One of Steve's Japanese colleagues has told him about Gypsy & Pig and rates it as a favourite.
It's an intimate dining are with just a couple of tables and then seating around the kitchen at a bar. It's cosy and warm and the pig decor is fun and cheerful. It's pretty full and we're given two seats in the corner of the bar area with instructions to leave in an hour. However a few minutes later, the waitress tells us that if the two young men seated opposite us leave in the next half hour, we can stay on.
We start off with the kingfish sashimi that's on the blackboard and the sliced fresh tuna with special soy dressing and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. It's a puzzling dish and we're not sure what to expect and I fear the dairy will not blend well with the fresh fish. Actually it works well enough, The cheese isn't too creamy so it's really more about adding salt to the fish. I'm not 100% convinced with the texture as it's bit powdery in the mouth and sliced tuna is thin so isn't meaty enough to counteract the floury texture. Maybe if the tuna was cubed or thicker it would be better.
The kingfish sashimi is much more purist in nature and is served traditionally with wasabi and soy. Simple cleansing flavours and the freshness of the fish shines through.
We move from the clean flavours of sashimi to deep fried goodness and the stuffed chicken wing with Kurobuta gyoza. Almost too hot to handle, the juicy chicken and sweet meat stuffing is cut through with a punchy, citrussy soy dipping sauce. This chases away the damp air and provides some cheeriness amidst the miserable midweek weather.
The crumbed round discs of meat are presented on a wire rack to keep them crispy and accompanied with a mound of shredded cabbage. We are introduced to the condiment tray in front of us and invited to dress the cabbage with a spiky, tangy dressing and drizzle the meat with a barbecue sauce.
The golden crumbed circles look like fishcakes or meat patties; neither of which are in my list of favourite foods - probably more middle of the road for me. But when I eat take my first bite it's far from average. The meat is pure fillet and juicy and tasty with the real porky flavour coming out. The piquant sauce adds a contrast and another flavour note.
The roast belly pork is also lovely and the fattiness that comes with belly pork that can either go thumbs up or thumbs down is definitely a thumbs up. And the sweetness of the miso and apple slaw layer and intensify that sweetness but it doesn't become overly sweet and the contrasting textures of bouncy meat and crispy apple help cut through the richness of the dish.
We chose to accompany the meaty dishes with a set side dish option of rice, miso and pickles.
Service is efficient and the food comes out quickly. In spite of the open kitchen and lots of grilling and frying of pork the dining room isn't smoky and we don't leave smelling of fried food. I like the endearing charm of the menu which has phrases such as "Extra...After finish Meat & Veg shabu shabu broth with" and the homely nature of the restaurant and the food.
Given the speed the dishes arrive and the bento box appearance of our meal, this could all very easily be mistaken as fast food but far from processed flavours, the quality of the produce especially with the pork and the kingfish sashimi sing out loudly.
We leave with satisfied bellies and feel restored, revived and equipped to face the cold, wet night.