David Dau arrived in New Zealand from Vietnam in 2001. Eighteen years later, with an enduring passion for cooking and a hospitality qualification from AUT, he and his business partner own four well-respected Asian fusion restaurants – prime among them, from a North Shore perspective, being Tok Tok in Takapuna.
David’s Vietnamese heritage shines through in each of his restaurants (the others are Xoong in Mount Eden, Cheek & Chong in Orewa, and Vietnamese Kitchen in Ponsonby) – but he’s aware of the need for Tok Tok to have broad appeal. Tok Tok’s menu ranges from standard Thai (duck pad Thai, “grown up lamb green curry”) and Malaysian (kaffir lime chicken with satay sauce) to Vietnamese (green papaya salad, shaking beef, crispy half duck with Vietnamese mint...) with touches of Chinese and European influence.
David’s team in the kitchen is almost as eclectic. Executive chef is Wellington-born Cameron Knox, who’s travelled and worked internationally, where he discovered his love of Asian fusion food. Working under him in the Tok Tok kitchen is Chinese-born head chef John Miao and a team of 12 kitchen staff. David, too, continues to use his skills in the kitchen, and is actively involved in the Tok Tok menu development. He’s clear that Asian fusion does not mean a muddle of Asian flavours; rather Tok Tok focuses on offering a selection of dishes from different Asian backgrounds, always with an eye to quality – and to using local ingredients.
“Local suppliers grow the produce we need,” he says proudly, with growers around the Auckland area supplying ingredients hard to get locally – Thai basil, for example, and other Asian fresh herbs and greens.
Tok Tok’s food and service philosophy revolve around fun and flavour: foods that offer distinctly Asian combinations of spice and acidity, salty and sweet. David knows there’s a tendency for diners to order what’s familiar (popping prawns, pork belly, pork rib) but he urges them to try some of Tok Tok’s specialties like crispy beef bun, lamb bites, kingfish sashimi (with Thai basil) or the crispy hapuku dry red curry.
“Our dining experience is based on the sharing concept, where people dine in a warm friendly atmosphere, and have a delicious culinary experience,” he says. To that end, Tok Tok doesn’t do takeaways. “We want people to come and enjoy the environment,” says David. “The environment plays such an important part in the enjoyment of the food.”
Tok Tok’s environment also works well for functions, with three differently priced menu options, and a canapé menu, for function organisers to select from.
Taking care of customer comfort and ensuring everyone is well looked after on the often-busy floor (Tok Tok serves around 2000 people a week) is manager Louise Jackson and a 20-strong team of front of house staff. “We offer friendly, fast service in a family environment centred around a fun and relaxed Asian attitude, that makes people welcome,” says David, “and they come back.”
And come back they do – he says 85% of Tok Tok’s business is from regulars. Tok Tok, he adds, is a place to “get together over good food after a busy day and make the day feel better”. If you’re a local who hasn’t been to Tok Tok, he laughs, “you’re missing something special in your life. Come and start with one of our beef buns!”
“Takapuna is a place to come to for high quality dining experiences; we want to be part of that destination, so that when people think about good food [in Takapuna] they think ‘let’s go to Tok Tok’. We are in a great location, and we work hard to ensure all customers leave satisfied, happy, and wanting to return.”
Tok Tok, 129 Hurstmere Road, Takapuna 09 489 3988
Open Monday 5pm - late, Tuesday-Sunday 12pm- late.