If there’s one thing we can’t say no to, it’s gyoza. Which is why olive was one of the first food magazines to visit Gyoza Bar, a new Covent Garden restaurant that professes to be an expert in the wonder that is Japanese dumplings.
It’s a small, minimalistic space with blocky tables, patterned wooden walls and exposed, bright orange pipes in the corners. Gyoza Bar is deliberately un-fussy and informal, an attitude that’s reflected by the at-ease waiters who made us feel relaxed and welcome.
Despite its name, Gyoza Bar offers far more than dumplings – there’s also ramen, small plates (including edamame and deep fried pork samosas) and bao buns to choose from, and everything comes out when it’s ready. As nice as it is to have piping hot food to order, tables are too small to hold everything at once – so ask your waiter if they can stagger dishes for you.
Ramen wasn’t as rich or complex as that from a specialist ramen bar like Bone Daddies, but it was nourishing, fresh and earthy nonetheless. Noodles were satisfyingly slippery and there was a generous amount of spring onion, stem broccoli and beansprouts in each bowl. The vegetable ramen comes with inari sweet tofu, which is a pleasant change to the soft silken type usually found in vegetarian ramen. If you’re sampling the whole menu, get one bowl of ramen between two – portions are generous.
Crispy Japanese ‘chips’ were more exciting than the name suggests – thin slices of creamy lenkon (lotus root) are deep-fried and served in a little bucket alongside fiery mayonnaise. Bao buns are pillowy soft and milky, as they should be, and ours came stuffed with prawn tempura and salad. Crispy, but a little dry – we’d have liked some more of that spicy, vibrant orange mayonnaise in the mix.
On to the main event – gyozas. You can have them steamed, deep-fried or pan-fried; with a vegetable, chicken, pork, salmon or ebi dangojiru (fried prawn) filling. That’s 15 options to choose from – to narrow it down, we’d recommend the pan-fried gyozas, which had just the right level of crisp, golden crust and still retained that freshness of filling. The salmon gyoza were especially good, paired cleverly with a citrusy yuzu and coconut chilli oil sauce. Steamed gyoza, however, soon turned flimsy – we had to resort to spoons instead of chopsticks.
We’d probably skip dessert (fill up on a mix of bao, ramen and gyoza instead), but the two choices – apple cinnamon dumpling and crispy fried ice cream – are both good, if you need something sweet. It’s a heavy dessert menu, but then again it’s a pretty heavy menu overall – the majority of dishes are either pan- or deep-fried, or come with some kind of tempura. No bad thing in our opinion – just come hungry.
Written March 2016 by Charlotte Morgan
63-66 St Martin’s Lane
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