Posted on August 10, 2010


My adventures took me south of the river this weekend, to a funky little place called Gaijin (135 Commercial Rd, South Yarra VIC). The title is a Japanese word meaning ‘non-Japanese’ or ‘outsider’. The 2 kanji characters that make up the word literally read as ‘outside person’. So there we were, on the advice of a friend’s friend, ready to sample fusion Japanese.

Some people are quite anti fusion food, I’m neither for or against it. The only thing that matters is the taste. Done well, fusion food is a fantastic way to demonstrate just how multicultural our fair city really is; done poorly, then it’s just poor judgment on the chef’s side. To me, most food in Australia is ‘fusion’ to some extent anyway, most of it being watered down or altered in some manner to suit the availability of produce and mainstream tastes.

Anyway, back to Gaijin…in spite of its fusion claim, it is still very Japanese with only a few new elements thrown in. The set up is modern, with Japanese type booths along the front window and sheer curtains to give the room a warmer feel. To the left of the restaurant are more booth style seating, with causal tables and stools taking up the rest of the space. Pricing is mid range, with sushi rolls, albeit small ones at $12. Appetizers start at around $6 and rice/noodle dishes are $17.

We started with the ‘fish dynamite’ which is described as a baked fish and crab stick dish with masago and spicy mayo ($8.50). Doesn’t sound like too much, but it was very tasty. I usually stay away from crab stick, not being a big fan of manufactured meat, but it’s quite hard to avoid in Gaijin as it’s featured in quite a few of their dishes. Anyhow, this was the standout dish of the night for me. The sweet sauce and the succulent pieces of fish meat, then you get a light hit of heat. Mmm

The sushi and sashimi platter ($25) had a decent selection and came with an uber salty miso soup. We had to dilute it with a bit of water to make it easier to go down.

The sushi platters ($24) are a reasonably good deal, offering half portions of 4 different types of sushi – making a great sampler. And Gaijin has a decent range of sushi with some interesting combinations. The main ‘fusion’ element I think has to be the coconut crunch that they add to most of their sushi offerings. It may sound a bit odd, but it goes quite well. I liked it at any rate. The favourite would have to be the spider vs dragon roll, with my beloved soft shell crab, coconut crunch, cream cheese and then a generous piece of unagi to top it off. The scallop roll was also particularly good, pieces of raw scallop, crab, masago and mayo. Yum!

We had quite a few platters to share (I’m only showing 2 of those we actually ate!) and I think we managed to sample the entire sushi menu. That’s the benefit of going in a big group.

This place comes recommended and if only I worked or lived closer, I would most definitely attend their all you can eat sushi sessions on from Tuesdays to Thursdays. Now there’s food for thought ;).