Harajuku Gyoza Lou is a popular and casual restaurant located in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo that has perfected the art of Chinese-style dumplings (gyoza). If you often have trouble deciding what to order at restaurants, have no fear. The affordable menu is simple: pan fried dumplings or steamed dumplings with your choice of original or garlic and leek (chives).
The restaurant was located a stone’s throw away from Meiji-jingumae Station on a side street just off busy Omotesandō street.
It’s no secret why Harajuku Gyoza Lou has become so popular with both locals, tourists, and foodies in general. Where else can you get 6 freshly made, perfectly cooked dumplings for only $2.50? Did I also mention it was open until 4:30AM everyday but Sunday? You have every reason to visit.
When I arrived at Harajuku Gyoza Lou, I was shocked to see only a few people waiting for tables. Wait times during peak hours are often an hour or more. I was presently surprised when I was sitting at a table only moments after arriving. Even when there is a line, I would expect it to move quickly as the turnover rate appeared to be high. People sat down, ordered, ate, and moved on.
As with many restaurants in Tokyo, the atmosphere was buzzing, loud, and relaxed. The dining area felt cozy and welcoming. You won’t find anything fancy here, just a place where you can eat good food, drink a cold beer, and relax.
There were people smoking inside the restaurant, a common sight in Japan. Luckily, the smoke wasn’t an issue with the kitchen ventilation system. Even with the smoke, the wonderful smells of dumplings being fried and boiled permeated throughout the entire restaurant.
At the center of the restaurant was a U-shaped bar wrapped around a boisterous and lively open kitchen. You might get covered in steam or grease, but in my opinion, the best seat in the house is sitting at the bar. Being able to watch the chefs prepare and cook food, and yell out orders, is such a fun and enriching experience. Solo diners will feel welcomed at the bar and can easily strike up conversations with other travelers or locals wanting to practice their English
If you are with a few friends, you can grab a seat at one of the wooden tables located to the right of the bar as you walk in. Harajuku Gyoza Lou is not the best place for larger groups as there were only about five tables, each seating four people.
Harajuku Gyoza Lou Menu
The Harajuku Gyoza Lou menu was simple and cheap. If you can’t read the Japanese menu on the wall, just ask for the English menu.
The most surprising thing about the menu was that no food item was priced more than 290 yen, or about $2.50. I seriously don’t understand how this place stays in business for the prices they charge.
Other less interesting but probably just as delicious appetizers included chicken soup with white rice, cucumbers in a miso sauce, and pickled cabbage.
Most people come here for the dumplings.
As mentioned before, you can order your dumplings pan fried or steamed. You can also choose the option of either original or garlic and leek (chives). I recommend the pan fried dumplings with garlic and leek. For the price, you might as well try both.
Whatever dumplings you choose, be sure to dip them into a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, and the slightly spicy chili oil (or however you want to do it) located at each table. The flavor combination of the sauce and dumplings elevated the dumplings to a whole new level of umami.
Pan Fried Dumplings with Garlic and Leek
It’s not surprising, but the most popular dish at Harajuku Gyoza Lou was the Pan Fried Dumplings (290 yen).
There were six dumplings in each order.
It was amazing to see these dumplings. So simple yet beautifully cooked and presented. They were a work of culinary art. Now I know what it means when you hear the saying, “You eat with your eyes first.”
The bottom layer of each dumpling was extremely crispy while the other sides were wonderfully soft. The skin of each dumpling was masterfully thin. The skin was so perfect that the dumpling didn’t fall apart under the weight of the filling inside. It may seem easy, but creating a perfect dumpling is a lot harder than it seems.
Though the filling of ground pork, garlic, and leeks was juicy, my only complaint was that the flavors could have been more savory. I had some trouble tasting any of the garlic. This problem was easily fixed by dipping each dumpling in the combination of vinegar, soy sauce, and the spicy chili oil. I seriously never get tired of chili oil.
Steamed Dumplings with Garlic and Leek
I knew I couldn’t leave without also trying the Steamed Dumplings with garlic and leek (290 yen).
The dumplings arrived piping hot at the table. I had to wait a few moments for the steam to die down so I could actually take a photographs without steaming up the camera lens.
The dumplings, which arrived in a bowl, were just as beautiful as the pan fried dumplings.
As with the pan fried dumplings, the skins of the steamed dumplings were perfectly thin. The skin was light and pillowy with just the right amount of chewiness to each bite.
The filling inside of the steamed dumplings was the same, a combination of ground pork, leeks, and garlic. The only thing missing, which I preferred, was that perfectly crunchy fried texture of the pan fried dumplings. Don’t get me wrong, the steamed dumplings were delicious, but after a few bites, the flavors and texture seemed a little one–dimensional.
The service at Harajuku Gyoza was exactly what I would have expected being at a popular restaurant in the middle of Tokyo.
The servers were quick and efficient. When something was needed, it arrived quickly.
Though the servers were a little rushed, they worked really hard to satisfy each guest while being mindful of the lines of hungry guests waiting just outside the door.
Does Harajuku Gyoza serve the best gyoza in Tokyo? I thought the food was fantastic, but I couldn’t possibly answer that question.
What I do know is that I enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant and the food, especially the pan fried dumplings. They were crispy on the outside, savory and juicy on the inside, and I could eat until I was hungry and not worry about the cost.
I have to admit though, I was lucky that the wait for a table was only a few minutes. If I had to wait an hour, I probably wouldn’t’ have been as excited.
If you are in Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo, and you are looking for some delicious, cheap, and casual, then I highly recommend Harajuku Gyoza.
- A lot of food for a little money
- Bar is great for solo diners
- Open kitchen
- English menu available
- Open until 4:30AM everyday but Sunday
- There is usually wait for a table on weekends and during lunch hours
- Service can sometimes be rushed
- Cash only
- Like many restaurants in Japan, smoking is allowed inside
GPS Coordinates: 35.667568,139.706200