As my days in Tokyo draw to a close, I have become more adamant about making my last moments (and meals) count. I spent all of last night researching different eateries in Shinjuku and around Tokyo before deciding that I was craving a good meal of gyoza. My searches brought me to the Champagne & Gyoza Bar located in Shinbashi, Tokyo (???????? ).
Since the idea of pairing gyoza (typically thought of as street food or a secondary side dish to ramen) with the classiness of champagne was intriguing, I decided to try out the bar for myself. I had just come from a tiring day of teaching so I was looking forward to my visit.
Located in between Toranomon and Shinbashi stations, I had to take a short walk to the doors before I entered and was seated behind the counter. With the time left for happy hour diminishing (just 20 min left), I quickly ordered the daily champagne special before deciding on an order of 6 gyoza (garlic included).
The paper clipboard menu had both Japanese and English which made ordering a breeze. It also had suggestions for how to eat the gyoza, whether it be as it came, dipped in different sauces, or sprinkled with salt and truffle oil. As I waited, upbeat samba music played in the background, and I took in the restaurant ambience. Bottles of champagne and wine lined the walls, while the plates of customers next to me were filled with cubes of cheeses and slices of cured meat. My champagne was soon served and I savored it’s powerful bubbliness and long lasting flavor. Not long after, the gyoza was ready, hot off the grill and plated on a solid black slab.
Four different sauces came with the gyoza: spicy miso, ponzu, cherry tomato, and soy sauce + vinegar. Additionally, there were two oils, a spicy one and a truffle. It was recommended to sprinkle a bit of Himalayan Sea Salt on the gyoza along with these oils.
I set about tasting all of the different sauces and combinations, almost burning my tongue on the first bite I was so hungry. Japanese gyoza is different than Chinese potstickers as they are made from thinner, more delicate skins. The gyoza skins in front of me were crisped to perfection with a dark brown bottom. Before I could eat each one one, I had to pull it apart from the others as they joined when cooking.
I quickly consumed my first order of gyoza and promptly order a second, larger batch of 12. (I had trained hard in my childhood to be a gyoza- eating machine and it was all paying off). When this second batch came, I was excited to see the chef had given me an extra piece! More deliciousness to enjoy. By this round of fried dumplings, I had found my favorite eating procedure as follows:
- sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on the gyoza piece
- pick up with chopsticks and dip into the soysauce + vinegar flavoring
- take half a bite (being careful not to burn your tongue)
- with the inner meat exposed, drip in a healthy serving of truffle oil
- drip a little truffle oil on the outter skin as well
- enjoy and finish off the remaining bite
- wash it down with a sip of champagne
After finishing my gyoza adventure and two glasses of champagne, it was time to call it a meal. This establishment plays off of the fun fanciness of champagne and the friendliness and ease of gyoza to create a successful new experience for customers. Not to be forgotten though, this bar doesn’t just serve champagne and gyoza, their menu is also full of wines, cocktails, soft drinks, finger foods, cheeses, and charcuterie. It was the perfect way to unwind from a long day in a friendly and calm atmosphere.