How do you like your buns, hun? While the rest of Sydney’s burger community never-endingly debates the pros and cons of brioche, milk and heck even ramen buns, Chase Kojima (of Sokyo fame) just threw a new carby spanner into the works with the unveiling of Gojima – say hello to Sydney’s first dedicated rice burger restaurant!
Last Date Visited: 25/11/2017 (3 visits)
Address: The Star, Pyrmont, Sydney
Go-to Dishes: Gojima cheeseburger, Gojima fried chicken
Price Guide (approx): $12-$18
What is Japanese fast food in Sydney? My instant first guess would be ramen – but the noodles, delicious as they are, make for a difficult package to take away. A bento box? Sure – but that also isn’t readily consumed without sitting down and breaking out the chopsticks. In fact, as Chase Kojima laments, other than takeaway sushi, the state of fast Japanese food is simply nonexistent. That’s where Gojima comes in. Kojima is clearly passionate about putting rice burgers everywhere in Sydney – in speaking to him during my first visit, he mentioned that he gained over 10kg, purely from burger “research” (uh, where do I sign up?)
So, where has this “research” led him? Well, for starters – not much inside the burger had to change. Core ingredients – the bun, cheese, lettuce etc., stay the same. The (secret) sauces however, differ – while tomato sauce goes well with buns, they don’t pair as enthusiastically with a bun made out of rice. Thus, each core protein in Gojima’s burgers is paired with its own housemade sauce, whether it be angus beef, fish, or fried chicken – and whether it be mayo, mustard, or a miso-based sauce.
So how does this all manifest on the menu? You’ve got 9 types of burgers (4x beef, 1x veg, 1x chicken, 3x fish), snacks in the form of Gojima’s hybrid karaage chicken with a Southern-style batter & thin-cut chips w/seaweed seasoning, and desserts in the form of “frozen pulled custards” which are essentially mastic ice creams. On the drinks side, there are some truly heavy thickshakes with the same flavours as the pulled custards, Asahi on tap, some wines, and Japanese sake for those who prefer pairings of the alcoholic type.
So, onto what you really want to know – the rice burgers. The trick is to make a bun that doesn’t fall apart – a burger without solid foundations (literally) is a failure from the start. I’ve had rice burgers in Sydney that don’t do so well in the manhandling test, but Kojima’s research manifests in the bun – there’s some seriously clever crispy rice engineering going on, that’s confidently solid as long as you don’t wait too long and let the sauces get everywhere. Even if you do, a failsafe sheet of nori prevents all but the worst grainy disasters, not to mention adding a bit of a unique look to Gojima’s already exceptional sandwiches. Thing is, Kojima-san actually isn’t a stranger at all to making crispy rice – if you’re a frequent regular to Sokyo, four words: crispy rice tuna nigiri. *shares secret nod*
Damn, those rice buns are good. Made with sushi rice and engineered to stick together, they are a texture lover’s dream in crisp, crunch and bite. The exterior was like concentrated rice pops, but with the satisfying flavour of sushi rice (slightly acidic and sweet). Not only is this the best use of rice outside of sushi, but I daresay it makes a serious contender for burger buns in general. Being a fair bit denser and chewier than bread buns, they won’t win everyone over, but if you’re the kind who can’t live without rice (oh hi, 1/3 of the world!), then I’d be scratching my head for a reason as to why you might not be a fan.
That said, as structurally sound as these rice buns are, they will still fall prey to shoddy construction like any other burger – time will make quick work of even the nori sheet. All I can suggest is – consume ASAP.
In terms of fillings, top notch, medium-sized Angus beef patties are the option most people will get. So they should – they’re pretty much at the height of what fast food burger patties can be. There’s a nice char on the outside, and a good amount of juiciness within. The vegetables were fresh, and the secret sauce was godly – I have no idea what they put in it but it’s like an umami mayo with not as much of an oleaginous feeling, ’twas awesome. The only major downside was that the cheese didn’t come melted – a bit of a burger sin, and waiting for it to melt would risk the structural integrity of the burger. Please fix, thank you!
