55 Albert Street,
(09) 358 4838
The ViewAuckland Review
Ding How Chinese Restaurant is a fixture on the downtown Auckland dining scene, which is probably why it can afford to be inauspiciously situated.
Despite an Albert Street address, the front door is, in fact, on St Patrick’s square, next to a karaoke bar and one of Auckland’s flashest of fine dining establishments. We squeezed through an impromptu carpark and ascended an unkempt staircase into the restaurant.
Our booking for four that Thursday evening turned out to be unnecessary—we were the only people in the place—though it did secure us prime position by the large windows overlooking the square.
We had brought two BYO bottles of wine (corkage is $4 per bottle). Thanks to a language difficulty, the staff opened and served first the one we wanted to save for later.
The menu here is of Cantonese standards: deep fried appetizers, soups, stir-fried and sizzling seafood, chicken, pork and beef with various accompaniments, casseroles, fried rice and noodles.
We started with two spring rolls ($4.50), cut in half to make four portions. They had a heavy starchy wrapping which had been over-fried till very greasy, somewhat spoiling the very good filling of mushroom and cabbage.
Our mains were adequately prepared, but a bit underwhelming. Szechuan beef ($16) was basic stir-fried beef, onion, baby corn, carrot, celery and bamboo with some red chilli flakes added. Bok choy ($18) was simply stir-fried with lots of garlic.
Our fried rice ($15) was nice and dry and included some omelette and more-ishly sweet barbecued pork.
An inventive and appealing list of chef’s specials is where Ding How really shines. We chose the dish they are best known for: steamed whole fish ($28).
That night, we had the choice of snapper or blue cod, and we chose the latter. The waitress carved it into pieces at the table, and the soy-ginger-garlic sauce added an exquisite glossiness to the tender fish. Coriander and spring onion were added for a crunchy topping.
As we ate, accompanied by The Carpenters’ greatest hits on the stereo, a few more customers arrived in the long, sparely decorated dining room. I suspect Ding How is much busier at lunchtime, when they serve dim sum.
The waitress cleared our table, and let us linger comfortably to chat over tea ($1 for a bottomless pot).
An enjoyable, reliable, value-for-money meal, though not overly inspiring.
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