Aroha Restaurant, Los Angeles: Fresh New Zealand cooking

By Herald de Paris Contributor's Bureau on April 4, 2015


By Anna Wilding
LOS ANGELES (Herald de Paris) — ¬†The Aroha Restaurant is tucked inconspicuously behind a large tree at Lindero Canyon, in modern Westlake Village. ¬†Perhaps being situated behind the only tree is most fitting being a New Zealand restaurant , and a country that likes to lay claim to the great outdoors. ¬†New Zealand has only in recent 10¬≠ to 20 years started to forge an identity in food, and Aroha ¬†is an excellent example of New Zealand fare. ¬†This is just as well ¬†as it is the only one of it’s kind in Los Angeles.

Aroha was founded by Chef Gwithyen Thomas who, with a love of food, started working in kitchens in New Zealand as young as 15 years old. ¬†Gwithyen, a sprite and energetic young man, then went on to work in some of Auckland’s most exacting and finest luxury hotel kitchens, before marrying his American wife, Justine, and settling ¬†in California. ¬†The restaurant is family run, so when visiting expect , depending on the night, a hands-on accommodating approach and a possible visit from the Chef. ¬†Chef Thomas‚Äô approach is to promote healthy eating and many of the meats, fish, vegetables and exotic fruit arrive fresh and handpicked from New Zealand, every alternate day. ¬†The menu runs from game to local New Zealand caught fish to ample vegetarian choices and special options easily available for those with allergies or gluten issues.

unnamed (1)New Zealand cuisine is not particularity spicy, rather, as Chef Thomas says, “The intent is to let the ingredients do the talking and the let natural flavour of the ingredients rise to the surface.” ¬†The comment and attitude is a subtle but effective spin on New Zealand food that until the past 20 years or so, was known to be somewhat bland. ¬†However, with the success of ¬†New Zealand Chefs in Europe and America, and the strong Asian and Pacific Island immigration into New Zealand in recent years,there has been ¬†a cornucopia of fresh ideas in professional New Zealand kitchens that still retain a strong kiwi sensibility and therefore, as a colonial country, British identity.

This is no more felt than in Thomas’s lunchtime, ‚ÄúSquare Meal,‚ÄĚ offering. ¬†A lunch special that puts four courses, for a mere fifteen dollars, into the hands of the lucky lunchtime recipient. ¬†Never has the New Zealand requisite, “One square meal per day,‚ÄĚ looked so good and so accessible.

In spite of its casual atmosphere, Aroha leans more toward fine dining.  For a fine dining experience, Aroha is not to be missed.  The combinations are innovative with fresh ingredients served with sophistication and flair.  The wine list is eclectic, comprised of fine boutique New Zealand wines. Try the generous wine flight for an energetic sampling of regional biodynamic wines.

For dinner, I could not go past the the Crispy Skin Fresh New Zealand snapper, which is unlike any you will find in America. The snapper was served with lemon potato crush, Manuka smoked potatoes, and feijoa sauce.  I could not resist the the deconstructed New Zealand national dessert, the Pavlova, served Italian style but with the best New Zealand berries and fruits, such as the baby kiwifruit.

The menu is extensive, innovative and flexible. The service at Aroha is efficient, refrained and elegant, which is similar to European style waitering and fine New Zealand dining. ¬†The design is casual, and reminiscent of a luxury Caribbean hotel pool setting and furnishings, and this belies the fine dining nature and the high standard of the food. ¬†However, Aroha is comfortable enough, and food -wise, it is definitely one of the best and most interesting places in Los Angeles to eat . ¬†With a bit of ¬†a switch up in style and more unique identifying elements in it’s design, Aroha could easily become a California destination restaurant.

The food at Aroha is excellent.

30990 Russell Ranch Rd, Unit C, Westlake Village, California


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