Thursday, 14 November 2013

A taste of globalised Korean at The Gaya

This would be making all the headlines...
The Gaya applecross on Urbanspoon
Disclaimer: Hungry Again Perth was invited as a guest to The Gaya to sample the dinner menu, however all opinions expressed hereon are nobody's but my own.
Normal prices are shown with dishes.

When I think Korean food, I think traditional. I think strong, bold flavours that come out of a style of cooking that tastes like and reminds me of home. When I came across dishes like arancini on their menu being served with pan-fried kimchi, I was puzzled. Is The Gaya meant to be something else?
The Gaya Korean Restaurant
Partly right. Turns out that's what Leo, chef and owner of The Gaya envisioned it to be - a homely, nostalgic restaurant serving traditional dishes that are made with a creative and contemporary touch. The chef has used traditional Korean food as his canvas and played around with more modern cooking techniques to prepare them, resulting in dishes that are not only sound good but look visually stunning.
Yook Jijimi - $12
We started off with the 'Yook Jijimi', a type of 'pancake' made using glutinous rice flour, egg and slices of thin-cut beef. The 'pancake' was not what I had expected at all; the pancake is the beef itself, coated in a very thin layer of flour and egg before being pan-fried to a golden finish and crowned with a bouquet of battered enoki mushrooms.

The beef slices are aromatic but lack a bit of seasoning, though the subtle flavour is compensated by eating it with the roasted pine nut salt grains sprinkled on the side. The crumbs melt in your mouth and are deceptively salty, and remind me of the golden salted egg yolk crumbs that are sprinkled on top of deep fried crab dishes at Chinese restaurants. Each component on the dish is not fantastic on their own, but come together surprisingly well.

Besides the beef option, there is also the choice of vegetable, kimchi, mung bean and fish jijimi.
Salmon Gravlax - $14
The second entree was a neatly arranged plate of salmon gravlax, intercepted by mounds of wakame. Salmon gravlax is typically a dish of cured salmon and here it is marinated with gin, salt, sugar, plum and dill. The pieces of salmon are smoky and salty; the tobiko mayo that sits on top even saltier. We eat it the combination of salmon and mayo together and assume it is the salmon that is giving it that intense savoury taste, until we deconstruct it and try each element separately. I'm very surprised that amidst the tobiko, capers and onion that give the mayonnaise a textural crunch, the mayonnaise itself is unnecessarily salty. Thankfully, this is where I stop using the word "salty" to describe the rest of our dishes.
Side dish - $4
Upon ordering a "side dish" (as it is named in the menu) to be included with our main dishes, we are told that this already comes with main meals. The three items are uninspiring; the pickled cabbage crunchy and sour, the spicy radish dull and the sliced potato soft - and my most preferred out of the three. Considering these replicate the complimentary side dishes that are served at other Korean restaurants and can be refilled as you please, I wouldn't justify paying $4 for this side dish.
Beef short rib, parsnip, red date - $30
After reading Weny's review on The Gaya, I had to try for myself this monster size of a dish. It seems more of a communal dish to share at the table rather than being meant for one, with the five or six chunky pieces of short ribs in the pool of savoury and slightly sweet broth. After the mighty efforts of Andy and myself, we still had to leave a lonesome short rib behind.

The large chunks of short ribs seem all tough guy, but are big softies on the inside. This traditional hearty Korean dish involves simmering beef short ribs for 24 hours to give it that unbelievable tenderness. The softness is from a combination of the cooking time as well as the thin layers of fatty deposits in between the meat, giving it that moisture after being saturated in the broth.

We both agree there was one thing that was missing, that would make this dish the best it can be. It's a subjective call but it held true for us; we flagged the waiter over and he consequently plonked a large bowl of rice on the table for us. With this, we ate more of the dish despite stopping before - it's amazing how loading on more carbs opens up our appetite isn't it?
Tteokgalbi: Beef spare rib, rice cake, yoghurt potato salad, pine nut - $30
I contemplated on whether it was a good idea to order two beef dishes as our mains, and decided the answer was quite obviously a YES! As the Tteokgalbi does not mention "eggs" anywhere, I was a bit of a worry wart that I had ordered the Bibambap when I realised the waiter asked how I wanted my egg done.

