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Monday, 4 April 2016

Gyoza Bar just opens in Covent Garden...

Gyoza Moriawase (£9.50)
Another day and another new opening in the West End. And what’s the only thing better than a dumpling den?! Obviously, it’s a crispy dumpling diner! Yes, I'm not entirely sure that’s a thing either, but it’s all a matter of semantics and I'm shying away from the proper debate because almost a year ago, I vaguely recall getting in a cuffudle over the char siu bao / hirata bun / gua bao distinction when Bao opened its doors in Soho – now I find myself in a tizz over the between the potsticker the gyoza since the opening of Gyoza Bar last month in Covent Garden, next door to Murakami.

Crispy Japanese Chips (£3.80)

I do wonder if infact there is a “proper debate” when it comes to humble dumpling, but I am astonished to learn that I have but merely scratched the surface! Over the years, I have fallen in love with the Nepalese momo in Kathmandu, discovered Polish pierogi in London (of all places!), scoffed Chinese har gau for dinner 3-4 times per week for the last year, and completely overlooked the fact that Italian ravioli is indeed, also a variety of dumpling (probably why I love it so!). BUT, did you know that there are over 20 varieties of dumpling from around the world?! The Vietnamese have a chewy tapioca dumpling (banh bot loc), Mongolia fill their buuz with mutton, the Korean’s use kimchi in mandu, and the Turks stuff manti with minced lamb among others. All variations on the same theme I hear you cry...

Now, as a greedy food-obsessed cretin, I would defy anyone to tries to tell me that winkles, chips and batter scraps from a British seaside chippy are even remotely the same as escargot and pommes frites a la bourguignonne from a French brasserie, so to that end, herein lies the difference between a Chinese potsticker and a Japanese gyoza. Very simply, the latter often has a far finer textured filling, they’re smaller and generally more delicate, made from a thinner readymade wrapper instead of the thicker homemade wheat flour dough. And that’s it folks! Both are traditionally filled with pork and both look almost identical. Anticlimactic isn’t it!

Lamb Jalapeño Bun (£5.00)
With dumpling now sufficiently taking over my mind, I rather fatefully stumble upon this new opening on St Martins Lane, next door and attached to ; chopsticks at the ready and a time limit to keep to (yes, even I succumb to the pre-theatre meal on at least two occasions per annum). Sleek and minimalist in design, with warming wood tones, I'm a little confused at first because two doors on a perpendicular angle suggest they are one of the same, but each have their own sign – I solve this puzzle at the end of my visit, so all will become clear shortly!
Stewed Belly Pork Bun (£4.50)

Greeted by immeasurably friendly staff, willing and able to seat me without a reservation (I rather wrongly hadn’t thought to bother), the maitre’d must’ve read my mind because she tucked in a little alcove, looking out to the restaurant before me (otherwise known as the best seat in the house…in my world at least!). The drinks list nodded to the orient in the right places, but also gave me a buttery dry chardonnay, which was enough to please me very much after a busy day a la work. The menu is much more than just gyoza too, so brace yourself for some tasty bao and at least six varieties of ramen. I wish I’d tried the ramen, but I can tell you that the bao were overall very satisfying (not quite up to the benchmark set by Bao, but still very good). The breaded chicken in the Chicken Katsu Bun (£4.50) was a little dry and I wish the lamb in the Lamb Jalapeño Bun (£5.00) was a little more melting, but I was not at all dissatisfied.
Chicken Katsu Bun (£4.50)

I must say though, I was a little disappointed to not see more gyoza on the menu as per its namesake. You will find the traditional fillings of pork (£6.80), vegetable (£6.20) and chicken (£6.50), but they also offer a salmon (£7.50) and an interesting ebi dangojiro (£7.00), all cooked perfectly and delicious to eat, but there was nothing outlandishly exciting about any of it (I tried all of them for £9.50 in one mega plate – Gyoza Moriawase). For example, the Nikkei Gyoza (£9.95) at Chotto Matte are filled with pork, prawn and cassava, then lain on a heavenly bed of aji amarillo and sweet potato puree, which shows off their fusion concept with immense precision (the very best of Peruvian flavour versus Japanese classicism). Classic is amazing, but innovation in a city full of innovators makes the competition immensely stiff eh…

Oh and before I forget the mystery of the double door! I went to the toilet at the end of a very pleasant dining experience, but when I opened the door, it was like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia! OK, perhaps not quite so theatrical, but there was no toilet, rather the restaurant next door in all its glory. I walked from a casual and warm bijou gyoza bar, into a buzzy and chic sushi restaurant, a minimalist design throughout marrying the two halves. I almost loath myself for ruining the surprise for you!

Square Meal Gyoza Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

St Martins Lane entrance

Inside Gyoza Bar, with view of toilet door to Narnia!
My perfect little alcove!
Open kitchen in Murakami (adjoining Gyoza Bar)
The damage for 2 people!
Toilets accessible through Murakami, downstairs!
Inside Murakami Sushi & Sake - adjoining Gyoza Bar
Inside Murakami Sushi & Sake bar - adjoining Gyoza Bar

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