Opening two days before Christmas was daunting, says Alvin Gani, the general manager at Gogyo Fitzroy. The Japanese restaurant, which has Tokyo origins and a sibling in Sydney, opened late last year on the corner of Brunswick and Westgarth streets. The stress paid off.
“[It’s] been satisfying to see the finished product and how many people from the Fitzroy area are popping in to see what we’re about,” says Gani.
“We’re drawing in families, the work crowd, date nights – we even have regulars now,” he adds, laughing.
Gogyo’s signature is its kogashi (burnt miso) ramen, made by heating lard in a wok to an extremely high heat, then adding miso paste or a special soy base (depending which of the two styles of kogashi you’ve ordered), which go up in flames. Chicken broth is used to extinguish the fire, and the soup is topped with chashu (braised pork), cabbage and a flavoured egg.
Gani says the velvety ramen suits the lunch crowd, as it does in Sydney, but the shareable izakaya-style menu and medium-sized dishes work at dinner time.
There are Wagyu beef sukiyaki (meat or vegetables simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and mirin) spring rolls with mayonnaise, and negitoro nigiri sushi (a style of sushi with the nori wrapped around the rice ball), which is made with a seven-plus marble score tuna belly topped with truffle oil. Sous-vide chicken comes with sticky rice, pickled fennel and moromi (fermenting mixture used to make sake) miso, and there’s a tofu salad with nashi pear, blue cheese, cabbage and a sesame dressing.
“Surprisingly, we’ve actually had an overwhelming response to our vegie soba,” says Gani. “I think it’s because of the number of people in Melbourne that are vegetarian or are trying to consume less meat, which has been really nice to see.”
The Salaryman cocktail – made with whisky, bitter orange and sweet syrup – is a nod to the now-closed venue of the same name that preceeded Gogyo Surry Hills. The North West is zestier, made with gin, lemon, mint and cucumber. The majority of the wine list is Australian, but there are Japanese shochus, fruit sakes and Suntory beers.
The front dining room is light filled, thanks to floor to ceiling windows. For something moodier and more intimate, opt for a seat at bar in the second dining space, which is accessed through an indigo woven curtain.
Dark wooden touches pay homage to the heritage-listed building, and a lick of grey paint and glowing lanterns complete the interior. Colour comes in the form of a 10-metre mural on the building’s outer wall by Japanese artist Kentaro Yoshida.
Yoshida was raised in Toyama, Japan, and his murals are quirky, bright and packed with detail. His work at Gogyo details the ramen-making process, highlighting five main elements: fire, wood, earth, metal and water. The main focus is fire though – in honour of the popular kogashi ramen.
413 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 7474
Mon to Fri 12pm–2.30pm, 5.30pm–9pm
Sat & Sun 12pm–2.30pm, 5.30pm–9pm