Monday, July 9, 2012

Gypsy and Pig, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

Once upon a time there was a little café located on the corner of Little Lonsdale Street and Hardware Lane. Then one night there was a big fire on the second level and the little café went into it a cocoon, waiting to be reborn. After several long months had passed the café was ready to emerge, and lo and behold it was turned into a wondrous new Japanese eatery, black in colour and with pig shaped spots on its wings. Or something like that anyway.

In reality Gypsy & Pig is a classy mid-level Japanese restaurant specialising in things Kurobuta, a rare form of black pig originating in Berkshire in England (and usually referred to as Berkshire pig). Berkshire pig is renowned for its tender, juicy well flavoured flesh and in some ways the restaurant has been turned into a loving and slightly whimsical monument to this porcine wonder. The walls and furniture are basic black, the cooking area at the back of the room and scattered all around pigs of various shapes and colours collected by the owner and chef on his travels.

On the lunchtime menu anyway many of the dishes are similar in name to what you’d find in many a student style eatery. However, the setting, presentation, service and quality of the food make it a whole different beast. Well and the prices too, with dishes that can be purchased for less than a tenner in many places not giving much if any change from a twenty here. It’s very much a case of if you want superior quality meat, nicely cooked with generous side dishes and friendly, considerate and efficient service, well you need to be willing to pay a little extra for it.

Typically of course, I headed for one of my comfort foods, the katsu curry. Crumbed and deep fried slices of pork, served on rice and with a mild Japanese curry sauce, in addition to the much higher quality meat the sauce was also a little different to most of the curry dons I've had before. Generally the major flavour in the sauce is the curry powder but this had a surprisingly strong tomato flavour. Something else I’d not come across before was the very thinly sliced cabbage served with the meat, somehow light and fluffy in taste and texture. The potato salad served as a side with all of the mains was one of the best I've had, the miso undoubtedly the best (to the extent I requested a second bowl).

By choosing second Snooze managed to order the Shoga-yaki, pan-grilled slices of the Kurobuta served with a ginger and soy sauce. Snooze spoke glowingly about its delicate taste and texture and I was also impressed by how juicy it had remained. A great example of how high quality ingredients handled with skill and care can lift what would otherwise be a very simple dish to a whole different level.

The funny thing was though, despite being last to choose and seeing Snooze snaffle the first dish she had in mind, Bureaucrat picked the dish I liked most, a simple chicken katsu. The perfectly fried free range chicken was tender and full of flavour, and Bureaucrat made full use of the nicely balanced ginger, soy and vinegar salad dressing available on every table. Also, unlike Snooze who would have preferred the side dishes to have a stronger pickled flavour she thought they were perfect and in particularly pointed out the slight salting of the cucumbers. While I normally prefer my vegetables quite strongly pickled I think I was with Bureaucrat on this one, with the milder flavours of the vegetables which could otherwise have masked some of the delicacy of the meat.

Put the quality of the food with the elegant and relaxed décor, the attention to detail of the food and waiting staff and the complementary additional rice or miso if required, and you have an excellent addition to Melbourne’s lunchtime food scene. Viva le Pig!

Food – 8.5
Service – 8.5
Ambience – 8
Price – 7.5

Shop 3, 391 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9640 0731

Gypsy & Pig on Urbanspoon


msihua said...

OMG I just went here last night.. and it was the amazeballs!

Anonymous said...

wonderful place, but your story has a prequel..

Once upon a time there was a unique little eatery at the top of Bourke that served modern fusion Japanese cuisine. It was called Horoki and had foodies raving. Then it's exec chef Kenji-san left for Spain, leaving selling the place to another owner.. Before long, photos appeared on the menu, along with bizarre new food items that didn't fit. The air filled with the smell of overheated oil vapour and the execution degraded. It was no longer the Horoki everyone used to love.

Kenjo-san's triumphant return as the head chef of Gypsy and Pig is the sequel. He's even put the Tuna carpaccio - a Horoki favourite - back on the menu. Try the dish here (prepared as it used to be, with the same level of attention to detail) and back at the New Horoki to see how the same recipe can suffer when executed poorly.

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