Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gyoza Stadium, Ikebukuro

Namja? Nanja? This place came to me through several sources, and was the cause of some discord before eventually resulting in a fun visit. A fun and weird visit. And tiring. I felt old (fortunately it wasn't just me that felt tired and confused by the time we left, so maybe it's not age. Yet.).

In Ikebukuro's huge and hugely-confusing Sunshine City complex, game company Namco has built an indoor 'amusement park' with a bunch of weird games, entertainments, and lots and lots of food. You have to pay Y300 to get in, which basically entitles you to wander around, get confused, and buy stuff from the food stalls. If you pay a lot more, you can participate in all the games. This does not look like a good thing to me. If you and your kids, and you must have kids, are fluent in Japanese, it might be fun. Maybe. But I would question it at the price.
I supposed Y300 for access to Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream Paradise and Dessert Hell is maybe worth it, but none of it is really high-quality food (that's not a comment on junk food. I love high quality junk food.)

Oddly, we had wandered into a Showa-retro shopping area only a day before down in Odaiba. This particular Showa-retro area, however, is crammed with nothing but gyoza stalls. Like other junk food 'stadia' (notably Yokohama's ramen stadium), these gyoza sellers are tiny branches of shops from all over Japan.

and their menus feature wacky things like cheeze gyoza, or gyoza topped with with mentaiko, or miso-butter gyoza (which I kinda wish we had gotten, now that I think about it).

You can actually eat at the counters or else take it back out the dining area, which is crate seating and crate tables. It's also dark - I think they might be trying to simulate an evening atmosphere. I guess night is pretty much associated with darkness, so you could say it was a success. Or else they're just trying to keep you from taking too good a look at the food.

Cuz these cheeze gyoza weren't worth writing about. I was expecting gooey cheddar or processed cheese, and it was actually more like fresh cheeze, or just curds, without much flavor, and not gooey - hell, it said 'gooey' on the sign, so I had a right to expect it.

Whatever these were called, you should think of them as takoyaki gyoza. They really seemed to have octopus bits inside, but the combination of copious fresh green onion, salad dressing, crispy bits like tempura leavings, and gyoza underneath was a winner. More places should have a 'gyoza salad'. Maybe Za Watami already does - this reminds me of their food.

Finally, these steamed guys with chili sauce and oil and a bit of steamed bok choy in the middle were much more dull than you'd think from looking.

This was fun, and I could imagine going back again. It was just a bit much; I know this sounds old, but the space was packed and the approach was confusing. Also, when you factor in the entrance fee, you're looking at a bit over Y2k for the three gyoza dishes above. Not that it breaks the bank, but it's not great value either especially given the quality of the specific stands we hit (of which there are at least 10 more, so you might do better).

I love it when people end up with different views on things, and this person loved the gyoza (and miracle fruit) so much that Namja Town is now on their 'must go every time I visit Japan' list. This guy loved it too (and his review is really good, and I agree with a lot of what he said, and I still didn't like it so much). I think I've just lost the ability to be impressed by Japanese wackiness

Hopefully that's just me.

1 comment:

  1. this was really nice to read as i plan to take hubby there this weekend, thanx for taking the time out to write this review.