“In Korea,” says Auckland restaurateur David Lee, “people eat rice. Every meal they eat rice. But I don’t eat rice – I eat noodles.”
Lee is known for a string of restaurants and cafes across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, including Simon & Lee in Parnell and Gochu, a celebrated restaurant in Commercial Bay where Korean classics are paired with natural wine.
But with Aigo, his new casual noodle bar on Ponsonby Road, Lee fulfills a dream he’s had for a decade. “It’s finally happened,” he says. Opened with longtime collaborators Tom Hong and Jae Cho, with Kevin Choi as head chef, it’s a slip of a place intended to elevate the humble noodle. People often perceive noodles as cheap and cheerful, though he’s out to change that, with a menu of Korean classics, twisted and played around with.
There are Korean flavours and hand-pulled noodles, combined with surprising elements. A cacio pepe “tteokbokki” (Korean spicy rice cakes) with torched cheese and truffle, say, or a dish of Cloudy Bay clams with hand-pulled sujebi and a seaweed mussel broth. Based on prior experience, I can highly recommend you eat the soondae, Korean blood sausage.
Lee designed the place himself: he started with the food and went from there. The place is reminiscent of a Korean house in the late 1970s or 1980s: handmade terracotta tiles, random vintage pictures, roughly plastered walls. “Old-school Korean village,” he says, “which was my childhood.”
And the name? It translates as “Oh my”.
168 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland