Shop 3/391 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9640 0731
A restaurant that focuses on pork? ‘Yeah nahhhh zzzzzz,’ I said to myself when I first heard about Gypsy & Pig, the then-new Japanese restaurant in the city. I might like Vietnamese pork rolls and I might like dumplings but if someone asked me to list my three favourite meats, pork would not make the cut. Don’t ask me why.
Nevertheless, I remained curious about the restaurant that Melbourne bloggers have given thumbs up to so when Dave suggested we go there for dinner the night before I flew to Queensland, I agreed.
Dave told me that when he first heard the name ‘Gypsy & Pig’, he thought it was the name of a new hipster poached eggs/smashed avocado/drip filter coffee type café in Fitzroy or something. I had to agree with him – it’s certainly not a typical Japanese restaurant name. Their offerings aren’t typical either; instead of the usual sushi, sashimi and donburi dishes, almost all the dishes here contain Kurobuta pork. For those playing at home, the Kurobuta and Berkshire pig is one and the same, a breed of black pig that’s known for its tender and juicy meat and high level of marbling. Think the wagyu version of pork. Also, I just realised that Napoleon from Animal Farm was a Berkshire; I don’t know why, but this made me LOL.
I have no idea why the owners decided to call their restaurant Gypsy & Pig but a quick google search tells me that there is a free range pork producer called Gypsy Pig in country Victoria. Is there a link? Who knows.
Back in Melbourne, Dave and I didn’t bothering ponder such questions. Perched by the bar, we eagerly opened our menus to see pork, pork and more pork (and a Blu-Tack pig!). And with a few non-pork items in between. Although bento boxes are available for $20 a head, we decided to share a few dishes among us.
We started off with some shochu ‘cocktails.’ They weren’t cocktails per se because the drinks were pretty much something like one ml of shochu and lots and lots of soda. The end result was two very weak drinks which we wouldn’t order again.
Gypsy & Pig may not be masters of the drink, but they sure know how to get food right. Our first dish was the stuffed chicken wing with Kurobuta gyoza ($4.50 each).
Chicken wing, meet Shanghai dumpling. Some of you may be thinking, ‘this looks familiar’ and you wouldn’t be wrong. There is a VERY similar dish served at Akachochin which has pretty much gained cult status. I did find the same dish at Gypsy & Pig delicious – the skin was actually crispier and the pork ‘dumpling’ filling more fragrant but less salty. Oh, it was cheaper too. It was great but did plagiarism occur? Who knows and to be honest, who cares…
Next, we had the slow-cooked Kurobuta belly and egg in sweet soy ($18). Dave and I, being gym goers, hate bellies on ourselves but bellies coming from pigs? OH HELL YEAH! This one was epic. The meat was so beautifully soft and tender, and the skin was crispy despite being doused in lots and lots of sticky soy sauce. The tea-soaked eggs were beautifully gooey while the bok choy pieces provided some obligatory fibre and greenage.
The other pork dish we ordered was just as amazing. This deep-fried crumbed Kurobuta loin, aka tonkatsu ($20) was accompanied by a cabbage salad and a thin wheat noodle salad in a light creamy dressing. This tonkatsu was mind-blowingly GOOD. Just like the previous dish, the meat was so tender and full of flavour and the panko coating so golden, so crunchy and so perfect. It was so much better than any pork schnitzel I’ve ever had. Like, wow.
The noodle salad was also pretty good but the cabbage salad was pretty bland. Thankfully, the folks at Gypsy & Pig are considerate – a selection of condiments adorn each section of the bar. We gave the cabbage salad a dash of sesame oil for some much-needed nuttiness. Don’t be a rookie like us, though, and forget to shake the bottles before pouring the stuff onto your food!
Our last savoury dish was very rich and not something you’d find at ANY Japanese restaurant but we were glad we ordered it. Introducing Gypsy & Pig’s oven-baked potato and pancetta gratin with creamy spicy cod roe sauce and melted cheese. For $16, you get a gorgeous but sinful (aren’t they all) bowl of more than your daily calorie intake.
It was gooey, it was salty and the spicy cod roe sauce added a lovely depth to it all. Oh yeah!
We had room for dessert (we always do). Although the desserts at Gypsy & Pig are ridiculously cheap (they are no more than $10 each), we decided to go all out by choosing the dessert platter. It is also the most economical option for you get all five desserts – their full size versions, yes – for a mere $23. I mean, how can you not? While I found the almond jelly and cream caramel too sweet for my liking, I did love the ice creams which actually tasted ‘natural’ – the green tea ice cream, in particular, was heavy on the matcha which got a tick from me. I also gave props to the New York-style cheesecake which was not heavy at all.
We enjoyed our meal at Gypsy & Pig and we’ll be back again. Actually, I might be back sooner than expected because my work is about three blocks away so if I wanted to, I could grab a bento box to take back to my office (wait, do they do takeaway?). I’m glad that there is a Japanese restaurant in Melbourne that does something different and at prices that are not terribly expensive.