A party of six hits up Gaya Restaurant in 'the Cross' (i.e. Applecross - kind of a South of the River version of Dalkeith).
Newcomers included couples Mad Dog and Jujyfruit, and Cheeky Monkey 83 and the Bintang Beauty.
I'm going to open with this: I do not know Korean food. Contrary to popular opinion (and by that I mean what one might expect when reading a food blog, not necessarily an opinion held by anyone, and certainly not popular) I don't really know much about food in general. So I'm going to go out on a limb here and say nearly everything I've written below is likely incorrect. The Perth Food Blog approach is to review dining experiences, rather than solely food, because I'm really not that cultured and have a lot of difficulty critiquing the food only. What this means is that these Perth Food Blog reviews are inherently subjective. It's the price of admission. Provided you're ok with that - read on.
I begin with the above disclaimer because the Gaya is (at the time of writing) #2 on Urbanspoon's 'Talk of the Town List' and, unfortunately, I didn't really rate it.
Upon sitting down we were presented with a number of boards with potato chip/crisps and what can only be described as boob-cheeses. You see, we were told these items were cheese, and they came with something akin to a glazed cherry in the center. The aesthetic was obvious, so we named them boob-cheeses. I think that's fair.
- The Gaya Lamb dish was pretty good, although there were a few injuries from biting into bones. The dish comes out looking like an Indian korma, underneath yoghurt and red chilli sauce, and so the bones ambushed us a little bit.
- Along with the Gaya Lamb came out a long skinny plate with three squares of what I assumed were tofu. Possibly vegetable jijimi? This dish was extraordinarily average, so I hope at the very least it was vegetarian else I have no idea where they were going with it.
- Some kind of soup. I didn't try this, and wasn't all that tempted.
- We received three Vegetarian Bibimbab's, which were good but not great. A little bit boring.
- The Gaya Mandu was a set of deep fried vegetarian dumplings. These were pretty good, all things considered. Not enough for the table, but the one I tried was ok.
- I believe it was the Gaya Spicy Pork that came out with a side of roughly cut potato chips, which was a nice touch. The pork itself was quite nice but, again, not amazing.
- The Beef Cream Roll dish is the only dish of the night I remember without having to look at the receipt / menu / other food reviews, as it was the only one on the night that really got me to stand up and take notice. It was delicious. I would definitely order it again.
- The Gaya Bullgogi was an interesting dish and certainly something new I've not tried before. But it's not something I'm desperate to try again. I don't really remember eating this dish, which isn't a good thing.
- All of the meals were accompanied by three small selections of what I would call salads (??) Two bites at the most, they were a nice touch, but I'm not really sure how they were intended to interface with the main meals. Palate cleansers? Accompaniment to certain meals? An offset to the more spicy dishes? I do not know.
BYO was a convenient option, given the bottle shop just a short way away. We paid $7 corkage per bottle and $3 per cider.
Service was pretty good. Very smiley, very happy, English not great but not terrible either.
We told them that we had a vegetarian with our group and they were very conscious of Madam Rabbit. I think perhaps they were overly concerned with her, in fact, as we probably ended up with one or two too many vegetarian dishes (why the three Vegetarian Bibimbabs for only one vego?) and that meant we didn't try more of the fancier meat dishes. After looking at the items on our bill and comparing to other food blogs that reviewed the Gaya, I have a feeling the meals we chose (or were chosen for us? I think the waitresses chose at least a few of our dishes for us) were not the pick of the bunch.
Also, upon sitting down the waitresses have this cool party trick where they pour some water over these tiny marsh-mellow like towelettes. I actually thought they were to be eaten. You can see a short video of the experience below.
The plan was to insert a video I took of the tiny marsh-mellow towelettes, but I'm having some trouble finalising the video and don't want to delay the review any longer. Stay tuned, I will upload it as soon as I can work out how.
Here is the other place where the Gaya loses points. The place looked very average. The Gaya is set up in a very suburban venue that could easily be turned into a lunch bar or mini-mart (with perhaps an overpriced kitchen facility). It didn't feel like high quality restaurant. To be fair to the Gaya, the prices are reasonably low and so perhaps that is the vibe they were going for, but I found it difficult to pin down . It was a real clash between refined and precisely prepared dishes placed before us (which looked far, far better than they tasted, in my humble opinion) and the school cafeteria feel of the chairs, tables and decorations.
I wish I could have taken a few more photos of the feel of the place. Unfortunately I was there more to spend time with my friends and tried to do a semi-food review on the downlow, and that made it hard to take restaurant shots. I almost held off from posting this one entirely as it didn't feel right to pan them on the amenity without photos explaining what I meant - but obviously I got over that, as here we are. I may have to head back there just to take some photos of the room.
Some people might think the above is a bit harsh - after all, who cares what the tables and chairs look like if the food is good. Perhaps I wouldn't have had time to notice the tacky amenity if I was blown away by the food. Certainly a few of the comments we got from the Public House review (which was heavy on amenity critiques) were to the tune that the comments were too superficial.
Here is why amenity, and indeed the general feel of the restaurant, is important: it sets expectations.
I think the key factor that determines whether we have been leaving these restaurants feeling good or feeling bad about our experience is whether it has met expectations. If you build a restaurant that looks and feels like fine dining, but then delivers some fairly ordinary food, the fact that the prices don't sting too much at the end of the night might not soothe our bruised expectations. If we come in expecting a casual dining affair and get served refined food - we might be impressed right up until we see the bill.
The feel of the restaurant is a combination of many different factors, from the obvious how great does the food taste to the subtle look at that menu's off-white coloring, the tasteful thickness of it. Oh, my god. It even has a watermark.
If you can nail the feel of the restaurant then whether you deliver at the high end or low end of the cost spectrum I think diners will largely feel as though they received a fair experience. Price is what you pay, value is what you get - and setting expectations correctly largely determines whether diners feel they got good value.
I didn't rate the Gaya. I had a good time with my friends, but I wasn't impressed by the restaurant. I wonder whether I would have had a much better time had I been able to try some more of the menu and in particular a few more of the meat dishes. Admittedly, when I look at some of the other reviews of the Gaya, I think to myself the food looks very good and it might be worth checking out. But I think that's largely because when people review these places they take photos of the food only. The food at the Gaya looks very good. It looks precise. On point. It looks innovative and edgy. The problem is, it just doesn't taste good. The problem is, the restaurant itself feels quite cheap.
The Gaya comes across as a suburban mum and dad restaurant, with a kitchen that can magic up impressively photogenic dishes that disappoint when eaten.
I didn't like the Gaya, and I don't know if that's a case of me being unnecessarily harsh or if perhaps it's a bit overrated. It deserves a second try - but I'm just not sure whether I can be bothered giving it one.
5.5 boob-cheeses out of 10