Friday, 13 June 2014

The Gaya Applecross

Last Friday night, I went to dinner at The Gaya Applecross which is a modern Korean restaurant. I've never tried 'modern Korean' before, although I have eaten the usual Korean dishes like bulgogi, bibimbap and kimchi which seems to be becoming more popular amongst the food scene in Perth. So I was really interested in what the food was going to be like. I was kindly invited by the owner Cho Leo to come to his restaurant and provide them with an honest review, which is what I'm going to write now.

The Gaya Applecross is located on a small shopping lot, with other restaurants and shops. There's free parking available but it was almost full on Friday night. From the outside, the restaurant, which seats up to forty six people, looks quiet and almost empty. But, boy was I wrong. It was packed! Every table was taken up by people eating, talking in loud voices and laughing. My first impression of The Gaya, was not a good one. I had made a reservation for 7:15pm, but we had to wait about twenty minutes before we could sit down. It seemed as though we were not the only ones who had to wait, there was a couple before us, waiting outside and another group of four people who left angrily. While waiting for twenty minutes outside, in the cold, we were reassured by the waitresses every five minutes that we would get a table soon. I'm usually an extremely impatient person, but somehow on that night, I didn't get that irritated. It was so, so busy and hectic. I'm not sure exactly what happened with the reservations that night, whether or not they double booked accidentally or assumed that they could handle that amount of customers, but I really hope that they won't let it happen again. No one likes to wait, especially when there's a reservation booked. The people working there were so apologetic about the whole ordeal, they looked so stressed out.

The interior of the restaurant, is decorated with Korean motifs proudly, with round paper lantern lights and traditional Korean colours. We were seated across the main door in front of the registers. Our table, which I noticed later on, was missing the glass top, every other table had one except us, which was slightly strange. The waitress was quick to come to our service, and gave us hand towels that grew when it absorbed water. I thought that was entertaining. We were given the menus and we mulled over what we would get. There are a lot of different options to choose from, and the restaurant also caters for gluten intolerant people, which is great. We were given two complimentary starters. The first, was rice cake with chilli sauce, and the second was cheese puffs with berry sauce. These two starters were nice, they didn't have a wow factor, but I really appreciated the notion of complimentary starters. It sort of gives you a glimpse of what's coming next. The rice cake tasted like rice cake, there wasn't much of a punch, but it was nice. At first glance, I thought the cheeses were melted and gooey, but they were airy and light. It had a nice sweetness to it from the berry which contrasted against the saltiness of the cheese, they were definitely interesting.

Complimentary rice cakes and cheese puffs.
Because it was so busy, it took a while for us to order our food. There's about three waitresses, and they were constantly busy, doing so many things. For our entrees, we decided to order the vegetable jijimi and the tofu kimchi.Vegetable jijimi is a very typical Korean vegetable pancake. I really liked this pancake! It was crispy and tasty, albeit slightly oily, and a great dish to share around the table. The second entree was seared tofu with homemade kimchi. This was a really nice simple dish, that also showed the effort they put in to their presentation of food. The kimchi was nice and tangy, although it wasn't as spicy as what I would have liked it to be and it went very well with the tofu. I thought it was great start to our dinner!

Vegetable jijimi: $12.00
Tofu kimchi: $12.00
For our mains I ordered the Gaya Bulgogi, which is a typical Korean dish. I ordered this dish because I wanted to have something typically Korean, and the idea of having a stew like dish appealed to me. Bulgogi, for those who don't know, is basically a Korean beef stew. It was served with enoki mushrooms, sweet potato noodles, and also came with some butter rice and ginseng chilli paste. The bulgogi was hearty, warming and yummy, something you can eat a lot of rice with. But it lacked a certain specialness, if that makes sense. To me it tasted a lot like sukiyaki, which is a Japanese dish where thin beef slices are simmered in a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin and sugar. It was too similar, and I found it hard to distinguish the Korean-ness in the dish. The butter rice, was white rice with a small cube of butter on top and some sprinkled sesame seeds. It's a great dish to have on a wintery night because it's very filling and comforting.

Gaya Bulgogi: $28.00

My mum ordered the Samgyetang, which is a traditional Korean chicken broth with ginseng, sticky rice and red dates served with soy mustard sauce. This dish was only mediocre to my mum. The portion was really big, it came with half a chicken, which was hard to eat due to the bones. The broth was subtle and delicate and I thought the sticky rice was going to come separate, but it was in the broth. It was a nice warming soup, albeit slightly weak in flavour.

Samgyetang: $28.00
My sister ordered the Tteokgalbi, which is a grilled beef spare rib pattie with deep fried rice cakes, a sunny-side up egg, coconut rice, and oyster mushrooms. I thought this dish was so interesting, something that you wouldn't come across everyday. My sister thought the meat was really tasty and had a nice texture, however, she needed something to break up the flavours. The rice cakes were caramelized with cinnamon sugar which made the dish slightly too heavy for her.  It also came with capsicum stuffed fish cakes, coconut rice and a small serving of macaroni.

Tteokgalbi $30.00
We were also given a plate of side dishes for our mains, it included a slice of Korean ham, pickled celery and white radish. I've never tried Korean ham before, it was a bit sausage like in texture, and had a mild taste. The pickled vegetables were great, they were crunchy, spicy, tangy and sour, and it did a brilliant job of cleaning our palates.

Side dish
For dessert we ordered the Red Misu and Gaya Ho-Tuck. The Red Misu is The Gaya's rendition of an Italian tiramisu, with red bean paste. The dessert resembled a flower pot that came with crushed biscuits as soil, chocolate rocks and a cute little leaf. The presentation was well thought out and adorable. The tiramisu was nice and creamy, but light at the same time. The sponge was also not too soggy which was great. I wish there was more red bean in it though, I think it would add more flavour and texture to the dessert. Gaya Ho-Tuck is a Korean dessert, it's deep fried glutinous rice with syrup inside. It also came with some honeycomb crackling, caramel and walnuts. This dish really shows the effort and thought that has been put in to the dish. The dessert was chewy but crunchy on the outside, and nicely sweet. The rice cakes were dusted with cinnamon sugar that added a nice spice flavour. The honeycomb crackling unfortunately had a slightly overcooked taste, nevertheless it added a nice crunch to the dessert.

Red Misu: $8.00
Gaya Ho-Tuck: $8.00
All in all, it was definitely an interesting night! The Gaya Applecross, I think, still has some things to improve on. It's a great little restaurant with very kind people working there, and I think if they fine tuned their cooking and have a better organized reservation list, their restaurant will attract more customers and become a greater restaurant. One suggestion I would make to people wanting to go to The Gaya, is to order lots of entrees and only a few mains to share around the table. There are so many interesting entrees available which showcase different aspects of The Gaya and it's  nice to taste and share different dishes, also the entrees and mains are all a great size to share between people. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be invited to dine at The Gaya Applecross and I really hope that the restaurant will continue to grow and improve, because if they do, they'll be heading towards great things!
The Gaya Applecross on Urbanspoon