I received an email from Leo, the owner and chef of The Gaya Restaurant in Applecross, inviting us to dine as his guests, in return for honest feedback. We were happy to accept and made a booking for a Thursday night. The website describes the cuisine as contemporary Korean offering delicious Korean fusion. As I haven’t tried Korean food before I don’t consider myself an authority in this cuisine, however I do know delicious food.
The decor is casual with tables and chairs being a bit of a mismatch. Where we were seated the chairs were very comfortable, something important to someone with a bad back. As the restaurant filled up during the evening it became quite noisy so you couldn’t hear the background music, but with everyone appearing to enjoy themselves, this is to be expected. The service during the evening was excellent, very attentive and friendly. I loved that they began with compressed hand towels, that expand with water, I thought this a special touch. Especially that the waitress explained what they were, just in case we were confused. We were served an amuse-bouche of pancakes and cheese puffs, very tasty, while we looked over the menu.
For our starters we settled on Yook Jijimi (Korean royal court cuisine style thinly sliced beef pancake served with roasted pine nut grain salt – $12) for me and Prawn Brochettes (Grilled Korean style prawns and vegetable skewer with tomato salsa and spicy peanut sauce – $14) for Claude. The Yook Jijimi was like nothing I have ever tasted before but, wow, what fantastic flavour. The pancake with the beautiful fresh finely cut vegetables were amazing. The fried enoki mushrooms on top were soooo good, I let Claude have a taste but he was disappointed I didn’t leave more for him. My only complaint – a chipped plate.
The presentation of Claude’s starter was amazing. He was so excited to get started, I’m lucky we managed to get a photo. The prawns were cooked perfectly, the salsa and peanut sauce creating a perfect balance. The chilli gave it a nice kick and so tasty, he wanted to know if it was inappropriate to lick the plate. I assured him it was.
As it was very busy we waited a while for our mains however the staff let us know what was happening, apologised and bought out some pickled vegetables and kimchi. For mains I chose Spicy Chicken (Simmering cooked chicken by Korean chilli paste with potato, carrot and sweet potato noodle – $26). My Spicy Chicken was a stunning red vision. The potato and carrot soft, the chicken moist and tender. The sauce a beautiful blend of spices with a chilli hit, sopped up by the sweet potato noodles. The finely sliced onion and enoki added a freshness.
Claude went for the Gaya Spicy Pork (Grilled spicy marinated pork belly and iceberg, tomato, ricebun topped roast whole garlic with homemade potato wedge and garlic aioli – $26). The pork was tender and flavoured with a mixture of spices he hadn’t come across before. The combination of chilli and aoili dipping sauces enhanced the taste. Claude wasn’t a fan of the ricebun but that could just be a personal preference. The wedges were crispy and again the beautiful finely sliced salad vegetables brightened the whole meal.
The Gaya offers a choice of Starter, Main and for dessert, Red Misu or Green Tea Ice Cream for $45 per person or items can be individually purchased. So I went for the Green Tea Ice Cream – $6, and Claude, the Red Misu – $8. The taste of the green tea was not overly strong but definitely there, the ice cream creamy with a contrast of texture coming from the crisp twill.
Claude’s Red Misu was an interesting take on Tiramisu. A nice change from the sometimes over creamy Tiramisu this dessert was quite light and fresh and the cute little pot, chocolate soil and candy rocks made it a very sweet finish to the meal.
We found this cuisine exciting and would not hesitate and in fact look forward to returning to the Gaya. I think Leo is on the road to success, in fact, I believe he’s arrived.