Sunday, September 5, 2010

Shoryu gyoza / ramen, Ueno (昇龍)

This place is stuck in my mind as being famous. Is it? Anyone else ever heard of it? I would guess I visited right after I came to live in Japan, or maybe even during one of the trips that preceded that. It was probably in a magazine that month, and that's how we got there, and it's been stuck in my mind ever since. The gyoza are certainly big, and that's enough to make it stick in anyone's mind. Another thing that will make it stick is the line - there's often a line to get in and sit at the 10-person counter. Or you can get fresh, uncooked gyoza to take home - they're always for sale, and there's often someone standing out there making them, in the semi-dark space under the train tracks where the cheap izakayas and Korean food stores congregate. This is always the place that's on my mind when I make a trip to Ameyoko, although I don't always eat there.

If you don't want to stand in line, you can be all clever and go to the branch shop. They used to have a sign on the main store explaining how to get there, but it's gone and I had to ask. Turns out it's just "go down the hill, and look for the sign on the left". Diminishing my feelings of cleverness, there was a line here too, but the 4 people ahead of us were a group and thus we got in immediately to sit at the counter. There's something weird going on though, because the place was half-empty when we left, but the staff were making 8 unrelated people stand outside.

The counter was fun, mostly because of the master. I say 'master' because he was very butch and masterful, being around 60 but fit and with a neat little beard. He was running the kitchen and waitresses, working from the pass. And it's very much an old-fashioned restaurant, with Chinese plate food and ramen in addition to the gyoza. He's not in the picture, by the way. I was too scared to take his picture.

It's surprising to see people coming here and NOT getting gyoza - they got stir-fried things or noodles. But the guy next to us was on to something when he said "2 plates of gyoza and a bowl of rice, please". I knew how big these were, so I knew it was cool to just get one plate of 4. If you ever go to Kameido Gyoza, it'll be a different story. I find these oddly comforting in their bigness and mild flavor. It's almost like old-fashioned ramen where you don't think it tastes like much at first, but by the end of the bowl you can't stop drinking the soup.

Did someone say 'old-fashioned ramen'? This is quite middle-of-the-road stuff, high volume, decent flavor. The soup wasn't quite as compulsively drinkable as some others I've had, but it also didn't have that odd bread-y flavor that mediocre soy soups can get. The noodles were sorta my favorite part even though they were very soft and slippery. Not the kind of thing you'd expect to like.

Nor would you expect to like wontons; this was actually my bowl. But the wontons were delicious! I'll be converted to Chinese yet, just give me another 5 years.

Or 10.


1 comment:

  1. wow! to find someone with whom to share the incredible experience of having eaten gyoza in this place under the JR line at Ueno!!!
    Every time we go to Tokyo (every seven years more or less when La Scala tours to Japan) it's the first place where we go! and every time we are suspended in the sheer anxiety of not finding the place any longer but every time thank God! it's there!! SL