IMA Cafe (the name is pronounced eemah) is located about 500 metres along Fort Street from the Queen/Fort Street intersection in central Auckland. It is not one of the "big name" restaurants in the city and neither is its chef/owner one of the many celebrity chefs who have establishments here, but don't let that put you off. It is small, busy, bustling and fun and it serves the very best of eastern Mediterranean and Israeli food in Auckland.
The service is welcoming, attentive and informative and the hostess is genuinely interested in seeing that her diners experience and enjoy the full range of flavours that are produced in a remarkably small kitchen. The menu changes often but the pattern is the same - fantastic entrees to temptingly start the meal followed by wholesome food served with spices and sides which conjure tastes from Cyprus, Lebanon and of course Israel. Friends of ours who have lived in and often return to Israel swear to the authenticity of the experience at IMA.
Don't miss the entree tasting platter which, when we visited, had wonderfully fragrant fried cauliflower dusted in spices, crunchy falafel rounds, a rich lemon yoghurt, peppers and tomatoes and spinach and feta in filo parcels.
The mains all came with a bewildering array of sides, including a diced cucumber salad which was a standout, rich with cumin and yoghurt. The meat courses were succulent lamb shoulder, roast free range chicken (served as a whole, half or quarter bird depending on your appetite) and aged beef rib eye.
The desserts were a great end to a wonderful meal, especially the turkish delight filo cigars - enough said!
The wines flowed from a small but eclectic selection and the price for three courses for two people including ample wine was about $170. We visited on a Friday night and the place was packed. It transpired that one of our party had been there for lunch and had elected to stay on, taking advantage of our booking. Otherwise he may not have been able to stay. Reservations essential and deservedly so.
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