Japanese food is becoming evermore popular in the West and rightfully so. This island nation is the home of sushi, sashimi, bento, tempura… The list goes on. However, gyoza (pronounced “gyooh-zah”) is a Japanese dish which is pretty much going viral.
Located in London’s Covent Garden immediately next to Murakami – another local hotspot for Japanese food – Gyoza Bar specialises in the popular side dish which has come to characterise this form of cuisine.
The music, decor and atmosphere contribute towards a young, metropolitan vibe. Ordering via a checklist, you are able to request how you would like your gyoza cooked. The traditional way sees them pan fried on each side then steamed, or you can choose to have them deep fried. I chose the latter for my beef gyoza, served with Japanese mayo, eel sauce and bonito flakes, which gave them just the right amount of bite. Heat and sweetness in every mouthful, the salmon gyoza came with a deliciously different Yuzu coconut chilli oil sauce.
Of course, there’s more than just gyoza and so arrived the cavalry. The chicken katsu bao was soft and delicious – the crisp, fresh salad complementing the flavours of the tonkatsu sauce. Across the table, the pulled barbecue pork bao was equally well received.
However, this journey into the East was not complete without ramen and so we dived in. An underwater world of egg, spring onion and kikurage mushrooms, the spicy minced pork ramen hit the spot. A bowl of the ramen would make for a filling lunch by itself. But the sun had set and the bets were off. Though woefully devoid of its shoyu tamago (egg), the chicken ramen was flavoursome and featured tasty strips of fried chicken. As you would expect, the ramen is quite salty. But this is merely testament to how flavoursome the food is – and is nothing another Asahi can’t fix.
I always think you can tell the quality of a restaurant by its bathroom. Replete with fresh towels, gentle music and featuring a lattice of decorative pipes on the ceiling, this one received top marks. However, in something of a novel arrangement, the bathroom is shared with Murakami – so it’s hard to know who to give the credit to. Back in Gyoza Bar, exposed brick, steel girders and naked lightbulbs led the way back to my table, now complete with dessert.
This took the form of a delicate but delicious blueberry cheesecake and crispy fried ice cream, which made for a sweet end to an indulgent meal. It’s certainly an interesting concept to focus on a side dish, and it’s one which truly works at Gyoza Bar.