I say potstickers, you say gyoza
If you’re living in Japan, one of the foods you’re going to find yourself becoming very familiar with is ramen. And if you’re familiar with ramen, chances are you’re going to get cozy with gyoza. If you don’t know what ramen is, I don’t know what to tell you except have more life experiences. But if you’re not familiar with gyoza, that’s more understandable since it’s not a foodstuff we (Westerners) are accustomed to. We know gyoza more commonly as potstickers, but when you step off that plane at Narita (or Haneda for you late night travelers), the signs aren’t going to read “Come get your potstickers.” If they’re written in English at all, it will say “GYOZA.”
I once had a girlfriend tell me that eating ramen without gyoza is like eating hamburgers without fries and I can’t think of a more apt comparison. Personally, I find it a little difficult finding delicious gyoza around Tokyo despite being a fairly common food item. Perhaps that is why it elusive: when you have too many choices to choose from, there’s going to be a lot of mediocrity.
Best gyoza in Akihabara: Osaka Ohsho
Thankfully, I’m here to tell you that Osaka Osho has some of the best gyoza in Akihabara. Certainly, the best presentation I’ve seen on a plate in a long time. You’ll find most gyoza in ramen shops, but as Osaka Ohsho isn’t a ramen shop they have more time to focus on what’s essential, and gyoza is their business.
Taste-wise, Osaka Ohsho’s gyoza has a perfect crisp to it, and the ratio of garlic to leek to meat in its filling was just right, another hard thing to find since gyoza tends to have too much leek relative to the ground pork. That’s another good thing about Osaka Osho; they don’t skimp on ingredients. The crust on the bottom (some might consider it the top) was a perfectly consistent golden brown color. As gyoza enthusiasts can tell, you’ll see inconsistent color more often than not. If you think I’m a tad too hyperbolic, please go find out yourself. It is that good, especially for a chain restaurant.
As far as seasonings go, they have the standard fare: shoyu (soy sauce), rayu (spicy oil), and vinegar. The question gets asked a lot when it comes to gyoza is what’s the dipping sauce. The standard and best way is two parts soy sauce, one part vinegar, and as much rayu as you please. But, as I’ve recently learned, most Japanese people don’t even know this so you can impress your Japanese friends. Another tasty way to eat gyoza is to dip it into a mixture of vinegar and pepper. That’s it. You’ll want to put as much pepper as vinegar into your dish. But absolutely, positively make sure it’s the coarsely ground pepper. Finely ground pepper turns the mixture into mud. Trust me, you do not want to eat your gyoza with peppery-vinegary mud.
I also tried their kalbi fried rice which had an excellent sesame flavor, the mark of great fried rice in my humble opinion. You can never go wrong with Korean beef short ribs, and there’s a great big tasty slab of it right on top.
Osaka Ohsho’s Akihabara location is about a 5-minute walk from the JR station and not in a crowded section of the area. If you don’t want to deal with crowds of people and just want great, solid gyoza, you will not go wrong with Osaka Ohsho.