Gyoza Senmonten Genbu (Gyoza/Noodles), Shimokitazawa

Chinese dumpling "Gyoza"s are often side dishes in Japan. People order them in Chinese joint as part of a bigger menu, paired with Ramen noodles or Chahan (Fried rice) for example, and rarely as a solo item. The trend has recently changed though, and restaurants specialized in Gyozas have lately increased. Gyoza Senmonten Genbu (Specialized Gyoza restaurant "Genbu") which opened in the summer of 2007 is one of them, and though seemingly going through high and lows in terms of occupancy, has established itself as a moderate player within the Shimokitazawa food business.

If you're wondering what Japanese-style fried Gyoza are, please click this wiki article on the dish. Should you want to skip on it, you just need to know that it's ground meat (most of the time pork) mixed with finely chopped vegetables (generally garlic, chinese cabbage and Nira garlic chives) wrapped and sealed in thin dough before being fried. I have also talked a little bit about the history of the dumpling in Japan and the not-so famous reason why Japanese added garlic in the Chinese recipe, in this post.

Genbu doesn't really look like a normal "Chinese" restaurants: most of the apparent infrastructures are in metal (even the stools are what seem like kegs with a cushion on top) and a big tv monitor near the kitchen plays MTVish R&B music, therefore giving the place a rather cluby look, uncommon in this neighborhood. However, don't let that modern western feel deceive you on the food quality: they do serve very decent dumplings and (less memorable) noodles.

I went for the house-speciality "TonToro Gyoza", which adds some gourmet pork cheek meat in its regular pate. The cheek is supposed to be one of the most tender part in the animal and butchers can only get a little amount from each pig so it is a "limited" menu, slightly more expensive than the more standard dumplings they also offer.

The gyozas were very well fried, the dough being nicely crunchy (but not hard) and golden-brown on one side whereas the other "rawer" faces offered more doughy resistance. Some bad places will sometimes offer you fried dumplings that have the same texture all around and that can be such a turn-off... The ground meat felt very tender indeed and the first bite freed a bit of some nice juice from the sealed dumpling. The amount of garlic felt just fine and balanced and the overall taste pleasant. The shop takes pride in recommending you to eat its Gyoza with lemon juice, salt and paper, and not with the orthodox soy-sauce/vinegar/chili oil mix, so you can enjoy the taste of the meat better. I can definitely recommend you to follow their advice. Good stuff.

A plate of Gyoza not being enough to fill my belly, I also ordered a Nira Ramen (Ramen topped with chopped Nira garlic chives), a dish that I have learned to appreciate at the excellent Chinese restaurant "Fuumin" in Omotesando. The waiter warned me that it is a hot and spicy noodle dish, but I ignored his tip and still went with it as the one I was used to in Fuumin is a delicate one based on a low-salt bouillon.
Well, stupid me: it was hot! Not the unbearable hot, but still enough to cleanse your system the next day...If you don't like hot, don't even think about trying this. The soup was so red-hot with Rayu (Chinese style chili-infused vegetable oil) and thus so chili spicy that I couldn't really tell what the broth was based on. There was a moderate topping of what I thought to be a mix of pork ground meat with a sesame oil based sauce, that smoothed the taste when mixed with the soup, but it still was not enough to clear the hotness.
The noodles used were interesting as they had the very characteristically firm texture, almost the color, the size and the taste (not too sure about the taste as it was lost in the chili aroma) of the noodles used in the Korean-style cold Reimen noodles. It is rather rare to have these used in hot noodles recipe so that's worth the experience.

At ¥500 the beer, ¥450 the Gyoza and ¥750 the noodle dish, this simple dinner amounted to ¥1,700, which is affordable. Their beer is nice and cool, so if you feel like munching on heaps of Gyozas while downing some draught beer, Genbu is definitely an affordable option. The waiters are polite and very professional.

By the way, it's next door to the uber-famous old-school Chinese eatery "Mintei".
And if you're into J-Pop, it's worth noting that the restaurant is owned by someone very close to the multi-platinum selling duo "Kobukuro". Who knows, they might come one day for a plate of Gyoza?

Genbu is open everyday from 11:30am to 04:00am
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-8-8
Click here for a MAP