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Metita restaurant review: An emotional experience, each taste took me to a memory

Mary Afemata

As a Samoan woman, the concept of Samoan food and fine dining is exciting and I was curious to see how traditional food would be reimagined in a corporate setting.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Recently, I got to indulge in Auckland chef Michael Meredith’s vision and had my first fine dining experience from Otara to Metita.

Metita is named after Meredith’s late mother and pays tribute to her.

His new restaurant at SkyCity is a modern dining experience of Pacific cuisine.

My idea of fine dining was ridiculous prices for bite-size portions that would not satisfy you.

Feeling green, I would soon learn to dispel this myth and be open-minded.

“If you’re going to come out, make sure you’re going to have an experience that you can’t experience at home or that you will be inspired by the food,” Meredith said.

Metita has that extra elevation added to the Pacific flavour we know and love and is a melting pot of how we eat today.

Surprisingly, it was an emotional experience for me because I did not expect to be triggered by the taste of home; nor the nostalgia that came with memories attached to each familiar taste.

I knew it was going to be a good night from the first bite.

I devoured the king salmon and pickled mango on a betel leaf, with roe.

The whole combination together tasted like a party in your mouth going off - indicating the amazing night to come.

Michael Meredith's newest restaurant, Metita, is based at Auckland's SkyCity. Photo / Babiche Martens

There was smoke in the lobby that filled the air from cooking in the kitchen.

Other Samoan guests talked about how that reminded them of the smoke from the umu in the morning - that smoky smell back home in Samoa.

While I understood the reference, my early mornings as a Kiwi-born Samoan were the familiar aroma of fresh bread from the Otara bakery.

The next dish was a delightful surprise with a twist of the corned beef (pisupo) bao buns.

This was definitely a crowd-pleaser and one of my favourites for the night.

The corn beef bun had a thin sheet of lardo on top, almost like a thin membrane, and then a spoonful of caviar centred on top.

What a lovely elevation of the pisupo, familiar tastes elevated in a fine dining environment.

It’s the taste of home and the essence is still retained.

‘Metita made me miss my own late mother’

The veal’s tongue was pushing the envelope. Aside from the uncanny visualisation, I was game to try anything.

As Samoans, we eat everything and don’t waste food. If you close your eyes, it tastes like a sausage.

All the elements on the plate together created a lovely mouthful. It reminded me of eating roasted ulu pua’a (pig’s head), one of my dad’s - our - favourites.

A little Mary Afemata pictured with her mum Leasino Liligo Afemata, who died in 2012.

The menu was amazing and delicious and an emotional experience.

It felt like it was a personal catalogue of my memories where each taste took me back to that moment in time.

The experience of fine dining only elevated the taste of home, the taste of Samoa.

Metita made me miss my own late mother and appreciate that I still have my father.

My parents’ cooking traditional island food is my favourite Samoan cuisine.

To have Meredith’s fresh and innovative twist made my experience at Metita an instant favourite.

The tastes and feelings each traditional dish evoked in me were those of a proud Samoan woman. I was basking in the ambience feeling proud and emotional.

Meredith elevates the taste of Pacific cuisine without letting the fine dining element overpower the experience and without losing the taste of Samoa.

Hero image: Chef Michael Meredith and Te Rito journalism cadet Mary Afemata.

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