This Japanese eatery makes fast food fun and entertaining.
Most people assume that “fast food’ is a modern phenomenon – an insidious aspect of our current fast lifestyles. But, far from being an invention of the late 20th century, fast food has been part of every society. The ancient Romans could buy honey cakes and sausages in the Forum whilst the ancient Greeks purchased barley cakes around the Acropolis. When the Spanish discovered Mexico, they found tacos and deep-fried “churros” from street vendors. In 12th century Hangchow, the Chinese could get noodles, stuffed buns and dumplings.
Harajuku Gyoza specialises in beer and gyoza – Japanese-style dumplings. Named after a colourful Tokyo district, this is classic Japanese style “fast food” in an Izakaya or Japanese bar-style environment. The menu is simple – hand-made gyoza with a choice of five fillings – duck, chicken, pork, vegetables or whole prawns – either grilled or poached. Each serve ($8) has five dumplings, except the whole prawns which has three.
When we visited there was also a special – Moreton Bay Bug gyoza ($12). Freshly cooked to order, the grilled dumplings are hot, crisp on one side and soft on the other, whilst the poached gyoza are soft, slippery and hot. Diners make their own dipping sauce to taste, from soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli in bottles on the table. There is a range of side dishes including rice, pickles and, of course, Edamame ($4) – whole soy beans, freshly steamed and lightly salted. There are four Izakaya (Japanese bar food) dishes including an excellent Chicken Karage ($8) – tender bite-size fried chicken pieces served with Japanese mayonnaise. Order a couple of dishes to start, then order again as needed.
Kirin beer is on tap ($8) with several others available by the bottle plus a small wine list ($8 a glass) and sake ($7). The atmosphere is fun and noisy with the Japanese staff greeting everyone with a loud “Irasshaimase” when they arrive. The service is cheerful and quick, although when it’s busy it can be difficult to get attention.
They don’t take bookings and there is often a queue out into the street waiting to get in. Once inside you may have to share a table or, best, sit up at the bar and watch the cooks at work. This is fast food with flavour that’s easy to share.