even do a bulgogi burger for the beef fans out there. Tiger Burger also do a dessert called the chapsal doughnut which is another Korean street food delicacy that is an absolute staple in not just Korean cuisine but Korean culture. The rice flour doughnut is a nostalgic treat among Koreans as it’s usually sold on the side streets by regular locals. It’s super crispy on the outside and extremely chewy on the inside, not too sweet but not bland either and is absolutely deeelish.
Simon & Lee
The café connoisseur of Auckland, David Lee, who is in fact the master mind behind Ben Gusto, Little King, Dear Jervois and Major Sprout has paid homage to his Korean roots and opened a café in Parnell with a Korean inspired menu. Simon & Lee’s bibimbap is not to be missed, the bulgogi is tender with slight sweetness and the hot stone bowl makes the bottom layer or rice have a crispy texture and smokey, charcoal flavour. This dish is also jam packed with micronutrients without compensating the taste, eating your daily greens has never been so easy. Staying true to Korean culture, Simon & Lee also serve amazing Korean fried chicken with a variety of marinades to choose from such as honey, garlic, soy or spicy to elevate your Korean fried chicken experience.
The Candy Shop
Now if you liked No.1 Pancake, this place is an absolute show stopper for you. Taking inspiration from the Korean street food delicacy, The Candy Shop has whipped up a dish that takes things to the next level. The chewy, cinnamon sugar filled pancake is paired with fruit and Nutella mousse and words cannot explain how good this is. To make it even better, you get the options of adding Duck Island ice-cream, maple bacon or fried chicken to the dish. The newly opened café has got us covered for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is actually owned by the wife of Simon & Lee which makes it safe to confirm that all the food here is 10/10.
New kid on the block, Centro in Takapuna isn’t just a bakery with fresh goods but their also an eatery with a Korean inspired menu and chef. Their kimchi fried rice, cheese balls are not to be missed. The spiciness from the kimchi fried rice is balanced out by the creaminess of the cheese and the fried, battered layer adds amazing texture. Paired with a crispy hash and caramelized kumara, this mix of flavours and texture can only be found at Centro. When we say caramelized kumara, we mean toffee-like, crunchy kumara pieces which are a common Korean dessert called matang. This café takes the best elements of Korean cuisine and turns them in to unique, stand out dishes that are most definitely worth trying.
The Kimchi Project
The home of the kimchi waffle fries! These guys were the first to mix spicy, traditional kimchi with creamy mayo and top them on a crispy bed of fries. Therefore, The Kimchi Project is absolutely iconic when it comes to Korean-Western fusion. With one of the best outdoor courtyard spaces in Auckland, this Korean owned eatery with Korean chefs has earned the reputation of being one of the hottest cafes in Auckland and they’re also super busy in the evenings as well. Another stand out dish is the DIY Ssam, lettuce wraps and tender cuts of meat is highly common in Korea and The Kimchi Project does this dish justice.
Little & Kitchen
Locals of Glen Innes have been absolutely blessed with one of the best Korean takeaways in Auckland. With a mix of authentic Korean dishes and fusion creations, Little & Kitchen have something for everyone. If you’re in the mood for a classic dish that doesn’t play around, the jaeyuk kimchi deopbap is the one for you. Spicy marinated pork with kimchi and rice with a yolky fried egg is a common delicacy among Koreans and is an explosion of flavour and texture. Little & Kitchen are also one of the very few places that serve up the Korean street food delicacies – deep fried seaweed rolls filled with glass noodles and Korean street toasties. What makes these toasties special is that they add a crunchy slaw for extra texture and use a generous serving of scrambled eggs to add some depth and creaminess to the sandwich.
There’s a lot of Western, Asian fusion joints out there but have you ever heard of Korean, Chinese fusion? Believe it or not, it’s actually a common thing for Korean people and is a staple fast food. Harimgak is a restaurant with Korean owners putting their own twist on Chinese sichuan and stir fried dishes. This place is perfect for those people who are craving Chinese takeaways but want something a little lighter on the oil, spice and sodium. The classic Korean Chinese dish is the jjajangmyeon which is a noodle dish coated in a black bean paste and caramelised onions. Sounds weird, we know but don’t knock it till you try it.
Previously located on Lorne Street, Obar was the social hub for New Zealand Korean locals before they closed down in 2016. Now they’re back at a new location and better than ever, serving up Korean drunk food and soju till the late hours of the night. Soju is the alcoholic beverage of choice in Korea and this stuff is strong so take things slow. Obar have brought the trending dishes at the bars in Korea fire spicy grilled chicken with cheese fondue to Auckland and we could not be more excited. Enjoy a weekend night out the Korean way and trade in your usual glass on wine for a shot of soju.
One thing that makes Korean dining so special is the endless amount of side dishes that are complimentary to the main dish you order. Totoya located in Rosedale have a menu of traditional Korean main dishes such as the steamed seafood medley with spicy sauce and it comes with almost 10 plates of more food. Use these sides to take your bowl of rice to the next level as they add flavour and texture to the spoonful’s of simple carbohydrate which makes your dining experience so much more interesting and exciting. Also, don’t be shy to ask for refills for the side dishes! That’s completely normal in Korean restaurants and no, you will not be charged!
Lorne Street, Albany
This one is for the connoisseurs of Korean food who think they’ve done it all. Fried chicken, bulgogi and raw meat has been ticked off the list and they’re wanting something a little more thrilling. Well, have you tried pig skin and pig feet? It may sound weird but it’s a delicacy that is common and popular amongst Koreans. Kaya don’t let any bit of pork go to waste and prove that all bits of the meat can be tasty depending on how you cook it. They of course also do the classic and traditional Korean meals for the newbies out there but this is a great place for those who want to challenge themselves and experience something completely new.
After reading that list and you just want to try a bit of everything, The Buffet is an all-you-can-eat restaurant with a huge variety of Korean dishes and meat you get to grill by yourself. So you get the full Korean BBQ experience and to make it even better, you get to have a taste of all the different sorts of food Korean cuisine has to offer. From fresh vegetable side dishes, the infamous Korean fried chicken to traditional Korean desserts like the caramelized toffee kumara, this place is perfect if you have all the curiosity and cravings but very little time.
Image Credit: Jaiden Bhaga, Kate Rose