Gyo-O Japanese Restaurant (Ramen & Donburi) 魚王

Restaurant: Gyo-O
Cuisine: Japanese/Ramen/Izakaya/Tapas
Last visited: January 15, 2013
Location: Richmond, BC (Central Richmond)
Address: #2137-3779 Sexsmith Road
Phone: (604) 295-4072
Transit: Aberdeen Station Northbound
Price Range: $10-20+

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 3 (4 for noodles)
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3.5
Value: 3
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Part of Gyoza King Group
  • Japanese chefs
  • Authentic Japanese
  • Noodle shop/Udon
  • Hot/Cold ramen bowls
  • Extensive donburi list
  • Some izakaya options
  • Seasonal specials
  • Casual/affordable
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Family friendly
  • Beer/Sake
  • Cash only
  • 7 Days aweek 12pm -9pm
  • Holiday: 2nd Wednesday of every month

**Recommendations: Ramen and the takoyaki is supposed to be very good.

Gyo-O Japanese (13)The last time I visited Gyo-O restaurant was when I started blogging back in 2009 and I want to say nothing has changed, but something did. It was probably a little bit of me and also a little bit of them, but this experience didn’t live up to how I remembered them. Last time I came here I loved it, and perhaps it’s because I’ve experienced more now it did not come up to par, but just comparing photos from this occasion to a few years ago they are noticeably different. Of course I am not expecting the exact same and there could have been a change in chefs (likely), but it was just okay with some dishes being better than others.

Gyo-O is part of the Gyoza King restaurant group who owns Gyoza King, Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya, Chicco and G-Men Ramen (now closed). G-Men Ramen was my favourite place for ramen in Richmond and it used to be located across the street from Gyo-O in the same mall complex. After they closed it they started serving ramen here and at Nan Chuu, and apparently they are still just as good according to loyal customers. Generally I do like Gyoza King Group restaurants, concepts and menus, but this occasion fell a bit short on expectations.

Gyo-O Japanese (14)It is a casual restaurant with a funky Japanese feel and most of the staff are Japanese although the owner is Chinese. People usually assume this means it is “not authentic”, but I disagree. There are many non Japanese owned and operated Japanese restaurants in Metro Vancouver, and although most are not authentic, there are some with Japanese trained chefs. The food can be authentic in technique, ingredients and flavour even without a Japanese chef.

Gyo-O means “Fish King” and it is a Japanese seafood restaurant specializing in donburi (don) and hot and cold ramen and udon noodle bowls. The noodles are almost half their menu and the donburi (dons) make up the other half. They also have a limited selection of side dishes or tapas (izakaya), but it is not an izakaya restaurant. It was a bit of a hit and miss menu with strengths in the soups and noodles.

I would go to Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya or Guu before this although each offer different styles of Japanese food and ambiance. I would still say this is one of the better Japanese restaurants in Richmond, but based on this experience I am not as confident in recommending it unless you live in the area and it is convenient. The food is Japanese and it was good, but the execution was not as solid as it once was and I just know they are capable of more.

On the table:

Gyo-O Japanese (5)Salmon Skin Salad3/6 (Good)

  • $5
  • This used to be 6/6 for me, but it has changed since I last ordered it and it was not as good as it used to be.
  • It came with a decent amount of salmon skin, but it was a bit soggy and half the battle is getting it crispy.
  • The skin still had some salmon meat attached to it, so it was quite meaty salmon skin.
  • The salad used to be shredded daikon, julienne cucumbers and seaweed, but now it is just regular salad greens.
  • The salad greens just took away from the Japanese aspect and it made it less unique.
  • They used to sprinkle the salad with cornflakes for extra crunch too, but it seemed like they used Rice Krispies now and there were only a few.
  • It was also topped with tobiko and the sauce was a sweet teriyaki like sauce which tasted home made.
  • It was a warm salad and the salmon was still good despite it not being crispy, but it was like getting soggy bacon – not ideal.

