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Stuffit.co.nz review of Northcote Town Centre's Xi'an Food Bar by "The Omnivore, Jeremy Taylor"

Tasty and cheap Chinese eats

Despite still being reasonably satiated after yesterday's magnificent meaty feast, I was totally up for a day's recreational eating. I am here, I am hungry - let's eat!

We meet yesterday's host Simon Farrell-Green on the North Shore, at the Northcote Shopping Centre, and I note something extraordinary - almost the entire complex is populated with Asian eateries and food shops.

Bakeries and bun shops, butchers and fishmongers - not to mention noodle shops galore. Awesome.

We are meeting to have lunch at one of Simon's favourite recent cheap eats finds - the Xi'an Food Bar.

I want to try a couple of things in particular - the Chinese burgers and hand-pulled noodles. I also really want to get with the programme on Xi'an's extraordinary ordering system, which involves a wireless device that looks like a gigantic, ancient calculator.

We are also joined by my buddies J and Cousin A- Cousin A is full-term pregnant, so some very spicy noodles will probably help things along. I will drive a bit ruggedly, and perhaps we will pick her up a pineapple on the way home.

Xi'an is a city in the mid-north of China, with a large Muslim population - hence the uncommon Chinese food additions of things like lamb and cumin.

Simon talks us through the (massive) menu, and we order a couple of the "burgers" to try - a braised pork number, and a spicy, sweet tangy lamb. They are both pretty great - crispy, almost water-biscuit flavoured and textured buns that perfectly offset the succulent, juicy meat. They are $4.50 each - bargain.

Then - noodle time. I opt for hand pulled "biang biang" noodles with spicy braised pork, as do a couple of the others, while Plus One has something similar, but as a soup, and Cousin A goes for, naturally, the spiciest of the noodle dishes.

We also get a couple of sides - a celery and tofu dish, in chilli oil, and another that will be a bit more challenging - tripe and ox tongue.

The bowls of steaming noodles that arrive, as if by magic via the weird wireless calculator, are big and generous and hearty and flavourful - this is not a place for your orange beef, sweet and sour pork or salt and pepper squid.

Delicious - it's an over-used description of food, but these really are. The pork is soft and salty and perfectly accompanies the chewy, yielding roughly hand pulled noodles, along with bok choy, coriander and a heapin' helpin' o' that chilli oil that should help Cousin A's baby along - wouldn't that make a thrilling conclusion to this outing?!

I taste A's spicy noodles - they appear to be slathered in red chilli paste, but they are more tasty than just outrageously hot. P1's soup is also good - full of the aniseedy taste of star anise, along with the chilli and coriander.

As for the sides, the celery and tofu are light and fresh, and cut through the rich, savoury noodles, and the tripe and tongue is surprisingly good - tripe has an unusual, cartiledge-y quality, but carries the chili oil flavour well, and the tongue is rich and packs a big-flavoured punch.

My much-vaunted "value proposition" concept is served well here - these are generous, hearty plates of food that nourish you and fill you up. And cheap: regular bowls (which we had) are around $8.50 and the "extra large" is around a tenner (they must be gigantic!).

Simon tells me that some of his Eat Here Now readers have complained about the oiliness of the food, but this is the nature of this particular variety of Chinese food. Plus, the chilli oil is basically a seasoning rather than something you are going to eat a lot of.

The look of delight on the faces of the kitchen staff when I tell them how much I have enjoyed their food is gratifying. This is not flashy food, by any means, but it is food that will fill you up, stick to your ribs. And it is tasty - oh, so tasty.

We drop J and Cousin A back at their place in the city - I drive deliberately a bit hairily, but nope; still no baby. Disappointing - it is as though the wee blighter is holding out, despite the chilli noodles to deny me a sensational finish to the meal. Oh well...

One more day in Ak, then the far north. This could get interesting.

