30 November 2022
The exciting new brainchild of Gochu and Candyshop’s David Lee.
David Lee, one of the OG Korean fusion creators in NZ, who famously owns one of my favourite brunch spots ‘Candyshop’ (if you’ve read my Mahi Eats: Brunch edition, you’ll know what I mean!) and some other greats like ‘Simon & Lee’ and ‘Gochu’ has created ‘Aigo,’ which opened its doors earlier on 8th November. The lovechild of all of Lee’s favourite cuisines, this new Ponsonby-based noodle bar takes Korean food classics and combines them with European inspired dishes and flavours. Safe to say, it’s unique and unprecedented in the Auckland dining scene.
I’m a sucker for tteokbokki in a gochujang sauce but when I saw modern takes on this such as a cacio e pepe tteokbokki, my interest was immediately piqued and I had to go to this restaurant before the masses had made it mainstream.
The interior is casual and sleek with neutral tones - think green ceilings, low hanging lamps and booths surrounded by brick. It was the perfect dinner spot to catch up with a friend in an unpretentious setting.
To start, I ordered the Crispy Rice Tuna Tartare with flying fish roe ($6 each). This was delicious as the rice was crispy, but the texture of the spicy tuna was soft. The contrasting flavours and textures made this a great entree.
Next, we ordered Tteok Twigim ($11) which was deep-fried tteok (rice cake) embedded in a spicy gochujang sauce. Although I’ve had so much tteokbokki in my life, I’ve never had it as a “Twigim” which means it was deep fried. This felt like a modern take on the traditional tteokbokki that I’m used to and love, as it was lightly battered and had a doughy texture. Although lacking in flavour itself, this was absolutely delectable attributable to the savoury, spicy and salty kick of the gochujang sauce which complimented the fried tteok perfectly.
The chilled cucumber ($12) was the perfect dish to go next served in a kimchi mascarpone sauce which was a mix of sour and spicy from the fermented kimchi but creamy in true mascarpone fashion. The cucumber was also served with a crispy shallot and granny smith which gave it a of citrus.
The crispy eggplant ($22) was one of the stars of the show. A crispy fried eggplant in a Sichuan spiced chilli syrup with a cashew nut butter sauce made this dish crunchy, have a kick of spice yet slightly sweet and creamy with the cashew butter. This was delicious and we were scraping it off the plate, contemplating ordering more.
I am a fan of cacio e pepe, always, so naturally I had to order the Cacio e pepe tteokbokki ($20) which was a real Italy-meets-Korea number. It was a traditional cacio e pepe with torched cheese and more of a truffle sauce with rice cake noodles. This was very peppery and in general is just a flavour I enjoy, but the truffle and the al dente of the tteokbokki noodles really elevated this dish.
The highlight was the Scampi Prawn Hand Pulled Noodles ($38). Resembling a traditional hand pulled noodle dish from your local Chinese restaurant, this dish featured scampi prawn meatballs and prawns in a rich scampi broth seasoned with XO sauce and chilli oil. This was phenomenal. It felt sophisticated with the inclusion of seafood, but also extremely comforting as if I was eating my hand pulled noodles from Eden noodles. I would go again just to re-order this, so it’s a must order if you attend.
On my PQQ scale, I give this an 8 for price. There are dishes at various price points, so you can find something in your budget for sure. It wasn’t an overly expensive dinner, but mains like the scampi, bulgogi or wagyu sat at a higher range from $38 to $45.
For Quality, I give this an 8. The Scampi and eggplant blew me away, and the other dishes were great and well put together with a range of textures and flavours. This restaurant contemplates dishes and mixes cuisines that aren’t immediately obvious, and you have to give it kudos for being outside the box. The food feels high class yet comforting, and I am definitely already pining to go back.
For quantity, I give this a 7. The portion sizes were really good, but I feel like we inhaled the cacio e pepe and that the Scampi noodles could have been slightly bigger, given it was a main at $38. Being a girl with a big appetite, I could have definitely gone for another round of the eggplant too. I didn’t leave hungry, but wasn’t fully satiated and had a little more space to fill.
Coming to a 7.7 on the PQQ scale, this new opening is a must-try. With unique flavours, unexplored dishes and an extensive list of menu items, it’ll have you saying aigoooo (which means ‘oh my’ in Korean if you didn’t know!).