Enjoy a Taiwanese dining experience at Gyoza-bo Fuga
You won’t find ramen, fried rice, or most other stereotypical specimens of Chinese food on the menu at Fuga. If you visit on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sunday, you won’t find it open at all. But what you will find, if you know where and when to look, is a Taiwanese dining experience that will make your taste buds and the rest of your body agree unanimously that it was worth the search.
“I didn’t start making gyoza to open a restaurant,” declares the owner, Sakura Ota. “I opened a restaurant because I love making gyoza.” Sakura first came to Japan to study at Tokai University, and is still a fixture in the neighborhood thirty years later. For fifteen of them, she’s been delighting customers with handmade gyoza at Fuga. Neither the owner’s nor the restaurant’s name may sound especially Taiwanese, but the owner’s is a mark of her new life as a Japanese citizen, while the restaurant’s is a reminder of its past. It started its life as a musicians’ coffeehouse, where Sakura first worked as a sous-chef and then took over, and she kept the original name even though the cuisine and location have both changed.
Spurning mass-produced wrappers, Sakura makes everything from scratch, using pumpkin and spinach to create her signature three-color scheme. You can enjoy her creations steamed (sui-gyoza) or fried (age-gyoza), the latter crispy without being greasy. Other menu options include rice-based dishes like kakuni-don, with barbecued pork, and torimeshi, with steamed chicken in a mildly sweet and spicy sauce. Side dishes include fried daikon pancakes, and leafy greens (spinach or komatsuna) sautéed with garlic and red peppers. Prices are very reasonable; most dishes are ￥550 a la carte, or ￥850 for a set menu with pickles, soup, and dessert.
The dessert menu includes Taiwanese staples like shaved ice, tapioca milkshakes, annin-dofu, and aigyoku (honey and lemon gelatin), as well as more original offerings like tofu in a hot ginger broth (great for colds). The truly adventurous can try the senso, gelatin made with Chinese medicinal herbs, but be forewarned that it tastes just like it sounds, and only a diehard health fiend would have no hesitation about calling it “dessert”.
Sakura’s interest in yakuzen, food as medicine, came from her father, a traditional herbalist. Over a cup of Chinese tea, she explains the ingredients of her “yakuzen soup” and their properties: astragalus for digestion, jujube and lotus seed for restful sleep, lily root to calm the mind. “All of them help your circulation,” she says, “and that’s good for your whole body. I’ve had customers with all kinds of ailments tell me my soup made them feel better.”
Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that I always leave her restaurant feeling stuffed, but at the same time refreshed and energized, never sluggish. If it were open every day and I could make it my regular lunch spot, I would be unstoppable!
Fuga is a minute’s walk from Tokaidaigaku-mae station on the Odakyu line. Opening hours are from 11:30AM to 9:00PM on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. If you can’t wait until the next open day, you can take frozen gyoza and other dishes home for ￥350-￥600. If you’re scrupulous about avoiding disposable chopsticks, you’ll want to bring your own.