Xi'an - been there? Did you dig it? Any more hints for pregs friend to hurry things along? And Northcote Shopping Centre - extraordinary, or what?!

Please visit stuff.co.nz/life-style/blogs/the-omnivore/8353969/Noodles-in-Northcote for the full review with pictures.

Busy Times in Auckland’s Centre of Culture

Northcote Town Centre “Auckland’s Centre of Culture”  has been busy with activity in recent months.

The purpose-built chess tables under the elm tree in Pearn Place now have permanent checker-boards tiled into the tops and have become a popular attraction.  

A concrete table tennis table has been installed in Pearn Place, adding to the community amenity in this area, and the centre’s cultural theme.
The purpose-built chess tables under the elm tree in Pearn Place

Ninety volunteers got involved in the Northcote Town Centre Tidy Up on Sunday, 21 August.  This was one of the pre-World Cup Town Centre Tidy Ups and was co-ordinated by Northcote Mainstreet and the Kaipatiki Project.  

Northcote’s second Moon Festival was celebrated in style in early September, with several thousand people attending the festival.

The next major festival will be the annual Chinese & Korean New Year Festival which is set to take place on Friday, 27 January and Saturday, 28 January 2012.

This Chinese & Korean New Year Festival has become a much anticipated event in Northcote over the past twelve years, providing a taste of Asian culture and a wide range of Asian entertainment and activities.  

Next year’s event is particularly special as it celebrates the “Year of the Dragon”, the feature year on the Chinese and Korean Lunar calendar.

It will bring some special features to the Northcote event such as Dragon dances and a feature photography exhibition.  It is also significant as Northcote celebrated the “Year of the Dragon” with its first Chinese & Korean New Year Festival back in 2000.

We have the support of Auckland Council, Creative Communities NZ and Air NZ for this festival, and aim to make it a special celebration of colour, culture and cuisine in the Northcote Town Centre, “Auckland’s Centre of Culture”.

Town Centre Tidy Up A Huge Success                                                                                                

Elbow Grease
Ninety volunteers were part of the Northcote Town Centre Tidy Up on Sunday, 21 August.  The Northcote event was one of the pre-World Cup Town Centre Tidy Ups which took place in centres all over Auckland.  It was co-ordinated by Northcote Mainstreet and the Kaipatiki Project, the environment centre of the North Shore.  The volunteers got involved in a range of gardening, rubbish and painting projects at Northcote, with the result that all of Northcote’s jobs were ticked off as done, and 100 bags of garden waste and a large skip bin of inorganic waste removed from the centre.

Volunteers came from a variety of community groups -

•    Chinese Association of North Shore
•    Northcote Shore Chinese Society
•    ELEV8 YOUF Group from the Onepoto Awhina
•    Rotary Club of Northcote
•    Northcote Citizens Advice Bureau
•    Northcote Resident & Ratepayers Assn

Raymond Tang cleans up Love a Duck

Northcote Youth in Action

A Job Well Done

The day proved to be a great community occasion with people of various nationalities and ages getting together to work on tidying up the centre.   The groups involved have already indicated a desire to be involved in ‘tidy up projects’ in future, with talk that this may become an annual event.

New Businesses & Business People

Justin Zhang –

            Aji Ichiban

Aji Ichiban has brought specialty Chinese sweets to Northcote, with the business and its products proving a real treat for shoppers to the centre.

Owner Justin Zhang waited two years to get a shop in the Northcote Town Centre, and when Digital Mobile closed, he was quick to take up the lease and transform the shop into a sweet-lover’s haven.

Justin Zhang – Aji Ichiban
It is his third outlet in Auckland with the Northcote branch following stores in Mt Eden and Meadowlands. It is wonderful to have this famous Hong Kong brand in the Northcote centre. Check out the website – www.ichiban.net.nz

Crystal Yan – The Cake Tree

Crystal Yan –

         The Cake Tree

Crystal Yan has purchased the well-known Northcote business The Cake Tree in Pearn Place. The Cake Tree has been in the Northcote Town Centre for 21 years, treating customers to their specialty cakes. David and Shirley Chen had been the popular owners of this business and well-liked identities in the centre.

