A dumpling smiled at me.
“Look at that logo Hannah! It’s so f#@$ing cute!” Strolling around Brisbane on a sunny afternoon, we doubled back on ourselves to see what was inside this big, sleek, wooden-paneled building with a giant happy dumpling on the front.
As it turns out, the rest of Harajuku Gyoza is as charming as its cleverly silly logo. Sleek black tables, rows of shiny red barstools, lamps that say “HAI!”, decorative plates designed by a myriad of renowned designers such as our friends at The Hungry Workshop (interview coming soon!), and of course the omnipresent smiling gyoza–the centerpiece of the restaurant, commanding attention and soliciting smiles.
Luckily, manager Andy Jeffreys had time to meet with us that same day. He told us about Harajuku Gyoza’s beginnings and how it came to be one of the hippest spots in town in under a year. We were hardly surprised to learn that this place was created by two designers, Steven Minon and Matthew Bailey, who are also the founders of Junior design and advertising agency. The way every detail is considered, and the extremely aesthetic nature of it all was not just a happy accident. In my opinion, that’s what makes good design good–it appears seamlessly easy and natural, but in reality it takes planning, experience, and confidence to create such elegant simplicity.
Fusing their love of charming and playful Japanese harajuku culture with the clean interior design of Japanese gyoza bars, they let their aesthetic and food speak for themselves, and people happily spread the word.
We also weren’t surprised to learn that Harajuku Gyoza didn’t pay for any formal advertising, yet on their opening night, they were and are still regularly exceeding their seating capacity, with an intense waiting list. How did they get customers lining up for something they knew very little about?
Again, it’s all about the design. For 7 months prior to opening, they were constructing the inside–pedestrian traffic could see the big smiling logo on the outside, and the inside remained a mystery. It’s like smelling Thanksgiving dinner roasting in the oven all day, your hunger growing stronger and more unbearable by the minute, yet you must wait. And when that bird comes out of the oven, your plate full of steaming vegetables, buttery stuffing, and glistening turkey.. you’re in heaven. They gave the customers a glimpse of good things to come, and kept them waiting. When they finally opened their doors after the better part of a year, people were incredibly eager to see exactly what was behind those doors.
The staff is another integral part of the success of this place. Andy himself spent several years in Japan teaching English and was a no-brainer when it came to choosing a manager. The friendly waitresses who served us greeted us with big smiles, and welcomed arriving customers in Japanese.
Harajuku Gyoza still has yet to pay for advertising, but the success only builds. Again, it’s the design. It’s self-propagating. The whole place is just so damn photogenic, people are always tweeting, instagramming, facebooking, and so on–without any incentives or contests or asking on the owner’s part. They simply combined a stunning design with simple, great dumplings. Fusing their love of charming and playful Japanese harajuku culture with the clean interior design of Japanese gyoza bars, they let their aesthetic and food speak for themselves, and people happily spread the word.
They focused on doing one thing, and doing it well. In design and in dumplings, they executed both flawlessly in our opinion.