Gyo-O Japanese (15)BBQ Salmon Skin Salad in February 2009

Gyo-O Japanese (4)Assorted Oden4/6 (Very good)

  • $6.50 (5 pieces of Chef’s selection or by $1.50/each)
  • I’ve never gotten into oden although I’ll eat it, but this one was convincing. I enjoyed it!
  • For what it is, it was very good, but if you have never tried oden then you might not see why it is so special.
  • It is traditional Japanese comfort food served in the Winter and a well made one can be excellent.
  • The key to an excellent oden is the soup base or dashi (Japanese seafood stock).
  • It is a very light soup that only looks simple, but takes time to prepare – just like chicken stock.
  • This makes or breaks oden and it will say a lot about the skill of the chef.
  • The dashi broth is made with kelp/soy/bonito (dried smoked fish) and I could actually taste the natural seafood flavour in this.
  • The broth was made from scratch and perhaps days before because the soup had depth and intensity which is great.
  • Having a promising soup base was a good sign the soup used for the noodles would also be as good.
  • Dashi is the common base for a lot of Japanese dishes and it is the key to umami (savoury factor).
  • Japanese hot mustard is served on the edge of the bowl to accompany the ingredients.
  • The ingredients are usually assorted fish cakes and this one included: Chikuwa (fish case tube), hard boiled egg, tofu puff (deep fried tofu), daikon, and yam cake.
  • Chikuwa (fish case tube) – reminds me of an umbilical cord of a huge baby.
    • It’s made up of pureed white fish, eggs, sugar, starch, and salt.
    • It’s hollow, boiled, and very soft and tender like the white part of a hard boiled egg, but a bit more sponge like.
  • The “Yam Cake” was konnyaku which I’ve never really liked.
    • Konnyaku is a health food with high dietary fiber and it is made from a Konnyaku potato.
    • It tastes like bland buckwheat jello to me, but much stiffer and more like gelatin.
  • This has probably been one of the first odens I’ve really enjoyed, but the only thing is they didn’t give enough soup.
  • I’ve tried oden at a few places including Guu, Zakkushi Charcoal Grill, and even here at Gyo-O back in 2009.

Gyo-O Japanese (11)Yam & Unagi (Eel) Tempura Sticks  3/6 (Good)

  • Served with tartar sauce, light Teriyaki sauce, and spicy sauce $4.50
  • I used to love these, but they have changed and they weren’t as great as I had remembered.
  • The sweet yam and meaty eel sticks were nice and thick and I liked that, but they were very heavily battered and they weren’t crisp.
  • It was a soft and almost chewy flour batter and the key to excellent tempura is always one that is crispy and requires no dipping into sauce.
  • Tempura should be seasoned well with a sprinkle of salt, but this one had three house made sauces for dipping so I didn’t mind them not as salted.
  • Unagi Sauce (Eel sauce – the darkest one) – This was salty and sweet and it’s a more intense teriyaki like sauce.
  • Spicy Sauce (darker reddish-brown one) – This was a spicy, sweet, tangy and pungent sauce with ginger garlic and maybe Sriracha sauce.
  • I think they would use this for their spicy tuna sashimi and it tasted like it has some miso paste in it. It had a mild bitterness, but it wasn’t distracting.
  • Tartar Sauce – This was a very thin sauce and it reminded me of cole slaw dressing with shallots in it. I preferred the other sauces.
  • I liked the idea, but I just was not keen on execution of the tempura.

Gyo-O Japanese (6)Seafood Yukke Don 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Chopped spicy tuna, salmon, squid, prawn, fishcake, takowasabi in marinated sweet soy sauce with half boiled egg on rice $11
  • Gyo-O specializes in donburi and they offer an extensive selection.
  • This Seafood Yukke Don is a popular favourite and it was on their “Top 7” menu items list.
  • Donburi means “bowl” and it is a Japanese white rice bowl with toppings such as vegetables, meat or seafood.
  • It is popular fast/street food or homestyle comfort food because it is inexpensive, quick and easy to make and eat.
  • The donburi or “dons” here are fancier than normal and they are quite substantial because they come with a lot of steamed rice.