Crystal Yan brings a wealth of business experience with her to Northcote. She established the Otto Woo Noodle Bars which have outlets in Ponsonby, Newmarket and Mission Bay. Crystal has exciting plans for The Cake Tree with a new interior décor and expanded menu as the start of these initiatives. Check out the website – www.thecaketree.co.nz

Xin Ding –

         Star Tech

After ten years of trading in the Mt Albert Shopping Centre, Xin Ding loves doing business in the Northcote Town Centre.

His business, Star Tech Computers, is a welcome addition to Northcote, providing computer sales and repairs. 

Xin Ding – Star Tech Computers

Ding works with both Mac and PC’s – providing parts and accessories, as well as great service.

Ding loves the community atmosphere that exists in the centre, and the camaraderie between the business-people in Pearn Place.

Passing of Bob Mitchell

On the 24th of December 2010, Northcote lost one of its favourite sons – Bob Mitchell.  He was someone that contributed so much to the Northcote Town Centre and the community in general, and his generous nature and jovial presence will be missed.

Bob’s relationship with the Northcote Town Centre started in 1982 when he bought “Martin’s” shop in Northcote.  With business skills acquired through being the Marketing Manager for Tanner Couch, Bob set about changing the store into “Mitchell’s Paper Plus”.

He brought a Lotto agency into the store as soon as it was introduced, and a NZ Post Shop.  After original being part of the Paper Plus, Bob started the Paper Power Group was the Northcote shop becoming known as “Mitchell’s Paper Power”.

Bob Mitchell

In his twenty years owning the business, Bob Mitchell was a colourful character in the Northcote Town Centre.  He was a Justice of the Peace, instrumental in establishing the Northcote Citizen’s Centre and was the letting officer for 27 years. Bob was chairman of the Northcote Business Association, and involved in many events in the centre as an organiser or vibrant MC.

Bob Mitchell MC

Bob Mitchell

Observations about Bob Mitchell

Here’s a few things that I know to be true
About this South Canterbury man, from Timaru

He lived life in his own unique fashion
He lived life with plenty of passion

He was a humble man, not one to gloat
He was a man who truly loved Northcote

He loved a yarn, for a minute, or an hour
He loved people popping in to Mitchell’s Paper Power

He loved bowls, racehorses, and the country of Fiji
He loved it when you said “Yes - I would like a cup of tea”

He was a man I loved getting to know
As we watched the Northcote centre change and grow

Getting on stage with a mic for Bob was not hard
He was, in many ways, Northcote’s bard

He was full of good humour, kind words and grace
He made Northcote, and all our lives, a brighter place 

Cultural Gateways Project

The Birkenhead / Northcote Community Board has also given funding towards the development of “Cultural Gateways” in the Northcote Town Centre.

The “Cultural Gateways”, to be developed at the entrances to the town centre, will be representative of the multi-cultural nature of the Northcote community, in their design and use of materials. 

The gateways will create a strong entrance to the centre, and help brand the ‘multi-cultural’ nature of the Northcote Town Centre, and surrounding community.

Ansai Folk Arts Group at Northcote Town Centre

Chinese Checkers Tables

The Northcote Town Centre has the goal of becoming the “Cultural Centre of Auckland”.  One of the recent projects which works towards this is two Chinese Checkers Tables whch have been manufactured and installed under the elm tree in Pearn Place.

Northcote Chinese Checkers Board

We will now have the tiling done for the Chinese Checkers Boards, as well as a standard chess board which allows people to play Chess or Draughts.  The tables will provide a facility for people of all ethnicities to play Chess or Checkers in the shaded setting under the horizontal elm tree, especially elderly Chinese who already come into the centre to play checkers.


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