Utsunomiya, 80km north of Tokyo, is famous for one thing: gyoza. I discovered this recently when I mentioned to a friend that I would be staying there for a night but didn’t really know anything about the place. “Gyoza!” she cried, “that’s all you need to know!”
So I did some online research and found out that, according to many bloggers from all corners of the earth, including all over Japan, Min Min, right by Utsunomiya Station, is the ichi-ban place to go for your pork-filled dumpling delights.
Min Min is indeed right by the station. In fact, it’s in the station carpark. There are several other gyoza restaurants nearby, all offering various deals on twelve-filling selection plates (honestly, I had no idea you could put so many things in a gyoza!). But, my research had highlighted Min Min so that’s where I went. It was the only restaurant in the vicinity with a queue; in fact it was the only restaurant with anyone in it at all. I figured I’d made the right choice.
The menu at Min Min is simple: pan-fried gyoza; deep-fried gyoza; water-boiled gyoza; rice; beer; juice. What more could you need? I was with my other half and this was our pre-dinner ‘snack’ so we decided that two out of the three varieties would suffice. Being the health-conscious Brits that we are, we naturally went for the two fried options. And a beer of course, to make it a well-balanced snack.
I expect that a restaurant that offers only three dishes plus rice knows what it’s doing with those three dishes. And Min Min does. The deep-fried gyoza were small, rich but not oily, golden parcels, while the pan-fried gyoza were plump and juicy, with a delicate crispy bottom. Delicious. And at 240 yen for six, excellent value too.
When we left Min Min around 6.30pm, the queue had quadrupled in size as people presumably came between finishing work and catching the train home. The restaurant shuts at 8pm, so caters perfectly for the evening rush hour. If the queue for a table is too long and you just can’t bear to wait, Min Min offers a takeaway service from a counter next to the main entrance. You can also get your omiyage (souvenir) gyoza boxes, which can be ordered either at your table, or from the takeaway counter. These can be cooked the same three ways as on the menu, or left raw for you to jazz up as you will.
A potentially uneventful stay in Utsunomiya was turned into an evening to remember thanks to the gyoza, especially those at Min Min. If you’re passing through, you’ve got to try them!