Having been to Harajuku Gyoza at Fortitude Valley and Southbank, I have yet to go to the most recently opened branch in Albert Lane, outside of Vapiano (despite working in the CBD).
This being the case, I was most pleased to receive an invite from Zomato to partake in their meetup at Harajuku Gyoza Brisbane CBD to try out their new summer menu which was soon to be released.
Our host soon introduced himself as Erick-San. He was patient and friendly throughout the evening, offering quick service and was exceptionally knowledgeable to the extent where he could provide us detailed commentary on each of the dishes and drinks served.
Decor was consistent with the other stores, offering a wooden base, with chic modern Japanese fittings.
We started off the evening with refreshing green tea, brewed in-house, served without sugar. My companion found it could have been a little stronger, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely.
Our appetiser was the Lime and Sesame Jumbo Rice Cracker. It had a similar texture to prawn crackers, but was a lot thinner, lighter and didn't have a seafood smell to it. Erick explained to us that this dish was created by Ryan Squire, who runs Esquire. It is made with a piece of rice paper similar to those found in Vietnamese rice paper rolls. The cracker was light, with a slight oiliness to it to allow the lime and sesame to cling to it.
The next dish we sampled was the Summer Whiting Gyoza, with whiting sourced from the Sunshine coast, and was also created by Ryan Squires. It's different from the other gyoza as it comes with its own specialised lime ponzu dipping sauce. The skin was thin and crispy, whilst the whiting was a little fishy, this was easily rectified by the green onion and dipping sauce which it was fresh and light.
Our next dish was the Kushikatsu 串カツ, which means deep fried skewered meat cutlet. This evening, we had three selections, being prawn, chicken and shiitake mushrooms. Whilst I usually prefer my crumbed foods to come coated in bigger granules of breadcrumbs, these were still very fresh and crispy. The prawn was particularly nice because it was cooked just right and not overdone and special mention is definitely needed as the prawns were gutted (most restaurants fail to do this), but the favourite across the table was the shiitake mushrooms, which maintained its juiciness and softness despite being fried. It was served with kushikatsu sauce and seasoned salt.
The next on the new menu was the Beef Gyoza with Shiso leaves. At this point, we got to make our own dipping sauce, with the recommended ratios of two parts soy sauce, one part vinegar and then a dash of chili oil. In all honesty, my preference for dumpling fillings is always pork, with chicken as a close second. My concern with beef is always that the texture may be a bit coarse. Having said that, the beef gyoza were actually quite delicious, whilst they were not coarse, it was a definite difference in texture from the usual, and the added shiso added an extra dimension to the dish.
Next up we got to experience the Sake song and dance routine. Each time a customer orders Sake at Harajuku, all the staff come out to dance and shout Sake Sake Sake, whilst it is being poured, which was definitely a very cheery way to be served a drink.
After that, we sampled some of the Pork Belly Kakuni かくに. It is cut into squares and slowly stewed for many many hours. Although it doesn't have crispy skin, it has a melt in the mouth texture with every bite we took. I was a bit concerned it would be fatty, but being stewed for that many hours actually dissolved most of the fat, so whilst it was very moist, it wasn't oily. The sauce also serves as a popular accompaniment to rice. With this dish, we were also served Espresso Stout to compliment it. It was quite strong tasting, and had a very strong coffee aroma. Interestingly, Hitachino, the brewers were traditionally sake makers, and only recently tried their hand at beers, regardless, I really enjoyed the drink.
The last dish of the night was the Duck Gyoza, which is available on their regular menu, and a crowd favourite (as well as my own personal favourite). The duck was juicy and fragrant, whilst still maintaining its gamey taste. It came with the slushie topped kirin cider. the slushie top is made from kirin cider, and serves to ensure the drink is kept cold, in addition to aesthetic purposes. It was probably my favourite drink of the night, being refreshing and crisp like chilled apple juice.
For dessert we tried the two new dessert gyozas. Whilst they look the same, the plate without the spoon was the Strawberries and Cream Gyoza, whilst the plate with the spoon was the Lime and Coconut Gyoza. The strawberry one was filled with strawberry puree, with cream mixed in, and the lime one was filled with lime puree, which had a very strong coconut fragrance. The gyoza pastry was fried and complimented the smooth vanilla ice cream beautifully. If I had to take a pick though, my favourite would definitely have been the strawberry one, which was particularly flavoursome, and a delicious way to end off the night.
Espresso and Matcha were invited guests of Zomato and Harajuku Gyoza, but as always, our opinions are solely our own.