Restaurant Review: Pocha’s Blossoming Spice

Kitchen: korean
Address: 50 Kitchener Street, CBD
Call: (09) 309 2342
Reservations: Accepted
Drinks : Fully Licensed
From the menu: fish eggs and rice $18; almond-crusted fried chicken $29; pork belly and kimchi $43; seafood crepe 30$

It is possible in Auckland to have a succession of good meals and find yourself wishing for a little more fun.

I’ve been out for maybe 15 dinners in the last month and inevitably by 9pm the restaurant is nearly empty. As we eat our main courses, the people at the tables around us yawn and put on their jackets.

Soon we’re the only ones left, and although our waiter doesn’t act like he’s expecting us to leave, there’s no indication he wants us to stay.

We’ve become a girl town, I think. We love going out but we love coming home even more. Increasingly, the best way to follow a good restaurant meal is not cocktails and dancing, but drinking herbal tea on your own sofa, watching a TV show about dragons.

I get it – my wife and I are the same – but if I ever decide that in fact, yes, I would like to get started a bit, it can be really hard to find a place to do that.

Fish eggs and rice. Photo / Babiche Martens

It’s these somewhat sad experiences that made me so happy at Pocha, a hard-to-find Korean restaurant at the top of The Chancery (if you’re walking up Kitchener St from The Metropolis, you should check it out).

Pocha was alive, from the moment I walked in, and when I left around 10 p.m., people were still arriving – quickly claiming the seats of those of us who had just left.

This is not a restaurant for girls. It’s a thriving and energetic Korean restaurant that makes you feel like you’re in a city of 1.6 million people, not Masterton on a Tuesday.

The only downside to Pocha’s energy is that she’s a bit intimidating. It seems like every other table knows what they want to eat and drink, but for starters, a multi-page menu and unfamiliar drink selection might give you a hard time.

READ: Gganbu’s crowd-pleasing plates

The staff are lovely but their main role when you arrive is to show you the QR code which will allow you to order things on your phone. You could really use a nice waiter to tell you about the menu, but this isn’t that kind of place.

Luckily, Albert Cho from @Eatlitfood, who recommended Pocha to me, also suggested a list of dishes. So I ordered (and feel free to do the same, we all have to start somewhere) the fish roe and rice, the fried chicken and an excellent sliced ​​pork belly with kimchi, salad and some sauces.

I also had a bottle of original Soju (when I was in Rome, you know) but it was a hard drink to enjoy, tasting something like cold vodka.

“Most of the tables are in an outdoor area, beautifully lit in a faint orange glow.” Photo / Babiche Martens

The waiter saw me struggling and suggested that one of the flavored sojus might be better ‘for Europeans’.

He didn’t say that meanly and to be honest he was right, a bit of sweetness from the green grape did a much better job, for me, against the spicy and salty flavors of the food.

Fish eggs are a great dish, served in a ceramic pot in which the rice is still sizzling on arrival. You mix it with egg yolk and dip it in, the eggs acting as a lovely sea seasoning for the starch, while tiny bits of octopus add textural interest and deliciousness.

Almond-Crusted Chicken is also a delicious and satisfying dish – the batter gets both crunch and extra flavor intensity from those nuts. I’m pretty sure I spotted some cornflakes too, just to increase the crunch even more, and you can choose your dipping sauce (we went with jalapeno mayonnaise).

READ: Tokki’s refined yet comforting sweet spot

When I paid my bill, the guy at the counter described Pochu’s food as traditionally Korean with “a few extra twists, for Europeans”.

But don’t feel like it’s a monochromatic restaurant – one of the best things about it is to look around and see a room full of people who reflect the demographics of the city in which you find yourself.

The dishes are huge (you’re not very knowledgeable about this as the portions are listed by weight in grams which isn’t much help as anyone who has tried to order garlic from an online supermarket the will know) and at a low price, so there is also a mix of ages.

Seafood galette, fish roe and rice, crispy chicken with almonds and roasted garlic pork. Photo / Babiche Martens

All in all, it looks like a great opportunity to eat some delicious food in a room full of diverse and happy people.

Most of the tables are in an outdoor area, beautifully lit in a faint orange glow. You might have to put up with a bit of cigarette smoke, but on the plus side there’s great access — those with mobility issues will appreciate a long, gently sloping ramp from the sidewalk to the dining area.

I’ve wanted to add access information to reviews for a while now, but was a little nervous about getting it wrong.

However, I don’t want perfection to be the enemy of good, so I’ll start mentioning it where appropriate, and would love to hear from you on what you do and don’t like on information that I provide – especially if you regularly experience access issues that prevent you from having a good evening.

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