Friday, December 20, 2013

Harajuku Gyoza: Happy face dumplings

I love the way the Harajuku Gyoza menu gets diners in the mood: "You are like a hungry salaryman in a Japanese izakaya. You are thirsty and your appetite is big like Godzilla." All Japanese quirk and just a little bit of sense.

Harajuku Gyoza logo, Bayswater Road, Kings Cross
From Brisbane's Fortitude Valley comes this cute-as-a- button dumpling and beer joint, specialising in all manner of Japanese gyoza dumplings in the heart of Kings Cross, a couple of doors down from Hugos Bar Pizza.

While more a cutesy, recognisable name than anything representative of the Harajuku area in Tokyo, the Sydney outpost of Harajuku Gyoza has a fittingly fun fitout that’s all wooden furniture and colourful plates and service that hint at the sometimes crazy Japanese pop culture.

Sake being served
One unnamed type of sake is served chilled, with great ceremony and noise, traditionally into a glass sitting in a masu box to catch the overflow.

There's also Kirin beer on tap, beers by the bottle (including the pricey but one of my favourites – Hitachino Nest White Ale), Kirin's new Fuji apple cider and a few select wines.

Cucumber and miso salad
Food arrived pretty quickly after ordering, and you get the feeling it's really not a place to sit and linger over drinks.

We started, healthily, with a small salad of peeled, raw cucumber dressed liberally in a sweet, strong yellow miso soybean paste, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Gyoza condiments
Seated at the counter, we had a direct view to the gyoza cooking stations – both poached and grilled versions.

Made daily and then frozen to avoid sogginess, the meat and vegetable fillings wrapped in dough were either dropped into a boiling pot or lined up into a custom gyoza grill press with a fair bit of oil for crisp bottoms.

Grilled lobster tail gyoza 
We sampled the special of lobster tail grilled gyoza: thin, chewy and crisp wrappers with a coarsely chopped filling that somewhat resembled lobster in texture though less so in taste. From the condiments selection, I added vinegar sauce and chilli oil.

Poached duck gyoza 
From the regular menu we went with poached duck gyoza and traditional grilled pork ones – both versions unexpectedly meaty.

The duck gyoza were ideal poached, with a slight gaminess to the filling differentiating it from usual styles and quite tasty with the condiments.

Grilled pork gyoza 
Pork gyoza are about one of my favourite things in the world and it was probably high expectations that let me down.

As odd as it may sound, I found Harajuku Gyoza's pork variety too meaty, with insufficient cabbage and other seasonings – minced pork overload, if you will. The dough wrappers though, I adored and could eat on their crisp lonesome.

Tenpura eggplant
To more substantial but still izakaya style dishes, we started with "tenpura" eggplant: lightly battered, pre cut into wedges for easy eating. Soft and squishy within, the oily fried eggplant was served in a pool of a vinegary sauce.

Pork belly kakuni
An impressively-sized serve, the pork belly kakuni comprised four blocks of rich, braised pork belly in layers of fat and meat, the latter unfortunately dry.

It was heavy eating, even with steamed rice on the side, while an acidic condiment, mustard even, would have helped cut through the fattiness.

Harajuku Gyoza exterior 
We ended up having to take leftovers of the pork belly home, and it turned out a little better the next day. There wasn't room for dessert gyoza on this occasion, but that joins the basket I'd rarely touch anyway, along with dessert pizza.

They make no apologies for being an eat-and-run venue, and I can see a fair few spontaneous meals and dumpling cravings getting sorted at Harajuku Gyoza, despite there being better dumplings around town.

"It must be perfect or we get your sad face. We want your happy face," says the menu. It's gyoza and it's pretty darn adorable – you get the happy face.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of Harajuku Gyoza.

Harajuku Gyoza on Urbanspoon


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

looks like such a fun place!

Melanie Y said...

I'm really looking forward to visiting this place - I think it'll be a good warm up for my upcoming trip to Tokyo.

Sherrie Huang said...

Their logo is too cute for words :D

Tina said...

Hi Tina - Very cute and fun.

Hi Mel - Absolutely! Tokyo, how exciting!

Hi Sherrie - It's definitely a cutie

GourmetGetaways said...

I knew I should have stopped in the other night!!! I noticed the happy face and I love Japanese, all the dishes look so good.


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