More is less

Huami’s food doesn’t al­ways match its ex­trav­a­gant in­ten­tions.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Restaurants - TEXT — KATE RICHARDS

Huami’s more-is-more at­ti­tude is ob­vi­ous from the mo­ment you walk through the lip­stick-red lac­quered doors into the op­u­lent SkyCity-owned Shang­hai- in­spired din­ing room.

The restau­rant has three pri­vate rooms, a tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled cel­lar, a duck-age­ing room, live-seafood tanks, a be­spoke wood-fired oven pro­vid­ing the fo­cal point of the main din­ing room, and open-plan kitchens. The menu is as ex­trav­a­gant as the fit-out, with prices up into three fig­ures. With all that luxe, you might feel like a rich-lis­ter for an hour or so. And hon­estly, that’s a pretty good feel­ing.

Things start well with drinks in the bar, one of the best stocked in the city; it has a page-long gin list, “whisky wall”, and house bai­jiu (Chi­nese dis­tilled spirit). Cock­tails are ex­cel­lent. The Royal 75 with ly­chee, gin and cham­pagne is a high­light, as is the spiced ne­groni — a sort of cold-cur­ing win­ter tonic. Ev­ery guest in the bar gets a com­pli­men­tary bas­ket of flu­oro-coloured prawn crack­ers. They’re strangely ad­dic­tive, de­spite hav­ing the con­sis­tency of poly­styrene.

In con­trast, the wine list is un­nec­es­sar­ily long. It feels far too much like a som­me­lier flex­ing their mus­cles than a list that’s of any use to a diner. By page 13’s “in­ter­na­tional red va­ri­eties”, you start to feel a bit sorry for the staff. And when the waiter strug­gles to ad­vise which of three chardon­nays by the glass, if any, is Ch­ablis­style, there’s a prob­lem.

An open-plan kitchen for each of the three sec­tions on the menu — dim sum, wood oven and wok — cre­ates a sense of theatre. But be­cause most hero dishes come from the fruit-wood oven or live tanks, the menu is meat/seafood heavy, and cob­bling to­gether a co­he­sive veg­e­tar­ian meal can be a chal­lenge. The staff could help with this, but even though we pre-warned the restau­rant that half our party was veg­e­tar­ian, our waiter rec­om­mended only an­i­mals.

Look closely enough and you’ll find the Sichuan-style cu­cum­ber salad. It was one of only two dishes we had at Huami that seemed el­e­vated be­yond what you could get at any other good Chi­nese restau­rant. Uni­formly plated and ex­pertly bal­anced, it was more than the sum of its parts — the fruit lightly mac­er­ated in a heady pud­dle of numb­ing chilli oil.

The same can be said of the dim sum with their gos­samer-thin wrap­pers, gen­er­ous fill­ing and pre­ci­sion pleats and gar­nishes. At $20 for four, they should be mem­o­rable — thank­fully, they are.

From the veg­eta­bles sec­tion, deep-fried homemade spinach egg tofu with oys­ter mush­rooms is a mouth­ful of salty but oth­er­wise bland goo. The sticky wet­ness of the sauce ren­ders any crunchy bits from fry­ing point­less: a

$24 waste of calo­ries.

Seafood dishes and wood fired-meat seem to be where ex­ec­u­tive chef Jeff Tan’s strengths lie. The spicy wok-fried prawns, while not par­tic­u­larly spicy, are firm-fleshed and juicy, and the sauce tasty enough. The del­i­cate cray­fish pro­vides good tex­tu­ral con­trast with the crispy noo­dles it sits on, even if it’s over­pow­ered by a claggy sauce.

All fat and sweet­ness and smoke, the char sui pork is sin­fully good and the kind of thing your hun­gover self might want to shame­lessly wedge — with the ac­com­pa­ny­ing mus­tard — be­tween two slices of white bread. And the Pek­ing duck’s skin is a thing of aro­matic blis­tered beauty, though the flesh can be dry.

Huami is of­ten full be­cause it caters well to the peo­ple it’s try­ing to at­tract — wealthy hol­i­day­mak­ers.

But while it suc­ceeds in what it’s try­ing to be, I’m not con­vinced Auck­land needs it. Let’s hope some of those tourists head to Do­min­ion Rd, where they can ar­guably eat bet­ter for less.

ABOVE— Huami’s bar is one of the best stocked in Auck­land.

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