Kristy Chanusorn has worked in some of Auckland’s most popular restaurants including Blue Breeze Inn, Cibo, Woodpecker Hill and Mekong Baby and now she’s bringing a wonderful combination of all her experience to her own menu at Albany’s new kid on the block, Black Rice. Owner Dante Bai couldn’t be more delighted, as will anyone living near to this new pan Asian haven, whose menu is bursting with the flavours of China and southeast Asia.
“We opened quietly a few months ago,” says Dante “but now we’ve truly found our feet and what our customers love, and are really excited about officially launching our first summer menu this week. People are so happy to have something a little different in Albany and we’re getting a lot of customers from the Bays, Silverdale and Millwater as well.”
Kristy grew up in her parent’s restaurant in Thailand and has been cooking her whole life. When she came to New Zealand 20 years ago she did a degree in culinary arts at AUT, learning how to elevate what she had always cooked, to New Zealand modern restaurant standard. After her first two years at Cibo she started working for well-known restaurateur Mark Wallbank at Moo Chow Chow and went on to help as he opened more and more popular restaurants like Blue Breeze Inn and Woodpecker Hill. “I’ve loved learning to take the best of all different Asian cuisines and combine them into dishes people go crazy for. Dante’s given me such a great chance to create my perfect menu and so far it’s going really well.”
Bai, who has worked in property management and has a PHD in finance has also grown up with a passion for food. “Food is such an important part of life in China and I’ve always wanted to start my own place, I just needed the right chef. I advertised and interviewed Kristy but she actually turned me down, thinking I was too young to know what I was doing.” But he didn’t give up “I chased her more than I chased my wife” he laughs “I knew she was the magic we needed here and eventually I convinced her to come to Black Rice. She’s amazing!”
The menu is made up of Bar Snacks, Small Sharing Eats, Large Sharing Eats, Sides & Extras and Dessert. Flavour bomb dishes like Tempura Eggplant and Cauliflower with Chilli, black vinegar caramel sit alongside Twice cooked pork belly with Tamarind chilli caramel sauce and their excellent duck curry. And there’s a very reasonably priced wine list and great cocktails to boot. “Our Lychee Mojitos are flying out the door and local office workers are enjoying coming in for a few drinks with some bar snacks or small plates after work. We want to welcome everyone - from those looking for that quick drink and a bite, to solo lunchtime diners, to big groups of friends and first dates. There are so many good dining options in this new area but many are only about the - very good - food. We want to be a place people can stay a while and relax a while.
The interior certainly encourages this, with birdcages filled with flowers hanging from the ceiling, beautiful silk cushions and lovely booths with lamps and dark wood. “So often the Auckland Asian dining experience is all about the food, and not the ambience, we want to be different” says Dante. “We think Albany deserves great food and a great vibe in a place people want to come every week”.