Gyo-O Japanese (8)

  • I could have used a thicker layer of chopped sashimi which was all randomly chopped up. This is typical and most places use sashimi scraps to make yukke don.
  • The sashimi sits of the hot rice and although it never cooks, it does get warm so you have to be okay with that.
  • The sashimi quality was decent, but of course it is naturally a bit slimy especially with the takowasabi (raw ocotopus marinated in wasabi).
  • You have to be okay with slimy texture and the sashimi being warm too because it is just the nature of a seafood yukke don.
  • The egg was excellent and it was gently poached, but would have been even more amazing had it been sous vide.
  • The texture is different even when you sous vide 1º difference. I did not expect the use of sous vide here, so it was fine as is.
  • When the soft poached egg and runny yolk get mixed in with the chopped sashimi and scallions it is reminiscent of a beef tartare.
  • It was good, chewy, and plain Japanese rice, but it was on the mushy side and a bit overcooked and wet.
  • Everything together wasn’t the greatest texture especially with the rice being too soft, but the flavour was good.
  • It was topped with a home made sweet soy sauce and it was a sweet and savoury dish, but more sweet than savoury.
  • It was also a bit spicy from the spicy tuna sauce marinade.
  • I liked this, but I just wanted more chopped sashimi because there was so much rice.

Gyo-O Japanese (9)Oyster Milk Ramen4/6 (Very good)

  • $14.95
  • I have a feeling ever since they moved the ramen menu from G-Men Ramen to Gyo-O this is their strength.
  • About half the menu were various types of hot and cold ramen noodle bowls and udon bowls.
  • I decided to go for the Oyster Milk Ramen because I can’t get this anywhere else in Vancouver – at least I’ve never seen it anywhere else.
  • It was very milky, creamy, and naturally sweet and salty from crustaceans and perhaps dried seafood used to make the broth.
  • The broth was served hot and it wasn’t rich or thick, but infused with layers of seafood flavour.
  • The dashi (Japanese seafood stock) was incredible and it was a solid base and foundation to build any soup upon.
  • The broth was not fishy tasting or briney with clam nectar and it had complexity and depth.
  • It tasted like a thin Asian style oyster clam chowder without the heaviness and richness of cream.
  • It had intense umami (savoury factor) and the soup was just so comforting and flavourful.
  • Toppings included onions, scallions, dried baby scallops, diced roma tomatoes, fresh seaweed, 2 clams, and 2 medium sized fully cooked oysters.
  • The oysters were juicy and plump, but too fishy tasting for me and one of the clams never opened, so I’m not sure how fresh some of the shellfish is, but it was still safe to eat.
  • I was eating this for the delicious soup and noodles more so than for any of the toppings, and the quality of the seafood could get better.

Gyo-O Japanese (10)

  • The noodles were thick ramen noodles and they held up to the milky broth well.
  • They were cooked al dente and had a nice bite and chew and they gave more noodles than most ramen places.
  • I really enjoyed their ramen bowls at G-Men Ramen, so I hope nothing has changed since bringing the menu over.
  • I can’t compare this Oyster Milk Ramen to my other favourites like Ramen Santouka or Motomachi Shokudo because it is apples and oranges.
  • I need to come back to try their other noodle bowls and standard Shio ramen to compare, but so far the soups were promising and the noodles excellent.
  • Last time I came I ordered an udon and I remember those udon noodles being fantastic and good quality so I hope nothing has changed.

Gyo-O Japanese (18)Syoyu Mayo Takoyaki – n/a

  • Octopus balls 6 pcs $5.50
  • I did not order takoyaki on this occasion, but I really enjoyed them last time. They are a house favourite.
  • I have recommended people to try them over the last couple years and I haven’t had a complaint back.

Gyo-O 魚王 on Urbanspoon

1 Comment

  • LotusRapper says:

    Mijune said: “I want to say nothing has changed, but something did. It was probably a little bit of me and also a little bit of them, but this experience didn’t live up to how I remembered them.”

    Bravo Mijune ! You always give restaurants the benefit-of-doubt, while keeping a humble perspective on things. So true isn’t it, we patrons make repeat visits to restaurants based on favorable first experience, and often times come away disappointed at the second (or third) round. Did the restaurant decline in quality, or did we simply become more educated and our palates become more refined ? Maybe the reasons aren’t so clear-cut. So as you succinctly noted ….. “this experience didn’t live up to how I remembered them”.

    Didn’t think FMF can get any higher on my ATF local food blogs scale. But it just did 🙂

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