>> Kaminari Gyoza | Eat the World Los Angeles

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Kaminari Gyoza

JAPAN 🇯🇵
1st Street facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: For its first month at least, the store is only open for takeout and delivery. Staff is still wearing masks at the point of sale.

While walking down the main drag of downtown's Little Tokyo this May, you may have noticed new bright yellow curtains hanging from the door frame of what was just Kabuto. That fried chicken joint has closed but the space turned over pretty quickly and is now home to Kaminari Gyoza. The large kanji character on the right curtain is kaminari, the word for thunder in Japanese and a hint of how your belly is going to rumble for these gyoza after trying them for the first time.

Inside, the space has been altered very little but for now is not open for in person dining. They intend to expand for this in the coming months, but plan to take your dumplings somewhere else or have them delivered if you try them anytime soon. The most interesting part of the whole operation is the inclusion of the city Utsunomiya in small letters under their name, a city just over 100km north of Tokyo famous for having the best gyoza in Japan.

Interior and menu

There are more than 200 specialty gyoza restaurants in the city of Utsunomiya, an annual festival celebrating the dumplings, and even a statue of a gyoza in Venus pose outside the city's JR station welcoming the many tourists that come to sample them. This build up is something already to get the mouth watering.

The true Utsunomiya-style is a pan-fried (denoted by YAKI here) gyoza that has an ultra thin skin and remains connected at the bottom from frying. The bottoms are flipped over when serving, showing a clean sheet of crunchiness. At Kaminari you can get this style, and just like in Utsunomiya's many specialists that serve only gyoza, they also offer deep fried (AGE) and soup-boiled dumplings (SUI). With four offerings inside these thin wrappers (pork, chicken, shrimp, and vegan), this makes 12 different ways to enjoy gyoza.

YAKI pork gyoza bento

You can get gyoza à la carte, but the restaurant also makes delightful bentos so that you have a variety of carbs to fill you up. Each set comes with the gyoza of your choice served over spaghetti and fried potatoes (seen better below), gyoza dipping sauce and ginger, a light spring roll, three shoots of edamame, and Japanese rice covered with a dusting of sour, salty yukari.

The YAKI pork gyoza bento ($12.80, above) is a great place to start at Kaminari, sampling the gyoza most familiar when eating at Japanese restaurants. The connected dumplings are all made with such a delicate skin that they tear each other apart when separated, always a good sign. Use the included gyoza dipping sauce if you please, or just savor the porky flavors on their own.

AGE shrimp gyoza bento

The other components of each bento box are not afterthoughts, and bites from the spaghetti, potatoes, and other items are a joy in between pieces of gyoza. The rice especially is well made, and especially delicious with the purple shiso powder yukari. Like any good dealer, Kaminari was including a free pork broth seaweed soup (usually $2.20) with each bento during their first month of business, and this deliciousness should be ordered whether it is comped or not.

The AGE shrimp gyoza bento ($13.80, above) shows off the true skill of the kitchen, with what must be a super fast deep fry on the still very thin dumplings. Deep fried treats are a part of life, but this gyoza tastes like nothing you have ever enjoyed before.

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