When I think of a side snack for champagne my mind automatically goes to caviar, while gyoza is inevitably paired with thirst-quenching flagon of draft beer. However, if there is one thing I learned about culinary world of Japan is to expect the unexpected. Indeed, on our quest to find an interesting spot for Friday night-out with friends we were not disappointed: a bar in Akasaka pairing champagne and gyoza. This made us intrigued and excited.
As soon as you step inside, you feel welcomed and comfy. Two charismatic owners hustle behind the bar while guests, tipsy from the bubbly, engage in cheery conversation. Our appetites sufficiently stirred by the enticing smell of crispy gyozas, we immediately reached for the menu. Besides the obvious – champagne and gyoza – you have a variety of snacks and a few main courses to choose from.
And then there is a long list of champagne, anything from basic bottles all the way up to vintage magnums with hefty price tags. My choice fell on a glass of Devaux Grand Reserve Brut, assorted ham platter – think prosciutto, pork rillettes, cured Hokkaido venison and smoked duck pastrami – dried tomatoes and assorted cheese platter, before ordering a dozen gyoza to share (you get to decide whether you want them plain or nicely redolent with garlic. We both exclaimed: garlic!).
Since our friend speaks native Japanese, we had the freedom to ask all the questions and find out the details about the place. Motoda-san, the owner of this as well as five other restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka is in love with French cuisine, and strives to put a French twist on traditional Japanese dishes that he serves in his restaurants. He wanted to open a sophisticated yet laid-back bar which would deliver an innovative concept, thus the idea to pair champagne and gyoza was born.
Our platter of the delicious bite size dumplings arrived piping hot, crisp and brown underneath, moist and meaty inside. They’re served with four different dips, the spicy sesame-miso being probably the best, and a choice of chili or truffle oil – all of which complimented the dumplings nicely. The filling had a hint of sweetness that balanced out the garlic flavor very nicely.
I’m not convinced champagne and gyoza necessarily go hand in hand together, but who cares. It is a great place to enjoy both in the most relaxed atmosphere.
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