Just 5 weeks after their pop-up at Coco’s Cantina, Judge Bao is back this time for a collaboration with Tiger Burger for a Chinese – Korean fusion burger bar in O’Connell Street in the CBD.
Debbie told us about their plan for a collab with Tiger Burger when we dined at the Coco’s pop-up. I didn’t expect they would turn this over that quick! I was so happy when I found out that their location was just a stone’s throw away from where I work. So excited that I checked out the place the day before they opened and took this photo below.
Glass art done by Haser, an Auckland graffiti artist.
We went for dinner on the first day they opened and made sure we went there early to avoid the crowd. We sat down and after our orders got taken Debbie approached us to have a bit of a chit-chat. That’s where I got confirmation that the place was indeed an abandoned pizzeria. Everything had been set-up, the fixtures ordered and installed, even that $20,000 pizza oven in the picture above was ready to go. However, the owner’s wife apparently didn’t like the place and decided to go back to their home country. And probably in the most romantic way, the owner dropped everything and followed his wife leaving even his coat! While the real estate agent is looking for a new tenant/owner, Judge Bao and Tiger Burger grabbed the opportunity for their pop-up.
We started with the Pickle Chaser – Kimchi, Pickled Daikon, and Smashed Cucumber with Chili Oil. These went down quite quickly with the kimchi being our favourite. We can easily finish a jar of Tiger Burger’s kimchi, it was light, tangy, crunchy and didn’t have the slight bitterness you get from other places. Hope they start selling these soon! (I can already imagine myself eating kimchi and white rice. I can imagine being happy with just Tiger Burger’s kimchi and white rice, I swear.) I also loved the smashed cucumber with chili oil and plan on recreating this at home soon.
I can’t resist ordering the Chicken Yin Yang – a combination of Judge Bao’s Dirty Bird (Guangzhou-style fried chicken drums) and Tiger Burger’s Korean fried sweet and spicy chicken wings. I’ve tried the Dirty Bird at the Coco’s pop-up and absolutely loved it. My partner wanted to order something new, but he was glad we tried this because Tiger Burger’s wings were lovely as well. The sauce had a nutty flavour from what I’m guessing is sesame oil and, of course, the sesame seeds.
Then came the highlight of the meal. Pictured above: Kimcheese Burger (kimchi, cheese beef patty, chili mayo, cream mayo), Kimcheese Fries Reloaded (fried with kimchi, cheese, ketchup and mayo), and the Lap Dog (hand-rolled mantou, house Chinese sausage, Sichuan ketchup, honey soy mustard, and Chinkiang onions).
I looked forward to trying the Lap Dog because we greatly enjoyed the Judge Bao’s Meatloaf from the Coco’s pop-up. I loved this first of all because the mantou was generously dense. I love mantou and can eat this own its own. The Chinese sausage was on the tiny side, however, but this was nicely complemented by the caramelised onions which sat beneath it. I was a bit on the fence about the amount of honey soy mustard, but I have to admit, I am not a big mustard fan. All-in-all I enjoyed eating this albeit the messiness. (I got home to find out I still had mustard stains on some of my fingers.)
Who goes out to eat a burger without chips? Nobody. I wonder how many they sold off these Kimcheese fries because they were so good. Before coming to New Zealand, my partner wasn’t a fan of Korean cuisine that you’d have to pay him (or at least pay for his food) if you’re going to make him eat kimchi. I am so happy he got converted into liking Korean food now. He got the Kimcheese burger and absolutely loved it. We get the hype now guys. It is such a shame that we only tried this now even though we always see Tiger Burger during food events. I understand that kimchi may be an acquired taste, but it works really well in this burger. I reckon people who haven’t had kimchi would still love this because the idea anyway is the kimchi is only replacing your standard dill pickles in your standard burgers. There is a bit of heat in this burger because of 1) kimchi and 2) chili mayo. We also received great advice to use the little recyclable bowl because this is a bit messy to eat. And true enough there were heaps of cheesy kimchi left which I happily ate with chopsticks.
The team initially expected this pop-up to be open for just two weeks. The last day being Saturday the 24th of October. We will find out soon if they will be open for another week. *crosses fingers*
In any case, these guys are mainstays at The Street Food Collective in Ponsonby Central, so if you missed out don’t sulk and chill out on that food #FOMO. Give these guys some love and follow them on Social Media and of course so you can get updates on where they’re at. Links below.
And honestly, these guys are a bunch of amazing and humble small business owners, you’d think their awesome food is just a bonus. Go get ’em.