I love gyoza, it’s true! (I am infamous amongst a particular group of friends for sitting at the head of the conveyor belt at a certain Japanese restaurant in Barcelona and way-laying every single portion of gyoza that passed until the staff brought me an enormous plateful of my own and asked me to stop!)
￼If you don’t know what gyoza are – well, they’re little envelopes of heaven – generally a spiced-pork mixture packed in a very thin pastry wrap, cooked by being fried, boiled and steamed at the same time. They’re no more than a mouthful each but by dipping each one into a little bowl of soy, vinegar and/or chilli oil before consuming them whole a entire varied meal can be had with just these little culinary Marvel’s and (as every meal in Japan demands – or it’s not classified as a meal) a bowl of white rice.
Given then my love for gyoza, it was no surprise that the first place we chose to have lunch once we’d settled in our apartment here Tokyo was at the Harajuku Gyoza-Lo (or Gyoza-Ro – you can see it written both ways, much the like interchangeability of v and b in Spanish) in the backstreets of Harajuku just across Omotosande. The little shack is unassuming, with simple red kanji on a bright yellow background describing the menu to those who can read it but the queue outside indicates there may be more to the place than first meets the eye. And it moves quickly, the queue – gyoza are fast food and particularly as the Gyoza-Lo does it!
A study flow of people finishing up and leaving the restaurant meant that, in short-time, our turn arrived and we were shown to the bar and given menus with Japanese and English descriptions – though it’s not a big nor complex menu. We ordered gyoza (of course!), white rice and chicken soup, and a couple of drinks they describe as “Lemon Sours” which promised alcohol that I couldn’t detect but were tasty all the same. We watched our gyoza cook and then just a few minutes were stuffing them in our mouths and wondering whether twelve were enough, and whether we could come back here again for dinner!
The staff are very friendly (unless you try to come in without being invited, which happens if the queue has dwindled to zero and you don’t quite know how things work) and the customers are too (if you consider being laughed at when you add soy to your rice, as Gail did, friendly – although the guy then proceeded to ask the waiter for a dish which we were lacking and demonstrated to her how to mix the sauces together in it to use as a dip!
For a little over 2000 yen (about 15 quid) (and half of that was the drinks) you can see why local workers and visitors alike flood to the Gyoza-Lo for a quick, filling, tasty and cheap lunch before getting back to their daily business. We’ll be joining them regularly over the next fortnight, I’m sure!