In my new effort to keep on top of reviews for 2019 I aim/pledge to be posting one every two days until I catch up or my sanity breaks. The first venue visited in 2019, and one I have fallen in love with, is the “newishly” opened (December) GORYON-SAN in Surry Hills. It’s a truly authentic Yakitori/Kushiyaki Kakurega Izakaya (say that three times really fast) that brings the best of Japan to Sydney. And I couldn’t be happier, I love Japan more than any other place.
Owned by Japan’s GORYON-SAN, and operated by North Sydney wagyu yakiniku restaurant, Rengaya, GORYON-SAN is one of the closest to being authentic as an Izakaya can be in Sydney. It’s a pub-style Izakaya known as a Kakurega, meaning a place you can come in and “hide-out.” They pride themselves on being a place to hide, relax, grab a meal and have fun. In Japan the GORYON-SAN restaurants are famous – you are in good hands at this place. We even got to meet the owner who was visiting from Japan.
In the Hakata / Fukuoka dialect, a “GORYON-SAN” means “a lady of the house who tends to all its household affairs.” This was a highly respected role, unlike our culture, so please no sexism calls dear Nanny State.
While GORYON-SAN is a lot bigger than most Izakaya in Japan it does feel very authentic on the inside. You duck through noren curtains to enter and the place is warmly lit and designed with lots of subtle natural tones in bricks and wood. The staff will constantly be yelling out welcomes and they add a lot of noise to the place, but it’s worth it. And check out the chefs, our chef thought he was Salt Bae – we had named him Kushiyaki Bae by the end of our meal.
There is the central cooking section where the grills are located, glass topped cabinets in front where they put all their prepped food and then a bench that wraps mostly around it. It is the ideal place to sit, see your food cooked, enjoy beers and be entertained by the chefs. Then there is large tables and more intimate tables peppered throughout the place and a bar/ counter-to-pay to the left. It is comfortable and it is fun and I would be happy sitting in there for hours drinking and eating.
The menu is a wonderful selection of Japanese food. It is aiming to be mostly about the Hakata Kushiyaki but also impressed with some wonderful ramen selections, specials and starters.
NB: When talking about street food in Hakata (Fukuoka Prefecture), “KUSHIYAKI” or “grilled skewers” apply to all types of meats and proteins grilled on a stick; whereas a “YAKITORI” in general only applies to “grilled chicken.”
WHAT WE GLEEFULLY DEVOURED:
Edamame with garlic sweet soy sauce and extra virgin olive oil
Iburigakko Naruto Maki – cream cheese wrapped in smoked pickled radish
Wagyu Millefeuille – wagyu beef sashimi (+9), avocado, vinegared radish, deep fried parsnip, fried onion, egg yolk and truffle oil
Fresh Lettuce & Pork Belly Kushiyaki
Enoki Mushrooms and Pork Belly Kushiyaki
Camembert Cheese Kushiyaki
Gorgonzola Honey Kushiyaki
SPECIAL: Half Lobster Tail – tender and sweet, unique lemon and cheese dipping sauce
Hakata Taki Gyoza – house recipe pork gyoza in rich tonkotsu soup with cabbage, shallot and sesame seed
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Before the food, I need to talk service, it was exceptional. We had never-ending attention with a smile. Our waitress pictured below talked to my guest, Tammi, in Japanese, so Tammi could practice and she provided a lot of help in our selections.
There is one roaring difference between GORYON-SAN and traditional Kushiyaki Kakurega – THEY DO NOT USE CHARCOAL GRILLS. They cook on electric grills – this will have a large difference to the flavours as there is no smoke. I would think of this more as a very light and clean style of grilling the foods, I think it would be better with the charcoal but from an economic and environmental point of view the electricity is probably their better option.
As for the food – it was heavenly. We kicked off with the garlic edamame and they went down a treat with my Sapporo Premium Yebisu beer – now a top 5 beer for me. NEED MORE!
Then the food rolled out quick. We were done and dusted in just over an hour and we ate a lot. I would suggest you order a couple of dishes with each round of drinks and don’t order all the food at the start.
Our first dish was cream cheese wrapped in smoked pickled cabbage and it was delicious. I loved the contrasts of the two ingredients and the opposing textures won me over.
The Mune (breast) and Yotsumi (thigh) Kushiyaki were our first tastes of Kushiyaki and we loved them. We wanted to see the comparison between the meats. For me the chicken thigh won out for the extra flavours from the fats.
As for the following Kushiyaki I loved them all. I found the lettuce and pork belly needed a dipping sauce and the gorgonzola and honey beat the camembert by a long shot. Tammi preferred the camembert.
The Wagyu Millefeuille was “like” a beef tartare served on top avocado with a small egg on top of that and then drizzled in truffle oil. I considered fighting Tammi for the whole thing. So good!
The “Special” Lobster Tail was wonderfully cooked and partnered well with the lemon and cheese dipping sauce (as did a lot of the other food we had haha) but at $45- we only got four bites out of it.
HAKATA TAKI NABE:
Finally it was the Hakata Taki Nabe – rich Tonkotsu soup that has been stewed for 3 days and 3 nights. We got a little confused when we ordered. We ordered their signature dish – the Hakata Taki Gyoza assuming it was a tonkotsu ramen with gyoza. Nope – it’s a wonderful, and incredibly light, tonkotsu broth with gyoza in it – there is no noodles. It was actually an ideal summer broth but I would have preferred some noods in there. But the gyoza were heavenly.
On my next visit I am trying the super thick ramen – will it be any match for Gumshara?
GORYON-SAN was a perfect place to kick off my 2019 reviews. Exceptional service, fantastic food and wonderful attention to detail. It is a slice of Japan in Sydney and who knew we all needed a Hakata Kushiyaki Kakurega.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 2/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets & 1/1 bonus
PH: 02 9281 2228
47 Reservoir St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
PRICING: Medium/High Priced – we pigged out and ordered the lobster and it was less than $100- each – only one alcoholic drink
7 Days: 530 – 10pm
LOCAL DELIVERY: Unsure – check with venue
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: 50/50
*** Spooning Australia Paid for this Meal ***
For more reviews of Surry Hills Restaurants – check them out HERE