I was recently invited to visit the Gaya in Applecross by its chef and owner, Leo. A Korean restaurant isn’t the kind of place I’d normally visit (and certainly don’t feel qualified to review), but why not, maybe it’s time to try something different. I went with Renay and some friends for Sunday lunch.
I should point out that I consider myself to have “western” tastes when it comes to Asian food, although I can handle as much chilli as you can throw at me. I apologise in advance for any ill-informed comments that I’m about to make…
The restaurant is simple inside, but quite comfortable and the tables aren’t too close together. The kitchen area isn’t particularly well separated from the dining area, which isn’t a problem although hearing the “ding” of a microwave was a little odd.
You can see the menu here.
Some kind of fried cheese UFOs to start. Not at all what I was expecting, but crunchy and tasty nonetheless.
The first entree we ordered was Gaya Chicken (deep fried chicken thigh with sweet and spicy sauce and topped with roast peanuts – $14.50), and I really enjoyed this. It was crunchy, chewy, spicy and just generally delicious. I could have eaten this all day, although it was a little spicy for some of the more flavour-challenged at the table.
Popular with everyone in the group was the Japchae, a Korean traditional dish pan with fried sweet potato noodle, stir fried vegetables and beef wrapped in rice paper with Korean mustard ($12).
Arancini is not what you’d expect to find at a Korean restaurant, but here it is with with basil pesto, pan fried kimchi and berry sauce ($12). I didn’t think these had a great deal of flavour – apart from the kimchi – although that seems to be a common complaint with Arancini. Maybe it’s just me.
Some pickled vegetables. The capsicum was my favourite of the three.
Onto main course, and we ordered what was advertised on the lunch menu as “chicken mayo” for the child (and flavour-challenged adult) at the table, however this turned out to be just the Gaya chicken with some mayo, and it was too spicy for both of them. The bowl it was served in was very hot, and quite hard to eat from.
I ordered Spicy Chicken (with Korean chilli paste, potato, carrot and sweet potato noodle – $26). I was expecting to share this, so ordered it as just “hot” instead of mild or extra-hot. It had a decent chilli kick and the chicken was very moist. Wish I’d tried the extra-hot, though.
Here we have Beef short rib (slow cooked beef short ribs in a broth of red dates and parsnip chips with rosemary potato and carrot – $30). As you would expect, the beef was very tender.
This intriguing dish was called “Truffle Hamburg steak” ($28). The Hamburg steak (50% pork mince / 50% beef mince) is grilled and served with bean sprouts, mushrooms, cauliflower & rice with truffle cream sauce, topped with parmesan cheese.
I’m not sure how much of this dish is Korean in origin, and I didn’t think it looked very appetising (although I despise cauliflower in any form). I wasn’t game enough to try this, but Vicky who ordered it enjoyed it.
Think you’ve seen a well equipped restaurant bathroom? They go to the extreme here (yes, it was the ladies and no, I didn’t take the photo). Not sure about communal mouthwash, though…
Eating at The Gaya was a very different experience for all of us, but one that we all enjoyed and were glad we tried. The servings were all generous, and all of the food was reasonably priced. We were all too full to try dessert, which is a shame because some photos I’ve seen elsewhere look spectacular. Recommended.
Disclaimer: we were invited to visit The Gaya, and received a 50% discount on our meals.