Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gaijin Lunch Bar

Gaijin Lunch Bar
361 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
(Ph) 0499 073 061

P loved our few visits to Gaijin in South Yarra so when we found out they opened a smaller sister restaurant in the city we had been meaning to try it out. But then I saw a Groupon voucher for this restaurant All-You-Can-Eat Japanese Tapas with Wine for Two ($39) I decided to get it and check it out. It's mainly a Lunch Bar but they are open for dinners Thursdays to Saturdays, so that's when you can redeem the voucher. 

How strange a restaurant doesn't have a landline as their contact number but a mobile number only? I tried calling the number multiple times with no answer and in the end I SMS'd them my booking details. They replied SMS letting me know they were full for the night I wanted and we ended up having a SMS conversation to book a time/date =/

It's a very casual restaurant with its random furnishings of wooden tables and colourful metal chairs, very different to it's sister restaurant Gaijin which is much more formal.

We got seated at a small wooden table, I'd much prefer that than these random high seats at the back end of the restaurant - at least they have foot rests right? =P And why would they have a "Welcome" sign at the BACK of the restaurant? =P

It's very casual here - if we weren't here for the Groupon voucher, we would've had to order and pay for our foods at the counter and pick up the foods at the counter (which are all served on disposable plates/bowls) and get our own plastic cutlery too. Kinda like Ocha2go with the self-service cutlery, and like Hanaichi with the order and get-your-own-food-from-the-counter in disposable containers.

But because we were here with the voucher, the waitress told us we can let them know what we want to order and they'll bring the food out to us - and w00t! They're not on disposable plates =)

We started off with our complimentary glass of wine - neither P and I drink wine but it's part of the deal, later we found out we could've got a can of Coke instead noooo! =(

They printed out a menu for the Groupon customers and even laminated them =P It included instructions like "Customers are allowed 90 minutes time limit on Groupon session", "Each person gets to order one dish from the menu at one time" and "Only when the dish is finished the customer is allowed to order another dish" and "Customers will be charged if a dish is not finished, based on what is left on the plate". The instructions were a bit annoying but I guess they need to have some sort of control. The foods on offer are the dishes in the "On the Side" column on the normal Lunch menu, minus the Gyoza (6 pieces of grilled pork and vegetable dumplings) and Crispy Soft Shell Crab (fried soft shell crab served with cucumber, crunchy, gaijin sauce and masago). I was a bit disappointed 'cause these are 2 of my favourite dishes =( I guess they have Tori Karage and Calamari Rings on offer instead.

We started off with Agedashi Tofu - 6 pcs fried soft tofu with tempura sauce, topped with fish flakes and green onion 

This was not too bad, but the tempura sauce was a bit too strong and salty, normally it's quite dilute so you could dunk your whole tempura in without it being overpowering but this was a bit too much considering the tofu is soaked in the sauce. Tofu was quite nicely fried and soft and silky inside though.

Potato Croquette - fried potato with carrot, beans and corn

This was quite tasty, not that there was much inside the croquette, 90% was potato but the crumb was very good and was delicious with the mayo and the tonkatsu sauce =)

I wanted something to drink after the fried food so got the Miso Soup - fermented soy bean paste soup with tofu, seaweed and green onion

You'd think they could just give us 2 miso soups but no, we could only order one dish at a time and we wanted to try more dishes quickly so we just shared it =P And lucky we did - the miso soup was a bit too salty for my liking, we were tempted to just pour some water in it to dilute it out =/

Edamame - a bowl of salted green soybeans

These took a while to come out, and when we asked the waitress she said they were cooking, I guess good to know they cook the food straight away for us, but you'd think they'd have lots prepared already since they know how many Groupon customers will be coming for the night? Quite fun popping the beans out of the shell and I liked the touch of salt on the outside =)

Next came the Tori Karage

This is not on the normal lunch menu, but is available for dinner tapas. Fried pieces of chicken - they're normally meant to be bigger pieces of chicken, these were more like popcorn chicken and some bits even smaller like they was mainly batter, stingeing on the chicken?

After the fried foods wanted something refreshing so got the Sashimi - both the Salmon and the Kingfish

How lowsy with only 3 pieces of sashimi? It was quite fresh and nice - we ended up ordering about 4 plates of each to eat our money's worth of sashimi =P But what a waste on the piece of lettuce and wasabi, at least P ate the ginger but they could have given us more pieces so to save dishwashing space =P

The Kingfish Sashimi wasn't as tasty as salmon, but I'm not usually a big fan of Kingfish.

I was quite excited for the Kani Crab salad but when it came was quite disappointed it consisted mainly of shredded crabstick. I looked on the normal Lunch Bar menu and found this was the description =( - crabstick, masago, mayo, cucumber

Crabstick is NOT considered crab - don't call it what it's not! And it was meant to come served with masago (capelin roe) which clearly it didn't! What a disappointment =(

Next we got the Calamari Rings - another dish not on the normal lunch menu, only available for dinner tapas.

Quite generous considering calamari is considered "expensive" - more than what we expected after the sashimi dishes and the disappointing crab salad. Quite nicely deep fried, would have been better if they drained the oil a bit first but like the potato croquettes, were tasty with the kewpie mayo and the tonkatsu sauce =)

I wanted something refreshing again so got the Seaweed salad - seasoned shredded seaweed, sesame flavour

Quite nice and refreshing with a slightly chewy texture - just annoying how you have to finish a dish before you can order another one, so it felt a bit bland eating mouthful after mouthful of seaweed =/

Last came the Sushi of the Day

This looked a bit sad compared to the awesome looking sushi dishes at Gaijin - it was just a california roll with some chicken inside and some spicy sauce over it.

5/10 - maybe it was because it was Gaijin's casual sister restaurant, or maybe because we were using a coupon and they didn't serve us the expensive stuff, but this dining experience wasn't as good as we thought it would be =( Plus I was expecting them to also offer Gyoza and Crispy Soft Shell Crab too which are also on the "On the Side " menu but not on offer with the coupon =( Maybe next time I'll try their normal lunch menu - can get a whole dish for $10 or less.

3/5 - the waitresses were very polite and kept saying "Sorry for the wait" every time they brought dishes out, and I guess it was good they brought the food to us instead of us going up to the counter 'cause that would be very annoying

2/5 - quite a casual lounge-like restaurant, next time I think I'll sit at the sofas seems pretty comfy there~


Gaijin Lunch Bar on Urbanspoon

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