What you should order in Japan’s best gyoza restaurant
OFTEN, when a restaurant has a “nation’s best” title, it comes with a hefty price tag, but not in Japan.
Chao Chao Gyoza restaurant in Kyoto has been recognized as Japan’s best gyoza (fried dumpling) restaurant for two years running. But while it’s an inexpensive way to eat delicious food, you must wait a while for the privilege.
It is a small restaurant which only seats 18 people at a time, but on any given day, the restaurant can easily do over 300 covers.
Chao Chao Gyoza faces out onto a section of the Kamo River, a particular part of the waterway often attracts buskers and street performers, so you’ll be pleasantly entertained as you wait to be seated.
Chao Chao Gyoza also serves beer to those in the queue and has no qualms with you running up to 7-Eleven to grab a highball or Strong Zero, so long as you finish it before entering the restaurant.
The gyoza that won the restaurant its title is the half crispy, half slippery bite-sized pork dumplings strung together with sticky dough.
For just JPY600 (US$5.30) you can get 16 pieces of the renowned snack. But if you’re looking for a meal to fill you up, you’ll want to get some extra gyoza.
Chao Chao Gyoza has not only mastered traditional combinations such as pork and garlic but also skilfully jazzed up their offerings with continental flavors such as chicken and mozzarella.
However, if it’s your first time to any of Chao Chao Gyoza’s branches which are scattered across Japan, you’d be forgiven for not knowing what to order off their extensive menu.
So let us recommend a variety of gyoza that takes you from traditional to damn right bizarre, but all uniquely delicious.
Chao Chao’s Pork Gyoza
These are what serious gyoza-connoisseurs come to try.
These juicy pockets of pork yumminess that won Chao Chao Gyoza its acclaim and they’re a must-have for any new or returning customers.
The only thing that makes them even better is dabbing them into a combination of soy sauce, bean paste, and red chili pepper oil.
Chicken and Wasabi
Wasabi has a reputation of making your eyes burn and nose run, but the subtleness of it in these only adds a hint of spicy kick.
While you wouldn’t find this type of gyoza on typical Japanese menus, they’re certainly worth a try at Chao Chao Gyoza.
The shrimp gyoza is normally stuffed full of veggies, but Chao Chao Gyoza does things a little different.
Upon biting into the steaming hot shrimp gyoza, you’ll discover whole shrimp, sometimes three to one gyoza.
They’re always fresh and meaty and go well with a sip of beer.
Welsh Onion and Pork
Not too unlike scallions, the Welsh Onions compliment the pork in the gyoza and gives them a smooth and almost sweet flavor.
They’re also green and incredibly Instagrammable.
These feature the “Kobe beef of pork”- one of Japan’s most popular meats.
It gets its name from the Kurobuta which means “black hog” in Japanese. The meat is uniquely tender with intricate marbling which gives it a juicy, melt-in-the-mouth taste.
We suggest eating these by themselves without the soy and bean paste sauce to get the full flavor.
Pork, Japanese Radish, and Lemon
These porky delights are sprinkled with pungent Japanese radish which is softened into a delicate taste by fresh lemon juice and chopped scallions.
We highly recommend these for people who enjoy strong tastes.
Chocolate and ice cream
And to finish it all off, Chao Chao Gyoza melts cubes of milk chocolate in piping hot gyoza dough then plonks them into a bowl with the creamiest vanilla ice cream.
The combination of hot and cold, sweet and savory will surely send you into a state of euphoria.
Chao Chao Gyoza has a plethora of other excellent gyoza on the menu too, including chicken and mozzarella, super spicy red pepper, Japanese curry, and onsen egg and cheese.
There is a taste for everyone to enjoy here, except for vegetarians, because this particular branch of Chao Chao Gyoza doesn’t cater to dietary requirements.
However, if you head over to Chao Chao Gyoza’s other Kyoto branch found at 600-8021 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, you’ll discover vegetarian options there.
One last thing, when you arrive at Chao Chao Gyoza be sure to put your name down on the paper, attached to the clipboard, attached to the A-board, by the door. This way, you won’t get overlooked.
- Address: 117 Ishiya-machi, Sanjo-dori, Kiya-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-8002 Kyoto Prefecture.
- Opening times: Monday to Thursday, 17:00 to 02:00, Friday 17:00 to 3:00, Saturday 14:00 to 3:00 and Sunday 14:00 to 2:00.
- Budget for two: JYP3,000 (US$27).
- Website: https://www.gyozakeikaku.com/shop/chaochao/