WE HAVE BEEN ON the quest for the best Xiao Long Bao in Auckland and we finally found them at Second Floor in Parnell. Auntie Jenny noticed this restaurant open without fanfare and on a cold winter's night, we decided to give it a go. Parnell is not known for its restaurants (apart from Antiones, Non Solo Pizza and Java Room), it's more a twee tourist destination.
So it's up the stairs of this old grand villa and into a restaurant fitted out without reds, and the dining room openes out to the twinking lights that seem to line much of Parnell. You can't help noticing the three chandeliers. And a large replica phonograph that was playing Chinese traditional music played on the pipa, dizi, guqin and suona. It's rather rather incongrous to see this phonograph, half expecting Nipper the dog to pop up and sit beside the wind-up gramophone listening to His Master's Voice (HMV).
We chose the Xiao Long Bao from the Chinese Pastry section of the menu (Steamed Pork Buns). You get 5 for $8. The benchmark Xiao Long Bao is of course from Din Tai Fung. Yes there are 18 pleats (we counted!) and the the filling of minced pork in soup cannot be faulted. We placed julienne of fresh ginger on top of the Xiao Long Bao on the porcelain spoon, drizzled with a few drops of black Chinese vinegar and proceed to slowly consume this delectable morsel with small bite and sips. Heaven!
There are 11 entrees, of which Olive Leaves & Broad Bean and Beef Floss & Sesame Pockets caught our eye. But it will have to be another time.
Of the mains, the Chef's Special Pork was a standout. It's worth noting the Chefs are from Beijing and Shanghai. The menu describes the Special as slowly cooked and steamed slice pork belly, with chestnuts, long beans and sun-dried vegetable. Our waitperson advised that we won't be disappointed. Truly not. It arrived looking sumptious crafted into a layered pyramid. She said Chef layered the sliced pork belly into a mould before cooking in dark sweet soya sauce. The pork-belly was deconstructed at the table and served on steamed rice. It would have been good to have a little burner under the bowl to keep this dish warm.
We also had the Tomato and Egg to accompany the pork belly. It's more like comfort food for us, a throwback to our younger days when Mum would whip up a quick breakfast or lunch. Light sauce drizzled on the tomato and scrambled egg on rice. Second Floor stuff the tomato with egg as well.
The Dessert menu was tempting especially the Pumpkin Puffs. But we were happily replete and made a mental note of the Lunch Menu.
So we should be very happy with Second Floor. Yes, we were, the food cannot be faulted. It's 8°C outside and there is no heating. Furthermore towards the end of the evening, the two serving staff opened half the windows facing the street, to air the dining room. It wasn't condusive to end our meal in comfort. Maybe that was the reason why the waiter was wearing a black puffer jacket throughout service. Akin to wearing track pants I thought. Not the right attire for a restaurant of this calibre. Nothing that can't be fixed though and this is a gem in Auckland Chinese dining.
317 Parnell Road
Ph (09) 368 5788