When Chris Kim originally opened his Williamson Avenue spot in 2021, it was as cafe Janus Eatery, designed to cater to the area’s daytime crowd and office workers.
But then came Covid-related complications. If inventiveness and flexibility were key to a hospitality business's success before the pandemic, Auckland’s 107-day lockdown proved these qualities even more essential – and with his kitchen closed, Kim undertook a refresh of the interiors and menu.
On the last day of May 2022, Janus Eatery reopened as Banziha – a bar and restaurant serving Korean sharing plates, organic wine and beer on tap, and soju.
It still operates with a lunch menu during the week until 3pm. You can order Korean classics such as bulgogi, fried chicken (OG or sweet and spicy), bibimbap and vegetable glass noodles, or stop in for a coffee or tea.
Every evening, neon lights draw the eye through its large windows, and video projections of South Korean city scenes shift on an inside wall. The space is simply laid-out with high ceilings and an industrial feel; on the ground level of the recently completed Cider Building development, it might seem an incongruous location, but its busy pathway outside provided Kim with the inspiration for the name and concept change.
The inclined pathway along the big window reminded him of the "Banziha" (also known as banjiha) apartments that anyone who's seen the Oscar-winning 2019 film Parasite will be familiar with. A type of basement apartment occupied by thousands of low-income people in South Korea, where the view is usually only of the feet of people walking along the street above.
On the expanded dinner menu, find signatures such as pork belly cooked on charcoal (samgyeopsal) with stir-fried kimchi, and “volcanic Korean chicken” (also known as cheese buldak) for fans of a cheese-pull opportunity.
Other sharing plates include butter-glazed tofu, sweet and spicy cauliflower and spicy pork back ribs (mae-un-deung-galbi-jjim) – often there’s an option to add the Korean rice cake, tteok-bokki.
Wine-wise, Banziha currently serves Still Life wine and Continental Platter prosecco – all on tap. There's also hazy pale ale on tap and Cass beer by the bottle.
Soju was a big feature from day one. While the team started with three flavours, you can now order from a selection of nine soju cocktails that arrive in a jug to be poured into small glasses between bites. Choose between strawberry, peach or grape (those are mixed as slushies) – and there’s even a coffee soju.
Phone: 09 360 0765
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