"Irasshaimaseeeee!!!" comes the deafening roar of the staff at Harajuku Gyoza. It's a Saturday night and we look around startled by the noise. Having lived in Japan I'm familiar with the welcome greeting for customers but I've never quite heard it as such a gutsy chorus.
Harajuku Gyoza is a relatively new dumpling place on Bayswater Road in Kings Cross. The original restaurant is in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley although it seems as though we could be in Japan. A kawaii (cute) smiling cartoon gyoza beams down on diners and the menu is straight from Japan with love, with sayings like "It must be perfect or we get your sad face. We want your happy face."
There are six types of savoury gyoza on the menu and three types of dessert ones. There's also a small list of izakaya type items and side dishes. Prices are good and as a result we go a bit crazy with ordering. The waitresses are genki ("energetic" in Japanese). Mismatched melamine plates show pachinko machines, cartoons or Japanese trees and light shades have words like "Yum" or "Hai" written on the bottom.
Cucumber and Miso Salad $5
The cucumber miso salad is the first item to come out. It's made up of bite sized pieces of refreshing cucumber dressed in a sweet miso dressing and sesame seeds.
Tenpura Eggplant $6
The tempura eggplant is two boats of eggplant slices, dipped in batter and deep fried. The batter is actually quite thin on the eggplant and I prefer the small end pieces while the larger pieces are less flavoursome even when dunking in the sweet dipping sauce.
Pork Belly Kakuni $13
The pork belly kakuni came out as four pieces of gelatinously soft pork belly that melt in the mouth. We ate this with a serve of rice and a spoon would have been great to scoop up the flavoursome sauce along with the pork.
Grilled Duck gyoza (5 pcs) $8
The dumplings come out in quick succession and we watched them being prepared at the grill in the centre of the bar. They're made fresh daily and you can choose to have them poached or grilled. We didn't specify and they didn't ask and all of ours ended up grilled. They suggest to make a dipping sauce with two parts soy sauce, one part vinegar and some chilli oil if you want it spicy. The duck filling has a coarse grind and a gingery flavour to it and the gyoza skin is nice and thin.
Grilled Whole Prawn gyoza (3 pcs) $8
There are only three dumplings per serve of the prawn gyoza and inside the thin wheat flour based dumpling shell is a whole prawn. The prawn is a touch floury but well cooked with a good texture. Miss America has a chopstick malfunction and his prawn slips out from its skin.
Grilled Vege gyoza (5 pcs) $8
The grilled vegetable dumplings have a very strong onion flavour to them which is fine if you love onion as I do but it's really mainly just onion as the flavour.
Kimuchi Pork gyoza (5 pcs) $8
There was a slight flavour of kimchi with the kimchi pork gyoza although apart from that, the flavour wasn't that discernible from the duck although it is tasty.
Chicken Karaage $8
The chicken karaage was juicy, lightly coated chicken pieces served with lemon and Japanese mayonnaise. It's good although I prefer a little more ginger but the moistness of the chicken and crunchy outer is good.
Nutella Banana (3 pcs + icecream) $9
Miss America peaked too early and decided that dessert was not for him so we tried one after debating between this and the salted caramel gyoza. The deciding factor was that the Nutella banana is the most popular. These gyoza are deep fried, the thin skin becoming translucent with the Nutella and fresh banana filling. It's served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the skin is crunchy while the inside is soft and oozy.
And if you thought the welcome greeting was loud, well then order a sake and see what ensues. It's a cacophony of spirited yelling and enthusiasm that would make any pre-teen girl proud.
It's not for a romantic dinner (at least not on the Saturday night that we visited). It's loud, boisterous and totally genki so be prepared if you aren't in the mood for it. We watch as a woman in a pink wig stands outside the restaurant with a balloon. Just another night in the cross!
So tell me Dear Reader, are you good with using chopsticks or do you prefer using a fork and knife at Japanese and Chinese restaurants? How old were you when was you first tried using chopsticks?
9/15 Bayswater Rd, Potts Point NSW 2011
Phone:(02) 9356 3834
Open 7 days 11:30am-11:30pm