Commercial Bay

The Magic Sauce

In Conversation With The Passion Driving Hospitality Entrepreneur and Dining Maestro David Lee

We sit down with one of the sharpest and most creative minds in Auckland’s dining scene to find out how David Lee has successfully curated no less than four of the coolest food destinations in the Bay, plus what he loves the most about bringing Korean cuisine to Kiwis in a brand new way.

When collating a list of the dining destinations you’ve played a hand in, as either an owner-operator, co-founder or collaborator, we almost lost track! What do you love the most about Auckland’s dining scene? And what keeps you dreaming up new ideas?   

I love how diverse it is now. All you have to do is take a walk down K Rd or a trip to Commercial Bay and you almost smell food from every continent.  In terms of what keeps me dreaming new ideas - I think Auckland still has more to offer the world. If I can play a small part in making my home a place people want to visit then I’ll keep coming up with new ideas.

Your incorporation of Korean flavour into your menus has become a point of difference that Kiwis can’t seem to get enough of. Was this always the case when you first started out in the industry in the early 2000s? What’s been your favourite part of bringing Korean cuisine to Auckland’s modern dining scene? 

It definitely took a while for people to get used to. I really wanted to persevere with it though because I knew how much flavor people were missing out on.My favorite part has to be that people here in Auckland get to experience a little bit of what I enjoyed growing up in Korea. In saying that - I highly recommend going to Korea for yourself and checking out the street food scene. 

You recently oversaw the evolution and re-launch of Pōni, formerly known as The Poni Room. For those who haven’t been since the re-launch, what can they expect? 

You can expect some of the best food & views Commercial Bay has to offer. Fred (Head Chef) & Laura (Restaurant Manager) do a great job of looking after their customers and making sure everyone leaves satisfied.  

A tough final question: Out of all of the Commercial Bay food destinations you’ve been a part of - from Gochu and Green Door, to Good Dog, Bad Dog, and Pōni - what’s your favourite dish?

This ones easy - Fried chicken Hoagie from Good dog bad dog. Tasty, cheap and always leaves me feeling happy.