Burgers with angus beef come in four forms – the standard Gojima hamburger (base burger – $11.9), the Gojima cheeseburger (base burger with cheese – $12.9), the Gojima double (cheeseburger x2 – $16.9), and the Gojima stack (a double with one of the beef patties replaced with a katsu mushroom patty – $16.9). For vegetarians, the katsu mushroom burger is where it’s at – a big juicy slab of crumbed mushroom that’s so good, I actually came back for a second bite before returning to my cow.
And then there are the sushi burgers ($14.9ea) – same everything else, but with either raw salmon, kingfish or tuna as the protein, and switch to cucumbers and radishes instead of tomato. If you’ve had nigiri sushi before, this will be familiar – except for the fact that the rice is crispy. If you’ve had Chase’s crispy tuna nigiri, then you’d be right at home. It. Was. Amazing – and I don’t frequently use the A-word. Which to pick? Easy – let your seafood preference be the guide. For the record, the tuna and salmon were quite similar in taste (sweet, creamy, with the salmon slightly fattier. The kingfish was quite different in that this fish sported a chewier texture, and the mustard sauce it was paired with gave it a hotter, more exciting flavour profile.
It’s also worth noting that the fried chicken – should you have the stomach space – is not an optional order. Crunchy and spiced (not hot) Southern-style batter hides some of the juiciest, most tender chicken flesh I’ve ever had. No, I’m not exaggerating. You have to get this, and make sure you have both a wing and a drumstick. You can thank me later.
For those with a separate stomach for sweets like I do, the Gojima thickshakes truly live up to their name – these are quite possibly some of the thickest shakes I’ve had. The chocolate miso tasted far more of chocolate than miso (my friends likened the flavour to maltesers – but I didn’t catch that), the matcha green tea was seriously heavy on the bitter matcha flavour (YESS!), but the crowd favourite was the strawberries & cream, which was essentially an amazing S&C ice cream, but blended into thickshake form.
(kinda) worth the calories.
However, if you’re more into eating your desserts rather than drinking them (though as I mentioned – boy are they thick), you can get the same flavours in the form of “pulled custard”, which is essentially elastic, mastic-style ice cream. In this form, the matcha was too thick/dense for me, while the chocolate & miso was oddly grainy, with the strawberries & cream coming out on top again as an all-round excellent performer.
Don’t skimp on burgers, don’t skimp on fried chicken, and probably don’t skimp on desserts. Heck, even try a chip or two. Or three hundred – close enough.
Whatever little doubt I exhibited with Gojima before trying them had completely vanished – like the structural integrity of their rice, the deal’s been sealed. Kojima’s creations are fantastic all round, with the only weaknesses being that the rice will fall apart given enough time (but that’s true for many bread-bunned burgers too), and that rice buns are a fair bit harder than bready counterparts. If you have weak teeth, exposed gums, or simply prefer the softness of bread, rice may not be for you. But for me, Gojima’s burgers are one of the most exciting things to have come to Sydney in recent times. That the fried chicken happens to be a surprise hit was another plus too – I’ve already visited twice on consecutive days, and Pyrmont isn’t exactly a short saunter away.
Then again, that walk might be good for my waistline given the amount of burgers I’m going to be consuming from this place – Gojima, take my money!
This post is based on three visits to Gojima – two under Gojima’s invite, and one independently paid for.
What do you think about rice burgers, dear reader? Totally faddish or something you see yourself sinking your teeth into again and again? Let me know in the comments below!
- Best new burger concept to hit Sydney all year.
- Juicy, crunchy fried chicken is winning.
- Thickshakes really hit the spot, with some solid flavours showcased.
- Made fresh to order – burgers that actually look like the ads.
- Rice burgers don’t travel as well as burgers with bread buns.
- Crispy rice buns mean a tougher, chewier texture profile – you could arguably get “tired” from eating rice buns.
- If you’re a die-hard bread-bunned burger fan, move right along.
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F8 | S4 | A2