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Published January 31st 2015
Authentic Japanese Restaurant & Bar
Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar
Did you know there is a little place in Melbourne's CBD that allows you to sample the foods of Japan for a reasonable price? That's right and it is conveniently located on Bourke Street, between Russell and Exhibition Streets. I have been fortunate enough to have dined in some of Melbourne's best-kept secrets for several years now and will continue to share my favorite places with you. For those of you searching for a true culinary experience that your stomach will delight in, then explore no further!
Today, I'm spotlighting Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar; a genuine Japanese restaurant and bar near the theatre district just off of Exhibition Street in the CBD. Unfortunately, there is only the one Gyoza Douraku but the good news is they have opened a second location specializing in hot pots, which originated in East Asia but these are authentic Japanese-style varieties of stew with thinly sliced meats. I am excited about sampling those delicacies in the very near future!
Gyoza Douraku's Bar Area
Speaking of delicacies your taste buds will thank you for, at Gyoza Douraku, they are happy to fill your need for delicious and appetizing dishes. The food will not disappoint your eyes or your stomach. I cannot rave enough about this place. I have never tasted such an amazing array of Japanese foods before. The pictures that appear in their menu look exactly like the food the staff places in front of you. I wish more places could brag about this feat. Count Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar as one of them!
You may be wondering what exactly is Gyoza? Gyoza is a dumpling that is filled with ground meats, like pork, beef or chicken and vegetables, such as cabbage and wrapped in a thin dough. Another popular term for gyoza is pot stickers. Gyoza originated in China but is now a very popular dish in Japan. Dourakyu means hobby, so Gyoza Douraku translates to dumpling hobby.
Traditional private dining booth
This Japanese restaurant and bar is a very unassuming place that adheres to the minimalistic approach in the true Japanese style but that all changes once you walk through their front doors. Though you may think this restaurant is quaint and unable to accommodate your large group, do not fret! Gyoza Douraku has another level above, which will easily house larger groups.
Whether you are eating in their main dining area or on level 1 of their restaurant you will appreciate their true-to-form Japanese décor and tables that make you feel as though you are in Japan. Honestly, their store front is a bit small so be sure to look for the restaurant and bar's banner because this is one place you do not want to pass by! If all else fails, just follow the delectable smells of their brand of traditional foods and desserts Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar's front door.
Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar is based on a true-to-form Japanese restaurant. According to Kevin, the manager, the inspiration behind Gyoza Douraku was the idea "to deliver authentic Japanese cuisine [in] a large variety at affordable prices" here in Melbourne and that's exactly what they did about 3 years ago when they opened the doors to this Isakayz-styled restaurant and bar, aptly named, Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar. Kevin noted, "The owners have been in the hospitality business for more than 10 years, having several different styles of Japanese restaurants all located in the Melbourne CBD." Not only is one of the owners the head chef, but he has trained locally in Melbourne and Japan as well.
Traditional seating with sunken floor and low tables for your comfort
More traditioanl seating with sunken floor for your convenience
When you first walk into Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar, you are immediately greeted by Kevin, the manager, or one of the many friendly staff. Kevin and the welcoming staff at Gyoza Douraku are more than happy to answer your question and make a recommendation of their most popular share-plates, if you simply cannot decide what you would like to order. And with "over 80 share-plates and over 100 different styles of Sake, Shouchu and Plum wines and Japanese beers" to choose from it might not be a bad idea to seek advice from the experts there, like wait-staff, Mina.
Mina will always greet you with a smile
When I asked what Gyoza Douraku's signature dishes were Kevin was quick to say, "Gyoza"! With so many varieties, steamed, pan-fried or soup (Miso, spicy or Sho-yu) and "all types of fillings" to choose from, you can see why consulting the staff is not such a bad idea, especially for your first visit. Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar has signature drinks, as well. Kevin explained, "Our cocktails are very popular and customers also love our 1 Litre Japanese pot of beer and different styles of sake to go with our share-plates."
No worries about ever getting bored with Gyoza Douraku's selection! They "constantly add new and exciting dishes to [their] menu" so do not be afraid to try all of their selections today! They are able to change their menu so frequently because they make their own "Gyoza skin from scratch on [the] premises", according to Kevin.
I asked Kevin what the secret to the success of Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar was and he noted what sets Gyoza Douraku apart from other specialty restaurants is their "high quality food with great customer service at affordable prices in a trendy establishment" and I would agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. "Kevin added, "Being only $6.50 a plate, it is very affordable, plus it's a great place to get together with friends for drinks, a light snack or with so much to choose from, even a full dinner!" And it truly is easy to have a full dinner with their large selection of dishes!
One of many green tea ice cream desserts
Green tea ice cream sundae
Traditional Japanese green tea and mochi ice cream dessert
Veronica, a frequent customer, told me, "I had never heard of share-plates before and felt a bit skeptical ordering 3 plates but now I love them. They are just perfect and satisfy a wide variety of cravings." Trevor, another frequent customer and coinsurer of Japanese cuisine said, "I really enjoy the variety and the food goes well with an Asahi or two."
Sakes and Premier Plum Wines
I must say, Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar, is by far my favorite Japanese restaurant and bar so I just had to ask Kevin if there were any plans to expand. Kevin was quick to say, "We opened our second Isakayz bar, Gyoza Gyoza & Momo Shabu Shabu on Little Bourke Street in Melbourne this year. We hope to expand to suburban Melbourne so more people can try our delicious dishes without needing to travel into the city."
Kevin was also very excited to share Gyoza Douraku's current promotions with readers of Weekend Notes! Currently, we have "$3.50 6-piece gyoza, $13.90 1 litre Asahi (Japanese beer) and $2.80 Asoya green tea ice cream on waffle cone." If that is not enough, Kevin was thrilled to announce to readers of Weekend Notes that they are "just setting up a VIP membership for [their] loyal diners, which offers lots of coupons and special offers [so] be sure to inquire about this when you come to dine!" You heard it here first!
Edamame, Crab Cream Croquette with a Asahi
Though I would love to be truly selfish and keep Gyoza Douraku, Japanese Gyoza Bar all to myself, I would feel remiss if I did not share the wonders of their amazing share plates and desserts with you. This is one place that is too good to stay tucked away for long. Visit them today for a truly great dessert, snack or beverage before they become the hottest place in town and with food this good they will be soon enough!
Just before the publishing of this article, Kevin contacted me to announce their newest restaurant in Chadstone: Gyoza Gyoza & Momo Shabu Shabu.