Gyoza King

Restaurant: Gyoza King
Cuisine: Japanese/Izakaya/Fusion
Last visited: September 7, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown/Robson/West end)
Address: 1508 Robson Street
Price Range: $20-30

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3.5
Service: 4.5
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Japanese chefs/staff
  • Japanese Izakaya/Fusion cuisine
  • Famous for home made gyoza
  • Seasonal specials/monthly specials menu
  • Top 5 most popular of the week menu
  • Japanese beer/cocktails/wines
  • Good for sharing
  • Ramen, tapas, sashimi, robata
  • No sushi
  • Crowded seating
  • Seats 50
  • Busy/Popular/line-ups
  • Attracts locals
  • Very friendly/welcoming service
  • Zagat Rated
  • Accepts Visa/MC/Debit/Amex

**Recommendations: Tako Yaki, Ebinara (pork, prawn and chive) gyoza, kinoko yakiudon, salmon avocado yukke (on the menu it’s “salmom advocado yukke”)

Gyoza King is one of the earlier Izakaya restaurants that opened on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver, BC. They offer authentic and fusion Japanese tapas style dishes (Izakaya) that are meant to be shared. The restaurant looks a lot bigger from the outside, but from the inside it actually feels quite crowded with the seating arrangement, that and it’s almost always busy with a line-up on the weekends.

Gyoza King is a restaurant group, and they’re also the producers of G-Men Ramen Shop, Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya, Gyo-O Kaisen Shokudo Japanese Restaurant, and Chicco Coffee & Dessert Bar. I’ve tried all of them before and I like them all except for Chicco Coffee & Dessert Bar, which I find is overpriced and poor value for medicore Japanese parfaits. My favourite of the restaurants is Gyo-O. Although the izakaya dishes repeat themselves at Gyoza King, Gyo-O and Nan Chuu, they’re still executed differently at each place so they are still different although similar in style.

I have driven by Gyoza King several times, but I never made it inside because if I’m craving izakaya in downtown, Vancouver I almost always default to Kingyo or Hapa Izakaya. My favourite is still Kingyo, although it’s slightly more expensive than Gyoza King. The atmosphere at Gyoza King is more casual and day to day and comparable to Guu Japanese Izakaya. The menu is large enough that’s there’s always something new to try and the noodle bowls are big enough to satisfy individual dining . Overall I would come again, but I found the dishes a little less creative and to be better at other izakaya restaurants doing the same thing. It was all good, but nothing blew me away.

On the table:

Tako Wasa – 3/6

  • Fresh octopus marinated in wasabi stem $5.50
  • It’s a very traditional Japanese appetizer and it’s made with raw octopus so it’s a bit slimy and gooey. I was brought back to memories of eating raw LIVE ocotpus in Korea, but this version is much tastier. It’s crunchy and almost like the Japanese version ceviche. It’s mixed with some Japanese pickles that give it’s nice tang and they serve almost the same thing at sister restaurant Gyo-O for half the price. This one at Gyoza King is bit overwhelming with the wasabi to the point where my eyes started to water a bit and I love wasabi.
  • I like Tako Wasa best at Kingyo or Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata where they also include sheets of seaweed to eat with the tako wasa.

**Tako Yaki5/6

  • Deep fried octopus balls $6
  • It comes with 6 golf ball sized octopus balls and it’s so worth it.

  • They were very hot, nice and fluffy and really creamy inside with 2 diced octopus tentacles that were nice and tender and not chewy. I couldn’t taste the ginger or the Japanese pickle inside though and it’s supposed to have it. It’s a slightly different version at their sister restaurant Gyo-O, but it’s just as good if not even better here.
  • It was covered with bonito (dried fish) flakes, Japanese mayo and a sweet Oknonomoiyaki sauce.

**Salmon Avocado Yukke 4/6

  • Fresh Atlantic salmon, avocado and yukke sauce (reduced sweet shoyu). Stir and mix with a quail egg and eat raw $9
  • I’ve had this at Guu as well, but I liked the quality of ingredients better here. The sauce was quite sweet and I would have liked a little bit more of a tang or maybe some garlic because I felt the sauce was too “ready-made” tasting.

  • The salmon was very fresh and the avocado was very ripe. You mix it altogether to create a salmon and avocado salad before topping it on the piece of seaweed like a taco.
  • The texture was very creamy and the egg added an extra richness. They’re very generous with the ingredients and the portion is pretty big one you mix it altogether.

**Ganzo (Pork & Vegetable) Gyoza – 3.5/6
  • Home made, pan-fried and served with special gyoza hot sauce. 6 piece $6, 9 piece $10
  • This is their claim to fame – the famous gyoza. The stuffing and the skins are all home made and they serve their dumplings at all their restaurants.
  • It was a bit disappointed because the didn’t have that much filling and they weren’t juicy at all. I’m not expecting Shanghai steamed pork buns (Xiao Long Bao) juicy, but it should still have a little bit of liquid. I think maybe it was overcooked and the skin was chewy and the bottoms wasn’t that crispy either. It was almost like they had been sitting there too long and they’re usually better than this. I was much more impressed with their Goma Miso Gyoza offered at Gyo-O.
  • On the other hand, I did love the dipping sauce they served with it. It was a sweet soy with ponzu sauce and lemon juice and it was so much better than just vinegar. It was sweet, tart, and savoury and very slightly spicy.

