So, without further ado, Chow.
This is probably one of my favourite restaurants in Wellington (well there are 2 locations in central Wellington, 1 in Petone and they've expanded to Auckland too). The theme is "Fresh Asian" - which is exactly what it sounds like: Asian flavours, fresh ingredients. Not bad.
My friend H and I went in to the Woodward St location (there's also one on Tory St, in Petone and they've expanded to Auckland too) the week before Christmas for lunch, and we were given complimentary cups of miso soup (normally $3). I forgot to ask if this is the usual practice, since I haven't often been in at lunchtime, but it was a nice touch. The broth was superb; the natural umami of the miso was enhanced by toasted sesame seeds, and the interplay of textures between the silky tofu and almost-crunchy spring onion slices was fantastic.
H and I split the roast Pekin duck salad ($18). Juicy slices of duck were tossed with beansprouts, slices of orange, Southeast Asian-inspired herbs (Thai basil, coriander and mint) in a chilli palm sugar dressing. It was cool, crunchy and refreshing - yet substantial enough due to the hefty duck slices.
Chow's menu has an array of what they call "long plates", which are tapas-like in concept: small (though long and thin) plates of usually bite-size morsels of food. They're meant for sharing, and not that big - the menu recommends two long plates per person - but on this occasion I wasn't that hungry so one dish each sufficed.
The rib of beef ($17), seasoned with a coconut, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime and chilli marinade, was succulent, a little sweet yet spicy, a bit messy but totally worth the sticky fingers. There's never really an elegant way to eat ribs, and these were no exception. I polished off quite a few, sucking the last caramelised bits of marinated meat off each bone.
We also got jasmine rice free with our meal, which nicely filled in any remaining gaps in our stomachs (though there were few).
Somehow we managed to fit in dessert - H had a brownie and I had this sorbet trio ($9) with cinnamon, star anise and saffron syrup. The sorbet was fruity and refreshing (I would have written down the sorbet flavours had I known I wouldn't be writing this till a month later! But I'm sure one of the flavours was passionfruit, and I seem to remember a melon-y flavour as well - don't quote me on this), and the syrup was divine. I found myself desperately trying to scrape up every last drop from my empty plate - not very good table manners, I know!
Anyway, if you live in Wellington, you're probably aware of Chow. If you haven't been there, I'd recommend it. It's pretty reliable for decent Asian-influenced food (though bear in mind that portion sizes might be smaller than at other places since it's really more for sharing). The atmosphere is casual, yet sophisticated (but not pretentiously so) - attracting a mix of younger and older, laid-back types and the more straightlaced; a good cross-section of Wellingtonians, perhaps?
Plus their "1+1 Mondays" are great - order one dish, get another free - a bargain, really. On Wednesdays they have a selection of pretty decent cocktails that are 2 for 1 as well. Service is generally good; although it does get pretty busy on weekends and on Mondays, the staff usually seem to keep it together pretty well.
11 Woodward St
(04) 472 8585
Open Mon-Fri, noon - late
Level 1, 45 Tory St
(04) 382 8585
Open daily, noon - late
306 Jackson St
(04) 589 8585
Open daily, noon - late
*Ah, Wellington, how I miss you...
**Mostly working on one major project, but on the side I've been helping out at my aunt's exhibition at Gallery O in the Christchurch Arts Centre - this is a shameless plug, but if anyone reading this is in Christchurch, by all means feel free to check it out! It's pretty cool, and not just because the my aunt's the artist. Plus proceeds from sales of her cards are going towards the Banks Peninsula Tui Restoration Project, which is doing great work so far.
***Sort of... as I type this I should really be packing because I'm going to visit a friend in Queenstown for a few days tomorrow morning! So, I guess technically I'm still on holiday. Or something.