Greetings ladles and jelly-spoons!
So our dual first food post will be on the Korean BBQ restaurant on Lorne St, in Auckland CBD. It's address is 5 Lorne Street, Auckland for those who have curious souls. It's relatively high end and the service is quite good. It gets really crowded around 7 ish so it is best if you make a booking if you want to make sure you get a table.
I know that's not much to go on so lets dive right into it:
Atmosphere: The restaurant is pretty big despite the entrance being deceptively average-sized and easy to miss. It's well-lit and there are little details that give the place a Korean feel to it,from things like the chairs and the wooden kitchen windows, to the more authentic touches such as the wallpaper, the screen doors, etc which we love as you feel like you've just walked into a nice little restaurant in Seoul. Having gone to this place sometime close to the winter season the warmth from the many grills operating at the time were a welcome addition. There is the issue of the place being a quite smoky from the BBQs because the fan tube can't suck up everything, so it's recommended to sit at a table nearer to the entrance. That being said , a down side to sitting near the entrance is that you may get additional smoke from cigarette users from outside. Try not to sit in a confined room, as it's a lot more smoky than the other tables due to the fact that there are no windows whatsoever and no ventilation other than the fan tubes.
Food: We had two orders of beef scotch fillet, one order of pork belly, one order of prawn and one order of ox tongue. These were all cooked on a charcoal grill just like the ones in Seoul (we've been there, we would know) as shown in the picture below and as mentioned before there's a vacuum from the ceiling to suck up the smoke (also shown in the picture below). Take note that the grill is really hot and simply radiates heat, so unless you thrive on that kind of temperature don't put your face too close to it (I know that's common sense but there are certain people out there...).
Side dishes are refilled for you for free which is a huge plus side for this place as the meats themselves usually aren't enough to fill a person up. When ordering a main (Beef, Pork etc) you are automatically eligible for seven side dishes. The side dishes are quite appealing and you really are fairly spoilt for choice with seven of them. Out of all the chestnut jelly one is usually the one that has to be replaced the most often. It has a delightful texture (for those who are into that kinda thing) and has a note quite salty but not overly sweet taste with a hint of nuttiness. From what we could tell from the menu (which is in Korean but with English subtitles) for another $20 you could get an extra two side dishes plus a salad and a traditional Korean soup that usually accompanies a BBQ so it really is up to the individual on whether they're going there for the whole experience or just for the basics.
|The larger option for side dishes.|
Personally I preferred the beef, because it has more taste than the pork. The ox tongue was also alright but I wouldn't order it on my own. I personally preferred the pork but that's simply because nowadays I find myself enjoying pork a lot more in general. Both meals were cooked to give them the best texture possible and none were under-cooked nor over done in any way. The pieces did vary, some were bite sized others were too large and had to be cut further so I think consistency is a small issue here.The ox tongue was nothing to rave about, and in terms of value for money was probably something that I regretted ordering.
Each person is given a dish with a small amount of salt on one side and a fair amount of some sort of sweet sauce on the other with a space for your meats in the middle. I think that the meats by themselves were fairly bland as they're not marinated (there is an option for marinated meats on the menu but this time we're just reviewing what we got) and dipping each bite of meat with a small amount of salt and then followed by the sweet sauce is the way I tend to go with eating it.
Presentation: Although this is a BBQ and food presentation is not a big thing, there is a fair amount to comment on in general. The grill, for example, is such a cool piece of cookware. The wire that the meat is cooked on is much better than in other BBQ places where it's a flat metal plate like some modern heating element. We love how that in Faro, you are able to see through and view the live coals underneath and the specific kind of grill that they use is very similar if not the same as the ones we saw while in Seoul, which adds an authentic feel to your meal. For the food itself however raw meat on a plate generally isn't very attractive unless you.. are into that kind of thing then this part is probably not for you. The side dishes, however, were presented neatly in little dishes. However, seeing as it's a relatively high priced restaurant you would think the staff's uniform could be more professional than a colorful apron with their black clothing, maybe that's a Korean thing, but I know I've never seen that till now but feel free to leave me a comment below to let me know otherwise.
Service: The staff are very friendly and the owner himself interacts with all the customers too. Also, sometimes it takes a while for them to get back to you and although they cook the meal for you we have learnt from experience that sometimes the place gets too busy and that you should always keep an eye on your meat yourself if you don't want to be eating cinders. On that note a winning point for this restaurant is that if you don't know how to use the BBQ or you just want to relax and let someone else do it for you, this place is ideal because they usually take charge if you're a foreigner to these things (and by foreigner I mean anyone who's not Korean). One thing I would comment on is the fact that the staff don't ask if you want refills, like they do in Korea. Some customers may not be aware that you can refill for free, and when you show that you're willing to refill the side dishes, then it makes people feel more at ease. It was fairly awkward for us ask for refills so when it's offered it makes you feel like it truly is a service driven restaurant especially if it's something that they provide.
Price: The price was around $120+ for about five dishes . Unfortunately we didn't get a receipt so we can't give you the exact price but as you can tell it was fairly pricey. Not quite on the high fancy gourmet restaurants but at an average of about $24 a meal it wouldn't exactly be a student's first choice. If you went there with a group of people with small appetites, you might feel it's more worth the price. The side dishes are refilled for free, but as we mentioned above some people feel like it's quite awkward to ask for them so they generally won't. I suppose the money goes towards the service and the experience along with the authentic feel of the place as even with that kind of price tag on most nights this place is fairly packed.
Conclusion: Overall Faro on Lorne Street is a delightful restaurant to go to for many occasions. Perhaps not an intimate date setting (unless a smoky room with the smell of wine and cheap perfume is your idea of a romantic date) but definitely for a party, casual dinner (family or with friends) or for an authentic Korean BBQ experience. Their service is great and their food relatively well done. Everything about it, from the menus to the equipment used, screams authentic Korean restaurant and as we've mentioned many times before it's like stepping off the streets of Auckland and into Seoul. There are small things that we feel could be improved upon but in general this is really a one of a kind place that is probably only matched by their other branch out in the North Shore (though we have yet to try it). Recommended from their menu is the beef or pork (really depending on your preference at the time) and is further recommended to stay away from the luxury items such as ox tongue as they as add unnecessary cost for very little value.
Thanks for reading this blog!!