Just when you thought Sydney’s overcrowded burger scene couldn’t get any bigger, renowned Japanese chef Chase Kojima, who is responsible to the Sydney’s highly regarded Sokyo and Gold Coast’s equally superb Kojima, has officially thrown his reliable hat in the ring and purposely hit left of centre. Kojima has gone for bun-less burgers, but you’d be off the mark if your mind jumped straight to lettuce cups; the chef has opted for sushi rice “buns”, meaning that your typical burger filling is sandwiched by two thick cakes of crispy sushi rice and a big nori seaweed wrap. Gimmick? Nope, it’s just a refinement of an underappreciated form of burger (similar to the ones at famed Japanese chain MOS Burger) that packs some serious punch and just may surprise the more skeptical burger fiends amongst us.
Well, if you’re surprised you obviously haven’t been familiar with Chase Kojima’s work. Sokyo remains one of the best dining spots in Pyrmont; his Gold Coast restaurant, Kojima, is superb; and his much-loved temporary ramen pop-up justified the painstaking experimentation that led up to it. An equal amount of dedication has been put into the considered offerings at Gojima; Chase took over a year to perfect what he seems to feel is the perfect iteration of the rice burger, and it’s hard to argue once you bite into the delicious, full-flavoured signatures.
First let’s get to the “buns”. The rice burgers are bound to be divisive to look at – they ain’t too pretty and the harsh lighting doesn’t help – but the trade of familiarity for integrity really works. The nori seaweed is of fantastic quality, melting once it hits the tongue and giving something to hold over the rice. Similarly, the rice isn’t the cheap stuff and it seems Kojima has nailed the right blend that’s sturdy, packed full of that sweet flavour often credited to sushi rice and bringing an endearingly crunchy texture to the burger. It’s basically more of what makes Chase’s crispy rice tuna, which is one of the most popular orders for both Sokyo and Kojima, so addictive.
Then you’ve got the fillings, and there are quite a few options and the standard is a safe choice. It, of course, is a play on the humble hamburger (Gojima Hamburger $11.90) with a juicy Angus beef pattie, tomato, pickles, onions and lettuce. Even if, for whatever reason, the rice bun isn’t to your taste the beef most certainly will impress; it’s perfectly seasoned with a juicy middle, the flavour hits like a champ, and all the supporting acts are nice and fresh. A bump up of $1 will slap some American cheese (sadly only half-melted) in the mix, making it the Gojima Cheeseburger ($12.90).
Seeing as the integrity of the whole rice bun is unbelievably sound, it’s best to go straight to the heavy-set Gojima Double ($16.90), which is all of the above but with 2 of those fantastic patties fitting beautifully within. Or for the same price you can get the Gojima Stack, which adds a crispy katsu mushroom (the basis for the sole vegetarian burger on the menu) which pairs up well with the rice.
The only other burger on the “classic” part of the menu then falls with the obligatory Gojima Chicken Burger ($12.90), and while it doesn’t work as well with the rice bun as the beef does, it’s worth it for that soft miso sauce that adds much flavour.
Things get a bit trickier when it comes to the “sushi” burgers, the inevitable seafood versions of the above. Spicy Tuna ($14.90), a Salmon Miso ($14.90), and an unusual choice of Kingfish Sweet Mustard ($14.90) read nicely on the menu though may take some getting used to. The salmon is my choice at the time, and the big thick fatty piece of Tasmanian flesh does hit the spot, but it’s the attempt at filling the burger that makes less sense. American cheese and salmon? It doesn’t work in terms of either texture or taste.
Beers, ciders, sake and wine sit on a modest drinks list for those that want to make a session of it, but it’s better to go with some Frozen Custard which is served either in a cup (1 scoop is $4.90, 2 is $6.90) or a thickshake ($7.50). Flavours are small twists on what you’d usually expect, touting the likes of Chocolate Miso (valrhona chocolate and shiro miso) and Green Tea (brewed genmaicha and matcha).
The Fries ($3.90/$6.90) are fine though nothing special, only slightly pushing away from the norm with a dusting of housemade umami salt which and optional Japanese mayo. The real interest if the burgers aren’t to your taste will be the Fried Chicken ($8.90 – $23.90) which is just as good as the star attraction, moist and juicy on the inside with a batter that’s crunchier than anything you’ll find in the area.
It’s hard to deny what Chase has done with Gojima and we can only hope that an expansion is on the horizon. For now, the burger joint deserves to be mentioned among the best in Sydney. It may move away from cherished traditions or freakish tower-burgers, but there’s a comfortable middle here that places Gojima as an experiment that has actually worked. Sure, they can use a few tweaks here and there, but for a joint that’s not even a month old yet it’s looking like Gojima is well on it’s way to glory.
Address: 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont
Hours: 7 days; 11:30am-late
Feature image supplied.