There is not much open and available on a weekday after 11pm. After a go and give up on 24 hour restaurants, my guest and I discovered the 1am last call of “Gyoza King”. This was the warm and inexpensive food that we were looking for. Located downtown the travel to was easy. A drive at this time of night yielded no traffic and with ease we found parking on the street. Bonus, eating this late means all parking meters run for free.
The restaurant was still fairly busy. Guests tying up meals and other coming in for drinks. The nuances of the decor seemed authentic in Japanese styling. The sandwich board outside advertised specials with bubble letters and drew interest using animated food with faces. The pumpkin looked innocent and the squid seemed confused. Inside staffed greeted you with a unison chime of Japanese warmth, same was the case when you left. Communication between staff was in Japanese, with only a few members being able to reciprocate to you in English. Finding the “right” person to accept a debit card payment was a bit of a challenge. Not much to be seen or that could be seen with dimly lit, orange walled, panelled bulbs. I could only meekly make out professional printed posters of their food offerings and signs written by hand mentioning weekly specials. Behind the bar shelves were left unorganized, jammed pack with dish ware and equipment. The decor was certainly themed as being more functional than aesthetics driven.
For seating we were given the option between the tradition table and chair set up, or offered something more authentic and closer to a traditional Japanese dining experience. To the left of the entrance stood a staged platform painted in black. It came with the required removal of shoes and a lunging step up. Here you sat on its “floor” and ate with more freedom of self. It’s width offered to put you at the same height as those seated a few feet away, without the extra furniture. We choose it and claimed two positions, marked by flattened cushions, in front of the bar. I could not miss out on a different way to dine, and have only seen such a novelty at sushi restaurants in individual rooms. Though the removal of footwear left me feeling self conscious over the potential odour permeating from bare feet.
The menu was a helpful guide. Everything on it was proceeded with a photo. A little washed out in yellow lighting, but you got the gist. This made the ordering process enjoyable and a discovery for plates. I often order based on how a dish looks and how I may capture it in film. This allowed me that joy without consequence. A feature menu was also present, with weekly more seasonal offerings. Hand written and photocopied in black and white. The food sounded good, but without the same attention to photography that was on the regular menu, I was not compelled to chose my meal from it.
“Agedashi tofu”, deep fried tofu sitting in a pool of sauce, topped with bonito flakes and shredded seaweed. The variation on their version compared to everywhere else is the presence of additional toppings. Ingredients other than tofu and soy used for visual interest and tasting difference. I found the sauce was the best part. We used the tofu blocks like sponges soaking up all its savoury salty moisture. Our only complaint was that there was not as much tofu as expected for the cost involved, though the pieces we did get were quite substantial.
“Gyo-kin fried chicken”. A six piece chicken wing set served seasoned with garlic chilli pepper. These wings were hot out of the fryer as notable by their piping temperature and crispy texture. The rub dusted on top smelled of smokey barbecue, warming flavours of Cajun heat. I just wished I tasted it more than I could smell it. None of it was hardly incorporated in either the marinade or batter, more like a garnish, a point of interest. An only okay wing made above decent with its winning crunch into chewy skin. There was definitely a need for a dipping sauce.
You don’t dine at a place without ordering its name sake dish. With a name like “Gyoza King”, the restaurant subconsciously promised me one of the best Gyozas I have ever had. Luckily they did not disappoint. Described as a Japanese ravioli, they listed several filling options on its own “Gyoza” page. Various meat and vegetable fills and some with a combination of both. We ordered the “pork and vegetable Gyoza”. These were homemade savoury pastries panfried and served with their special sauce. They were immaculate, professional in each ridge fold and even in filling distribution. The pan frying gave each dumpling an added char taste. This was exactly what we craved for and expected in the best way possible. Though I don’t know if having the meat only version would have made a a difference, I couldn’t taste any vegetables in the mix.
“Miso ramen”. My guest aptly described this as, “a pool of happiness on a cold day”. This was the savoury and soupy portion we were looking for. The meat came in generous cuts of tender proportions. The bean sprouts lent its crunch for a needed crispness. And the shredded seaweed topping added a textural and flavourful component, and the addition of more as a sheet offered the ability to enjoy it further. The noodles and broth was plentiful, a good ratio between it and the other ingredients. We got enough meat, bean, and noodles to have each component in each spoonful with broth.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
There were lots of “Mnmms” coming from muffled bites. This meal hit that late night spot. If someone asked for late night cheap eats that isn’t your typical burgers joint or all night pho, I would send them to “Gyoza King”. We expected that the quality of food would be diminished this time of night. Though with adequate well trained staff, and highly skilled chefs, we were pleasantly surprised otherwise; and everything held up. When it came time to pay we were surprised that the total bill total to under $30. Though I am sure we were charged happy hour pricing that we were not made aware of. So happy with everything that I took a gamble and pushed the “Auto tip” function when paying with card. Don’t deny your cravings.