The city end of Newmarket has a wealth of cheap eats and we were struggling to choose when we stumbled on an bright newish-looking Japanese eatery. Turns out it’s a combination of our favourite sushi place (Bien) and the now-closed Gyoza King from Ponsonby road. It’s only been open three weeks.
So it’s sushi by day and gyoza (Japanese dumplings) and other tasty treats by night and what a find! The menu is Japanese-based with a lot of Korean elements reflecting the nationality of the owners of Bien and Gyoza King respectively. The decor is red and white and it’s bright, cheery, modern and clean. There are some great touches like big containers under the seats for coats and bags and table extenders if you order a lot (I’m ashamed to say we needed one!)
Down to the food. It’s cheap so we tried a lot. Despite the wide variety of gyoza (you can choose from a range of fillings and cooking methods – in soup, pan-fried, deep fried, boiled, in nabe or with miso and Japanese leeks as a topping) we decided to go with the standard pan-fried ones ($6.50) to get an idea of how they coped on a benchmark dish. Admirably is the answer. The filling was pork with vegetables and seasoning and it was fresh-tasting with a great crispy fried outer. The dipping sauce was a citrus soy and they worked perfectly together.
We also had the Broccoli goma-mayo ($6), Kimchi Philadelphia ($4) Yaki Soba ($9.50) Moyashi-Itame ($3) the Light and cheesy ($4.20) and the green salad ($7) to share.
The broccoli was lightly blanched with sesame mayo and was a great way of getting some nice-tasting greens. The Kimchi Philadelphia and Moyashi-Itame were simplistic genius, the first one being just Kimchi with cubes of cream-cheese and the second bean sprouts blanched and then fried in sesame oil, salt and pepper. If you haven’t tasted Kimchi before, it’s Korean pickled spicy cabbage. The flavour is raw chilli and the texture is crunchy but the creamy cheese addition was the perfect taste and texture complement. Bean sprouts are not my absolute favourite vegetable I have to say, but I would eat them every day cooked like they do here.
The Yaki Soba (noodles fried with prawn, squid cabbage, onions and carrots in a thick Worcestershire-style sauce with Bonito flakes on top) was delicious although not totally traditional. In Japan it is usually served with mayo, nori flakes and sliced red ginger but the chef said the red ginger was too strong for most so he leaves it out. The Light and Cheesy were deep fried hollow dumplings with a layer of grated cheese and nori flakes inside and were fabulous too. The salad was nice but ordinary and came with a choice of three dressings.
There were also other soup-based and fried noodles and rice dishes available.
At the end we were brought a small cup with two pieces of Chocolate ginger to share. The perfect end to a great meal with lovely, friendly service to boot. Try it out.