**Ebinara Gyoza (Prawn, Pork & Chives)4/6

  • Home made, pan-fried and served with special gyoza hot sauce. 6 piece $6.75, 9 piece $9.25

  • This was totally unexpected. I thought the prawn was going to be minced up with the pork, like Chinese style, but it was an actual prawn inside the gyoza. It added a really interesting texture and I liked it. It was a crunchy prawn with juicy pork and I think the prawn helped keep the pork juicy. I’m surprised the prawn and pork were tender since they have different cooking times.

Ebi Mayo2.5/6

  • Fresh tiger prawns with special Mayo sauce $6.50
  • It came with 6 prawns which weren’t that big, and I thought it was a pretty weak version of ebi mayo considering how creative other Izakaya dishes are with this dish. There was an overwhelming amount of mayo on each one too and it tasted like Thousand Island dressing.
  • They were lightly battered, crunchy and seasoned and the prawn was crunchy and tender but there was nothing special about it. My favourite ebi mayo thus far are the ones from Toratatsu.

**Curry Croquette – 4/6

  • “Pocky Glico” and Gyoza King present!!! $6.50
  • I really don’t know what kind of description that is… but it’s very Japanese to say the least. It was another tapa recommended by the server.
  • It was a very crunchy Panko crusted croquette sitting on a bed of creamy rich curry mayonnaise sauce that tastes like potato salad dressing or egg salad dressing.

  • It’s served hot and the inside is a creamy Japanese curry with mashed and diced potato and diced carrot. It’s a sweet curry sauce and there’s also thin bits of dried bonito (fish) flakesΒ  throughout that isn’t obvious, but adds great flavour. It does get a bit rich and filling, and I liked the fresh diced tomatoes to help break it up a bit.
  • I also liked the fusion of 2 different styles of curry sauce.

Ton Toro – 3/6

  • Pork toro (belly) slices with mustard mayo $6.95
  • The mustard mayo tastes exactly like mustard mayo but slightly sweeter.
  • The pork belly slices alone were well marinated and flavoured so it didn’t even really need the mayo. The outside was sweet and it had a honey like charcoal charred crust. The meat itself is almost elastic-y and it springs back when you chew it. The meat looks really lean and there’s no jelly or obvious fatty party. It’s chewy in the sense that it snaps back, but it’s not tough chewy.

**Kinoko Yakiudon5/6

  • With assorted mushrooms and butter $9.50
  • It was a toss up between this and the traditional Japanese Mentaiko Udon. The server suggested this one, but now I’m curious to try the Mentaiko Udon since I enjoyed it so much at Alpha Global Sushi & Bar. Kinoko Yakiudon is really simple dish and easy concept and they could have done more with it, but it still tastes delicious as is.
  • It’s shiitake, button and enoki mushrooms sauteed in lots of butter and them tossed with udon. Even the udon noodles are really fresh here, they’re soft and chewy and have great texture. If you like sauteed mushrooms, there’s not reason you won’t like this.
  • It’s a big portion and good for one person, but it is a tad pricey and I would prefer a smaller portion for $8.

Oden – 2/6

  • Japanese hotch-potch. A variety of fish cake and tofu products simmered in a broth made from konbu/kombu and thin flakes of dried bonito fish. You can order an assorted plate or piece by piece.
  • Assorted plate 5 kinds chef’s selection – Regular $9 Assorted plate 8 kinds chef’s selection – Large $14 By piece – $2/each
  • I had this at Gyo-O as well and it’s a very traditional Japanese dish that Japanese people order. It’s not mainstream at all and I personally find it a bit boring. It’s comfort food, but seems like something I could easily prepare at home with the right ingredients.
  • The broth just tastes like a fishy udon noodle broth and it’s very simple and made from kombu which is kelp (seaweed).
  • The tamago (hard boiled egg) isn’t organic with an orange centre. It was just a regular hard boiled egg cooked to well done πŸ™
  • The ika maki (fish tube stuffed with squid) was almost like eating a sausage made from fish paste. It was quite soft and mushy and almost like tofu, but fishy.
  • The chikuwa (grilled fish tube) pictured on top – was again very soft and mushy and tastes the same as the ika maki. It didn’t have a grilled flavour and didn’t look grilled either.
  • The hot mustard served on the edge of the bowl is to be eaten with the assorted oden.
  • For the simplicity I think $14 is overpriced and I would rather have a bowl of ramen for the same price and it has more flavour, although totally different.

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