You may have sampled your fair share of Korean fried chicken and bibimbap but what about tteokbokki and sundaeguk? In Auckland we are lucky enough to be spoilt with an excellent range of Korean eateries, serving up time-honoured and contemporary dishes alike. From the truly authentic to modern interpretations, these are the best Korean restaurants in town.
Helmed by Auckland hospitality veteran David Lee, Aigo was a concept born from his desire to put Korean cuisine on the mainstream map. And really, that’s exactly what he has done. Aigo was opened as delicious noodle spot on Ponsonby Road, and six months later, Lee opened a second outpost in Newmarket. The food at both spots is undeniably delicious, with the Ponsonby location more focused on an array of mouthwatering noodle dishes (like Mapo Tofu Hand Pulled Noodles with silken tofu and pork in a Sichuan chilli sauce) and the Newmarket outpost offering something slightly different (the Korean barbecue take on T-bone steak served with soy mustard, onion brûlée and confit garlic is out of this world). Whichever location you go to, it’s clear the Aigo team’s dedication to reimagining classic Korean dishes and flavours for the discerning modern palette. With an ever-evolving offering and a desire to keep pushing culinary boundaries, Aigo has become one of our absolute favourite places for a delicious and satiating bite.
If you’re in search of authenticity, look no further than The Place in Takapuna. This restaurant has it all, from classic Korean fried chicken to more adventurous dishes like pork back-bone potato soup (a very common delicacy in South Korea). The Place is a go-to spot for Korean families as the wholesome and hearty dishes accurately reflect what one might find on the streets of Seoul. We suggest you gather some friends, go in a group and order the gul bossam. Enough to feed at least four, it consists of a large platter of pork belly, lettuce wraps, spicy kimchi and comes with fresh oyster salad.
Started by renowned Korean chef Jason Kim (known for his work at Commercial Bay’s Gochu and also his tenures in the kitchens of Sidart, Cassia, The Grove and Clooney) Tokki is a delicious restaurant and wine bar serving the kind of Korean food you’re unlikely to have ever tried before. Born in Korea but raised in New Zealand, Kim creates cuisine that is beloved for the way that it straddles the two cultures in which he was raised — where authentic bites are delivered in a contemporary way, and fresh New Zealand produce is harnessed to create truly unique dishes. Tokki’s menu heroes pared-back but delightfully inspired cuisine that puts an unexpected twist on authentic flavours, while its inviting space, set in the heart of Milford’s bustling main street, offers a calm, refined haven. Kim describes the Tokki menu as authentic fare, where the food offers a more playful take on Korean cuisine without losing its refined edge. And with an ever-changing seasonal menu to reflect Kim’s focus on fresh ingredients, it’s definitely worth heading to this spot more than once — no two times will be the same. Ultimately, Tokki offers considered and elevated traditional dishes that reimagine classic street-food tropes and snacks that speak to the chef’s heritage. And trust us when we say that everything here is utterly delicious.
When Gochu landed in Commercial Bay, it quickly carved out a reputation for serving some of the tastiest Korean fare in town. More contemporary than traditional, with cuisine described as ‘New Korean’, Gochu offers the perfect dining experience for both seasoned fans of Korean flavour and novices looking to whet their appetite. The cold noodles are excellent, as is the famous fried chicken (which packs a serious spice punch). The Gochu cordon bleu with crumbed pork, raclette cheese and spicy Worcestershire is also a showstopper, while the pillowy-soft milk buns filled with spicy pork and kimchi and served with beurre blanc are a cult-favourite, known to regularly sell out within the first few hours of service. With Co-Owner and Executive Chef, Nathan Lord at the helm, Gochu continues to go from strength to strength, and is always at the top of our list when dining downtown.
Don’t be deterred by the location of this restaurant — Tae Neung is the real deal. Tucked away next to the Albany Rosedale Motel, this is without a doubt one of Auckland’s best Korean BBQ restaurants, even people from the other side of town venture over just to satisfy their Korean cuisine cravings. The menu offers a range of different cuts of meat, but it’s the fresh beef short ribs and marinated beef short ribs you need to go for. End your feast with the mulnaengmyun, a cold buckwheat noodle dish that is unbelievably refreshing and cleansing on the palate.
Described as putting the ‘Soul from Seoul into Ponsonby’, Ockhee has injected plenty of flavour into Auckland’s most popular strip since it opened in 2020. Owners Paul Minkyu Lee and Lisa Lee have taken authentic Korean food and added familiar Kiwi-style elements to create fresh, harmonious plates. With a menu that boasts as many thoughtful vegetarian options as it does meat dishes, Ockhee’s delicious offering is a must-try. Som highlights include the Japchae Noodle, comprising kumara noodles, capsicum, carrot, mushroom, onion and sesame oil (and a dressing that packs a punch of fresh, authentic flavour), the Bul Bo Ssam, which sees melt-in-your-mouth, slow-braised pork, flame grilled in Ockhee’s signature spicy sauce and of course, the Dak Gang Jeong, Ockhee’s take on Korean Fried Chicken served with either sweet chilli and roasted peanut glaze or spicy soy and sesame glaze. All of this deliciousness is made even better served with a natty wine from Ockhee’s curated list.
Nestled amongst avocado on toast and eggs benedict, you’ll find modern Korean food at its most creative at all-day eatery Simon & Lee. The menu showcases classic Korean ingredients and cooking techniques in a clever, approachable and undeniably delicious way. Favourites include the bulgogi spaghetti with grilled beef, shiitake mushrooms and glistening egg yolk, along with any of the dolsot dishes (served in a sizzling stone pot). The fried chicken is a signature for a reason, with flavours like wasabi soy and danger spicy to pique your palate.
Another hotspot for Korean BBQ is Red Pig in the CBD. Staying true to its name, this restaurant specialises in cuts of pork. With charcoal grills on each table, a smoky aroma is infused into every succulent slice of pork and works to cut through the meat’s richness. Although the frozen cuts are available (and cheaper), always go for the fresh ones as the flavours are more vibrant and the overall experience will be more enjoyable. Other cuts you could try are the neck, jowl and even the intestines if you’re wanting to take yourself out of your comfort zone.
Soups and stews are probably the most prevalent dishes in Korean cuisine, even more so than fried chicken and BBQ meats. The soups at Teolbo go beyond the regular. Think hearty lamb, whole chicken with ginseng and arguably the most popular, blood sausage soup. Also known as ‘sundaeguk,’ this soup comprises a deep bone broth, with sausages filled with glass noodles and served with pork offal and offcuts.
Offering a slightly more refined yet very authentic Korean dining experience is Jami in Wairau Valley. From the presentation of the dishes to the ambience of the restaurant, Jami proves that Korean cuisine isn’t limited to cheap prices and cheerful environments. Jami is also one of the rare restaurants in town that serves ganjang saewoo, which translates to raw prawns. This may sound odd to some, but if you’re a seafood fanatic, you can’t go past this one. The raw prawns boast plump textures and have been soaked in sweet soy sauce to cut through the ocean flavour.
When it comes to a fun-filled Korean dining experience, Pocha is our favourite place to go for a spot of soju on the weekend. Soju is the number one Korean alcoholic beverage and we are warning you — this stuff is strong. As food is mandatory when drinking soju, Pocha’s menu features the best of Korean ‘pub grub’. From almond cornflake fried chicken to tteokbokki (rice cakes in spicy sauce with melted cheese), everything that comes out of Pocha’s kitchen is guaranteed to impress.