“You are our first customer!” were the words of an excited but focused Jie Han, business partner to chef Chase Kojima, and co-owner of The Star’s (and Sydney’s) latest culinary attraction, Gojima. I was their first customer. An honour. I also realised I had become one of those people who goes to burger launches. A travesty. It was only a matter of time though. My burger obsession had to result in either a heart attack or this. Thankfully for now it’s the latter, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.
I had been at the restaurant since 11am for the 11:30am opening. I met up before hand with my friend Vanessa, who had come to Australia from France about a year ago. At that time we were house mates in Woolloomooloo and Vanessa was trying to find a job in a hotel. She was uncertain about what the future held, but I recall she had an open mind to whatever possibilities and opportunities appeared. She ended up fruit picking in Tasmania and Coffs Harbour (as backpackers do) before settling in an apartment with 2 Mexicans and a Korean in Pyrmont (a truly global share house) and landing a sweet job at a hotel in the Rocks, almost 10 months after our stint as house mates. She had backed herself coming here and, for the most part, it seemed like it was working out for her. I respected that immensely.
I demonstrated Viva to Vanessa, and she appreciated the purpose it served: find a fun way to spend your spare time. I know a large part of the vision for Viva is to provide backpackers (noting Vanessa is basically a local now and no longer a backpacker!) with a way of finding things to do in the short time they might be in Sydney, so the positive feedback was good!
By the time the roller door had lifted on the sparkling new restaurant, I had already decided what I would order: one Gojima Double, regular fries (with Japanese mayo), and a Chocolate Miso thickshake with malt.
Here’s a shot of the moment that order became a reality:
So what else could I have ordered? Here’s the menu – those sushi burgers look a treat, as do the katsu style chicken burgers and the fried chicken options. Plenty of reasons to return.
After a short wait, my burger arrived and my oh my, was it a thing of beauty:
I grabbed a seat inside the geometrically designed interior (am I playing Asteroids?) and paused to take in the surrounds. Clean. Polished. New. Unchartered territory. You don’t get a lot of dining experiences like this.
I then focused my attention to a more pressing matter: the food I ordered and my hunger. The selling point here is no bread, no brioche, but rice buns held together with seaweed, like the most delicious and flavoursome book you’ve ever eaten. The integrity of these burgers is phenomenal. To hold together two patties of Angus beef, cheese, special sauce, lettuce, onion, tomato and pickles with little grains and flaky ocean paper is no easy feat, but somehow they’ve done it. The chips are seasoned with a seaweed salt, very light, maybe some wasabi in there too. Unusual, but a bold and flavoursome challenge to chicken salt. The miso shake had an almost salted caramel flavour, was super thick (like, “needs two straws” thick) and brilliantly tasty. But I almost forgot about the thick shake I was that engrossed in the burger:
And then the verdict:
Thanks to Vanessa for taking the shots!
I might also add the refresher towelettes are some of the most refreshing around. Wiping my hands and face with these little guys was beyond heavenly.
Finishing my meal, I looked up to see a busy Han scuttling about behind the counter, guiding staff in the kitchen, taking calls, puppeteering, and watching on as his “baby” took its first leap from the nest. It made me think a lot of Horace, Viva’s chief. Maintaining a calm demeanour, showing leadership and vision, being cautious but displaying an ever present optimism. When I spoke to Han, he had an almost nervous set of questions: “Where there any issues? Was the bun crispy? How was it cooked? Did it hold together? What did you think of the seasoning on the chips?”. I told him it was all spectacular, and that I thought he had a bright future ahead with what Gojima has on offer.
His baby had flown.
I hope Viva’s launch party is as successful! In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye on Viva for other launch events in the future (but I won’t be lining up outside an Apple store any time soon…I’m not THAT far gone).