Siamese Doll is now humming along nicely. It’s pretty obvious that the new restaurant at Catalina Bay is reaping the benefits of being the latest eatery from the Quality Restaurant Group (three decades of experience in Auckland restaurant culture has got to be good for you).
Mai Thai (near Sky City) was the first restaurant that QRG founders Bo Manoonpong and Edward Viterbo opened in 1988, bringing the flavours and culture of the east to Auckland. Siamese Doll now joins Grasshopper in Stamford Plaza, Thai Street in Wynyard Quarter and Red Crab in Ellerslie and Waiheke in giving diners an authentic South-East Asian dining experience.
It’s a family business – the manager is Stephanie Viterbo, Ed’s 26-year-old daughter. Steph has been steeped in restaurant culture all her life and has now enthusiastically embraced her new calling as the face of Siamese Doll – and Catalina Bay local.
“It’s a great community here,” she says. “We all get on well as business owners and we have a wonderful bunch of regulars. Having the farmer’s market next door is a bonus – we know that the produce we get from them at the weekend is super-fresh and spray-free.”
In keeping with the industrial feel of most of the heritage buildings at Catalina Bay, Siamese Doll uses exposed steel girders and brickwork to its design advantage. They’re softened with lots of lush trailing greenery, fairy lights and beautiful bevelled glass lighting.
Stylish beige leather booths are plump with pretty cushions and walls are embellished with dried flowers and large-scale stencil art: cranes, orchids and stylised clouds. The music is hip lo-fi and the green-tiled central kitchen steams and pans clash as the chefs produce delectable scents of fresh ginger, fish sauce, chilli, soy and lime.
The food is a heavenly mix of Thai and Japanese and the menu (not too big) is helpfully laid out: raw bar, sushi bar, dumplings and bao, noodle soups and hotpots, small plates, big plates, sweets and sides.
The dumplings and bao are hugely popular (four flavours of each including a quorn-based dumpling for vegetarians). Try the zingy chicken larb salad, wagyu beef hotpot, blue swimmer crab fried rice, red duck curry and crispy snapper with green apple salad and caramelised pork.
Even the sides are special – wok-charred broccoli in cashew, garlic and pepper sauce, grilled aubergine in miso and more. Finish with mango sticky rice or tempura-fried custard with ginger syrup and coconut ice cream.
Refreshingly, you can book a table and bigger groups are definitely well catered for. “We have often had parties of up to 50 here,” Steph says. “They can take over the rear part of the restaurant, it works really well.”
Whether it’s just the two of you or a big family celebration, Siamese Doll will bring you sweet, sour and spicy in perfect balance. Highly recommended.
Open Tuesday to Sunday 11am-3pm and from 5.30 for dinner