Japan is a country that is a little obsessed with the cute and cuddly. You’ll see kawaii mascots everywhere in Japan promoting TV channels, transport passes and even the cities and prefectures themselves! So when I see the logo of Harajuku Gyoza with its cutesy face, it’s almost like I’m back in Japan.
Inside, the kawaii theme continues with Japanese-patterned melamine plates and light fixtures saying ‘HAI!’. The menu is equally as cutesy, proclaiming “Welcome, Customer-san!”, before comparing your appetite to Godzilla and saying “We want your happy face”. As for the food items, naturally the menu is gyoza-heavy but there are also other Japanese side dishes and izakaya style dishes available.
There are 5 gyoza dishes at $8 each, and we manage to try 3 out of the 5. For the pork, chicken and duck gyoza, you can choose to have these either grilled or poached. We’re after the crispy burnished bottoms of the fried variety, so we choose to have our pork and duck gyoza fried.
I’ve never seen duck gyoza before so was quite interested to try it. The duck mince is darker, and I thought it tasted slightly more gamey than the pork but it could just be the fact that I knew it was duck. The pork and duck mince seem to have been seasoned with a similar marinade, so there’s not a huge difference in taste between the two.
As with most dumpling places, there are condiments provided on the table for dipping, and at Harajuku Gyoza they have soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli. You’re encouraged to concoct your own mix of the three to your liking, but there’s also a recommended benchmark of 2 parts soy sauce and 1 part rice vinegar, with a little chilli to taste.
We also try the grilled whole prawn gyoza and I’m pleased to see a prawn tail sticking out of the gyoza. The prawn inside is plump and juicy, and the simplicity of the gyoza allows the sweetness of the prawn to shine through.
We steer away from the gyoza after a while to the izakaya style dishes. You can’t really go wrong with chicken karaage – little nuggets of chicken thigh with a crispy batter and a blob of kewpie mayonnaise for dipping.
The tempura eggplant is surprisingly good. Instead of the usual nasu dengaku style scored and fried eggplant slathered with miso paste, we get 2 wedges of eggplant that has been sliced and battered. The tempura batter is a little oily, but the eggplant flesh is wonderfully creamy inside each deep fried wedge and a bargain as well at only $6 per plate.
The pork belly kakuni takes a little while to come out but is worth it for the jiggly fatty goodness that only braised pork belly can bring. The cubes of pork are bathed in a soy-based sauce which is slightly sweet.
If you go to Harajuku Gyoza, you have to order sake just or the novelty of how it’s brought out to you. A huge 1.8L bottle of sake is brought forth with little sake cups and wooden boxes, and the waiters and waitresses shout something in Japanese (something on along the lines of “SAKE IS GOOD!”) and make a huge ruckus as their pour your sake til it overflows into the box while everyone cheers! It’s great fun and definitely livens up the atmosphere of the restaurant.
We finish off with more gyoza! For dessert, there’s a choice of two types of gyoza served with ice cream. We go for the nutella and banana gyoza which is stuffed with the chocolate hazelnut spread and chunks of banana and deep fried until golden. I don’t think it really needs the ice cream because the fried gyoza is pretty awesome on its own.
Harajuku Gyoza is a fun and casual place to grab some drinks and a bite to eat. You can’t miss the smiling face of the Harajuku Gyoza logo on the outside of the restaurant, and if you want your face to be as happy as the smiling gyoza, go on inside and order yourself a sake and some dumplings!
Penguin says Feed Me dined courtesy of Harajuku Gyoza
9/15 Bayswater Rd
Potts Point NSW 2011
Ph: +61 2 9356 3834
Open Monday and Tuesday, 5pm-11.30pm, Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm-11.30pm