Vancouver, BC V6G 2S3
Tastiness Factor: 7/10
Locavore Approved? Kinda- For a gyoza and ramen spot, this place does pretty well in having at least some produce on the menu, most of which is seasonal (corn, brussel sprouts, potatoes, peas). They also use Fraser Valley pork in their signature pork gyozas and use local fish.
Miku is Hubby's favourite restaurant in town (he raves about it on a weekly basis) and he loves gyoza. So the two combined in The Gyoza Bar + Ramen, the newest venture by the folks at Miku and its sister restaurant Minami, should theoretically have knocked his socks off.
Instead, it left us both a little confused to say the least.
It has been The Gyoza Bar + Ramen opened its doors to the public just short of 3 months ago and its downtown location on West Pender St. The small storefront opens into a decent sized room that, according to their website, is supposed to "invoke an urban and rustic-elegant feel" with its light wood furnishings and brick walls. While this design would undoubtably work well very well in a restaurant serving farm-to-table west coast cuisine, it seems like a very odd choice for a place selling exclusively Japanese fare. The confusion was amplified by the TV hung in the corner that made "sportsbar" come to mind. All in all, it seems like place has a bit of an identity crisis.
The service that we received when we walked in put a bad taste in my mouth before the meal even started. We were admittedly late for our reservation but I thought the snarky remarks made by the front of house server was a little unnecessary, especially since the place was only about half full. Fortunately, the service did improve when we were seated. Our server was quite friendly and dishes came out of the kitchen in good time.
The menu quite simply divided into appetizers, 3-4 types each of gyoza and ramen, a couple of mains and dessert. The appetizers and gyozas are best shared while the ramen are obviously individual servings (available in small and large sizes). In addition, they also offer selection of wine and beer, as well as a few original cocktails like "The Wave" that my friend quite enjoyed.
Here is a look at the dishes myself, Hubby and our two friends enjoyed:
Fraser Valley Pork Teppan- Hubby really did like these, so much so that he ordered a second round. These traditional gyoza are their signature item and are served with garlic soy and unami soy dipping sauce.
Chili Shrimp and Pickled Daikon- The gyoza itself was very good, with a nice sear and a plump shrimp filling. I was not as much of a fan of the wasabi chimmichuri. Although is "prettied up" the dish, it did not soak up into the gyoza and most of it got left behind on the plate. On the other hand, the daikon was surprisingly delicious, with a nice crunch to balance the soft gyoza.
Miso short-rib and Jalepeno-Soy Glazed- These were unanimously the least favourite of the gyoza we tried. This is one instance where deep-frying does not make things better. Also, the feta sprinkled on top was a bit off-putting with the other flavours.
BC Wild Salmon Ceviche- It was a bit surprising to find this at a gyoza bar but Hubby, the raw fish fanatic, just had to try it. Verdict? Not bad, but not great.
Market Vegetable Broth- This was my pick for ramen. While I appreciated the nice selection of veg (more generous than at most ramen joints), I found the shoya broth to be too strong for my liking and the noodles reminded me more of spaghetti noodles than ramen noodles. Sadly, the egg that I added was overcooked and no longer runny:(
Free Range Chicken Broth- This option, comes with a choice of two different broth flavourings.
Although we had a fun night, I would say that Gyoza Bar + Ramen is a surprising miss for the very reputable folks from Miku and Minami. From the misplaced decor to the subpar service to the underwhelming food, this place was a letdown and we will not be heading back for a return visit anytime soon.