Get on your ‘little Japanese dumplings of happy’ and get down to Harajuku Gyoza in the Broadbeach Mall.
If the combination of beer and gyoza is not enough to put you into a spin, add the zany elements of ‘Harajuku’ and you’ll be doubly happy!
The largest of seven outlets of the phenomenally successful chain of restaurants that originated in Brisbane seven years ago, the Broadbeach store on the ground floor of Oasis is the first rather ostentatiously named ‘beer stadium’, putting the emphasis squarely on good times.
“Unlike our other stores, the microbrewery is the mainstay of this place,” says Steve Minon, who co-owns Harajuku with Andrew Jeffreys and Matthew Bailey.
“Dumplings and beer, sharing food, high energy service and crazy stuff…that’s Harajuku; a $30 trip to Japan. In Broadbeach we’ve flipped it. Here it’s more beer bar and dumplings in our biggest and boldest venue.”
Four huge shiny 1,200 litre tanks behind the bar form the core of Harajuku’s microbrewery, producing their six in-house craft brews under the label Yoyogi. Order your beer by the mug, growler or splurge on a mini keg, which means you can serve your friends at the table. Japanese-inspired cocktails join a bevy of local and imported beer and whisky, but sake comes with a fanfare worthy of an Olympic gold homecoming.
From the ‘Irasshaimase’ greeting shouted on entering to the anime gyoza (emoji) logo and the brightly coloured decorative wall plates, the world of Harajuku is a cheery mashup of beer hall, traditional and modern pop culture.
“The beergarden is a real Aussie thing, so we wanted to create a Japanese beergarden,” says Steve. “With the izakaya beer culture you can have a drink on your way home with some Japanese tapas. It’s a lot less formal than sitting down at a restaurant. People work hard, so they drop in to somewhere local before they catch a train home. Local drinking holes are so much a part of how they live.”
While Harajuku Gyoza makes reference to traditional Japanese culture, there’s nothing ‘old school’ about it. Its izakaya roots have been firmly grafted onto popular culture and modernity. Scenes of Tokyo pop culture on melamine plates turn the bone china-clad mantelpiece on its head, 3-cheese and Nutella are shamelessly borrowed from Italian cuisine, sex barriers are obsolete – women are welcome (unlike in traditional Japanese izakaya), with cocktails and the raindrop cake adding a feminine touch.
It all fits so well with Harajuku’s nomenclature: Harajuku Station near the centre of Tokyo, the global home of ‘cosplay’; the place where East meets West, virtual meets real as people attempt to live out their anime-based fantasies.
Colourfully described by JapanThis.com as ‘a kind of cultural clusterfuck’, ‘Harajuku’ is especially apt to describe gyoza itself. Whose food is it anyway, this Chinese dumpling imported to Japan after WWII to feed Allied soldiers; a dish that developed a cult following all its own? (Of course, that’s what pop culture is all about, and blissfully so!)
Japanese appropriated it may be, but it’s obvious that the guys at Harajuku Gyoza take their main menu item very seriously.
“Gyoza are an obsession for us. We want to get it right. We flew to Japan to deconstruct the recipes – what they put in them, different folding techniques and even folding machines that were very entertaining to watch,” Steve says. “We’ve imported electric gyoza grills from Japan for this store.”
Obviously, the folding machines didn’t make it, the picture window showing off two Japanese staff members painstakingly filling and folding each dumpling.
“Harajuku Gyoza is all about the dining experience,” Steve tells us. “We get lots of Japanese customers dining with us. They love our gyoza, and that’s the greatest compliment of all.”
We love them too! Gyoza form half the menu with more options than we could possibly eat: traditional gyoza filled with pork with kimchi or prawn, lemongrass chicken, duck, three cheese, and veggie, or open-face gyoza with pork belly, smoked salmon or tofu sitting pretty on oh so crispy skins. Dessert features the richly decadent Nutella, salted caramel, or peanut butter and white chocolate gyoza.
Izakaya, salads and bowls round out the menu with favourites such as Agedashi tofu, Takoyaki octopus balls, Barramundi Kushikatsu, Chicken karaage, and Salmon sashimi poke bowls. Then there’s the specials, such as the ‘to die for’ foot-long fries!
Fun fun fun! Harajuku Gyoza is the sort of place that screams ‘party’, its high tables spilling out onto Victoria Parade to soak up a bit of holiday spirit.
“I love that there’s an ant trail from the beach to the hotel,” Steve says. It’s a trail that leads right past Harajuku’s front door and, for brekkie, lunch or dinner the vibe is so infectious that we feel compelled to enter and be part of the fun. Why don’t you come and join us!
Oasis Shopping Centre, Victoria Avenue, Broadbeach Ph: 07 5592 4348
Open: Thurs – Mon 7am – 11pm; Tues – Wed 11am – 11pm
NOTE: This is an updated review. Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Harajuku Gyoza.