I quite liked the yoghurt potato salad, as it was a refreshing and lighter taste to the rest of the food on the dish, which was very tasty but was high in oil content by the way the food gleamed. The two grilled beef spare rib patties fit this bill especially; it was so indulgently fatty, moist and soft, that makes other burger patties taste like a joke. Very dry jokes that aren't funny, like this one.
Egg yolk: "PIERCE ME!"
I asked for a sunny-side up egg, and received an egg yolk that was screaming to be poked. It balanced precariously, but I refrained from letting the egg yolk lava loose as I wanted to retain the crispiness of the seemingly endless discs of deep fried rice cakes. I was ADDICTED to them, but only me - Andy had one and I had the rest, which meant I probably had twenty or so.
Most of them gave a good chew. I couldn't stop chewing.
Gaya Ho-Tuck - $8
The dessert menu at The Gaya doesn't have much description supporting the dish's name. I resorted to asking one of my Korean friends what "ho-tuck" actually was, and the fact that I still ordered this without having a single clue what to expect only means that she wasn't any help, at all.

The presentation of the ho-tuck is really sweet; the walnuts, strawberry, pine nuts (chef likes his pine nuts!) and three blood-like drops of strawberry syrup adorn the rim of the plate while the ho-tuck and caramel shards sit on top of perfectly straight lines of caramel syrup that extend outwards from the centre. In comparison to the rest of the components, the nuts are exactly that: nuts. Had they been candied or something similar, would have added to the dessert.
I snapped a picture and later that night showed the said friend from before. Her reaction was amusing; she burst out laughing with a big "LOL" and followed with a long, extended "HAHA", and left me very confused. Who would have thought that this Korean pancake - hotteok - was a 50 cent street food sold in Korea? This fancied up version sure dazzled her, but I think it's clever to work such a well known snack food into a modern style dessert.

Usually with a sugary syrup filling, The Gaya's version has a pillowy, nearly gelatinous centre in stark contrast to its crisp exterior, which has been deep fried until a golden crust has formed. I can see why they're popular; it would be so dangerously easy to down five of these in one go.
Red Misu - $8
My pick of the night is this finale for the night - a very cute tiramisu style dessert served in a small pot. If No.4 Blake Street hadn't already dazzled us with their very realistic chocolate pot plant which I named my post after, I think this would be making all the headlines if we haven't all become a little indifferent to eating dirt for dessert ;)
Digging for treasures
The Gaya's Red Misu is a play on the traditional tiramisu; this one features red beans nestled amongst the creamy "soil" and liquor laced sponges dug up with your spoon. There is less texture overall as the red beans are quite soft, but the sweetness of the dessert is pitched at a perfect level and is not mind and teeth-numbingly rich. It would be great if more crunchy textures could be thrown in addition to the chocolate pebbles scattered on top of the Red Misu. Its petite size really makes it unworthy for sharing. Order one for yourself, and make sure you only get one spoon.

Along the back wall
It is easy to see the chef's intentions to rework the concept of Korean cuisine that people have in mind into something a little new and modern; or in The Gaya's terms, globalised Korean. The word 'fusion' is frowned upon by many but I throw open my arms and welcome it with a big friendly hug; change should be embraced!
A big, spacious seating area
The menu is different (Korean tapas anyone?), the presentation is beautiful and the servings are generous. Tick, tick, tick. Friendly and extremely courteous waiter? Bigger tick! By the end of the night, we were absolutely stuffed. One of us even loosened our belt accidentally in front of the waiter, and it wasn't me :-)
Definitely has that homely feel
The Gaya, Applecross
The Gaya
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm - 10pm
Open Tuesday - Saturday

(08)9364 8887
Unit 3/4, 3 Kearns Crescent Ardross WA 6153

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