Many Aucklanders will be familiar with Lisa Lee’s food. A chef for over a decade, she and her husband Paul Minkyu Lee opened Ockhee in Ponsonby in 2020, and it’s been a big hit from almost day one. Their aim was to create a new style of authentic Korean food using local produce and flavours Kiwis would appreciate – traditional and modern all at once. Last year the couple also opened Swings, a daytime joint near Auckland Art Gallery centred around Korean street toast.
So, where does a chef who’s turning out some of Auckland’s favourite food eat when she’s not working? With two busy outlets, there’s not a lot of time to dine elsewhere – but when she does, these are her picks.
What’s your favourite coffee spot?
There is this hidden coffee shop in Takapuna by our house called Ark Coffee. I love to go there in the morning when I have time – and also look around our friend’s retail stores in the same space – Long Vacation and Yeram Ceramics.
And we all want to know – where do you go for Korean food?
Mr K BBQ is a low-key Korean barbeque restaurant and butcher located in Albany. They slice meat as they receive orders, so it’s really served fresh. We like to dine here once a week when we are worn out and need wholesome food to energise ourselves. I particularly like their stone barbeque duck. We usually order a whole duck along with their house-made beef loin soybean soup. After finishing the duck, we like to stir-fry rice on top of the leftover sauce, which is a staple in Korean culture. All of their soybean dishes are so good – they make them all in-house.
In between running Ockhee and Swings, there mustn’t be a lot of time for special nights out. Where do you go when you get the chance?
I love Omni, a Yakitori wine bar located on Dominion Road. All their ingredients are so fresh and their Yakitori always retains its juices really well. I highly recommend their prawn toast and eggplant tempura – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a perfectly balanced flavour. The bar-restaurant is really well-balanced and I think the wines and foods harmonise really well.
And for a drink?
Our good friend Taite is the head bartender at Deadshot, so we often end up there for an after-work chill-down drink before going home. Their cocktails are amazing if you’re looking for a great night out.
What about sweet treats?
I love Korean desserts; in fact, I make one called yakgwa [a type of cookie] at Ockhee. But I also love gelato and the one at Takapuna Beach Cafe is great. All of their gelato is house-made, and they change their flavours seasonally. I like to eat cherry yoghurt gelato in the wintertime and sorbets in the summertime. All of their gelatos have a good body and richness – they are really well-balanced, with a clean aftertaste.