Today, Akemi and I headed over to Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City Mall, home to Namco Namja Town’s Gyoza Stadium and Ice Cream City.  It’s been some five years since my last visit to Ice Cream City (I still flashback to the aftertaste of that squid ice cream) and I was looking forward to the return trip.  This would be Akemi’s first time and she was incredibly excited.

So, did it live up to the hype?  In two words: You bet!

We started off by hitting Gyoza Stadium, home to about a dozen stands specializing in about a dozen preparations of the Japanese-style dumplings.  It’s less a stadium and really more of a theme area, lantern light-lined narrow alleyways and faux watering holes harkening back to a 1920’s Shanghai.

Walking the alleyways of Gyoza Stadium.
Akemi discovers, of all things: Bar Akemi.  ova

We wound our way through the various gyoza stands, taking in the dizzying array of preparations.  In addition to the menu itemizing the various choices, a general rundown of each stand’s gyoza philosophy – thin vs. thicker wrapper, use of garlic, etc. – offered some help in the decision-making process.  All the same, it wasn’t easy.

I liked the look of these snowmen-looking gyoza.

Eventually, we settled on three stands and placed our orders.

Who’s hungry?
Round #1

From left to right: Garlic gyoza – tiny, but they packed a significant garlic kick.  Our favorite.    Beside them, a gyoza medley.  From bottom to top: regular pork, kimchee, and charcoal.  I liked them although Akemi found the wrapper too thick. And, finally, on the far right, mentaiko (cod roe)-mayo gyoza topped with lotus root. Great.

I contemplate my charcoal gyoza.

We were done – but not DONE.

Round #2

From left to right: Mapo tofu gyoza – I figured they would be stuffed with tofu but they were actually stuffed with pork.  And a lot of it.  It was topped with mapo tofu which is comprised of bean curd and a spicy chili sauce.  I liked it but thought it was a bit too meat heavy.  Next to it, the spicy gyoza that, after the mouth-blasting ramen I had at Ippudo the other day, tasted downright tame.

According to Akemi, both gyoza were “for men”:

We were pretty done.

Round #3

I couldn’t resist sampling Gyoza Stadium’s version of the Siu Long Bao.  More of a dumpling than a gyoza, I found the skin a little too thick.

We were stuffed.  We couldn’t eat another bite.

Of gyoza.  So we headed over to Ice Cream City to peruse the some 300 flavors available.

Just some of the selection at Ice Cream City.
Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions…

Because I know you guys would have been disappointed if I didn’t, I selected about a half-dozen weird flavors and sampled them with Akemi, recording the results for your amusement:

I sample eel ice cream:

Sea urchin ice cream:

Wasabi ice cream:

Akemi tries the wasabi ice cream:

Sake ice cream:

Squid ink ice cream:

Akemi hazards a taste:

You like chicken wings?  You like ice cream?

Kasu ice cream:

Finally, I wish I could have tried all of them but, with easily over 300+ ice creams to choose from, there’s no way I could have even come close.  Sadly, here are some of the more interesting flavors I’ll have to come back for…

Cow tongue
Shrimp
Chinese herbal medicine flavor! A Carl Binder favorite!
And viper. Yes, the snake and not the car.

We worked off gyoza and ice cream by taking a walk through Namco Namja Town’s meandering corridors, bizarre open courtyards, recessed alcoves, and dead-ends…

Akemi tests her skin age.  There were also machines that tested your “body age”, stress level, and blood pressure.  What fun!

Finally, on the way back to the subway station, we came across THIS tiny park frequented by a bunch of laid-back cats.

I assume they’re wild but they didn’t seem to mind human company in the least, either ignoring passersby or sauntering over for attention.

Tons o’ fun!  If any of you get to Ice Cream City before my return visit next year, please sample the snake ice cream and post the results.

29 thoughts on “November 8, 2012: The return of The Weird Food Purchase of the Day! Gyoza Stadium! Ice Cream City! Nodaiwa!

  1. Charcoal flavour? I can’t imagine that being tasty. Anyway, it looks like you guys had a ton of fun there. It sure sounds noisy though!

    Loved the videos (although the second and third to last ones don’t seem to work – they’re only about a second long). I would at least try any of those flavours, although as you note I can’t imagine some of the subtler flavours cutting through the overall ice cream taste.

    How is Akemi’s eye doing?

  2. Yay! Weird food purchase is back, Holy Hanna some of those flavors … yikes. Akemi’s cinematography is really good, she could have had a job on Stargate. Glad you are not as camera shy anymore Akemi, I enjoy seeing you and you have such pretty hair. What’s your secret?

  3. Ah, forget about the day. It’s the day after here in Tokyo but I’m posting about the previous day so…I’m sure it’ll all straighten itself out when I get back to Vancouver.

    And Akemi’s eyes is much better. Thanks for asking!

  4. Ikabakuro! I can still remember the announcer; “Jujo, Itchibachi, Ikabakuro!” Good days that, commuting to school.
    Definitely some interesting flavors on the ice cream. I think I could handle eel, maybe shrimp. But I draw the line at cow tongue. Love watching you sample the dishes though. Thanks to Akemi for filming for you, and being a good sport about it. Enjoy the remaining days, and the trip home.

  5. Yay! Weird food!!

    Yay! Akemi’s eye is better!!

    Yay! Black kitties!!

    Yay! Snowmen gyoza!!

    Yay! Bar Akemi!!

    Boo! No viper ice cream!!

    Really, Joe, your culinary adventures seem downright tame this go round. You need to freak us out by eating a giant raw cow eyeball, or something.

    Or mint. 😉

    das

  6. “According to Akemi, both gyoza were “for men”: Meaty.”

    Humm. Must be like when my dad says, that’ll put hair on your chest.

    You are so adventuresome. Not me. I’ll take normal flavors like banana nut or butter pecan. But it’s always fun watching your face as you try those weird flavors. This trip may be your best. Thanks for taking us along!

  7. I cannot adequately express my joy at the return of WFPOTD! Yes, it’s the simple things in life. 😉

    This post was a welcome relief in my day of packing and cleaning. Thanks!

    LJ

  8. Yippee for the return of the weird food purchase of the day. Thanks to Akemi for being the camera person. 😀

  9. So, were any or all of the ice creams sweet? It’s easier to imagine frozen, eel flavored thickened cream, than frozen sugary, eel flavored thickened cream.

    The Chinese medicine one sounds interesting. From what I can remember, when you’re taking herbal Chinese medicine for your health, you’re not supposed to add sugar. My remedy had wood stems, seeds, and (kinda gross) cicada shells with the (icky) legs attached. I boiled it, strained it (thank god) and drank the infusion like tea. I’d give it a “1” on the 1-to-10 scale.

  10. @rissreader:

    Cicada shells are medicine?!? Wow. Who would’ve thought my childhood home was a pharmacy!

    @Joe:

    I missed playing your videos…maybe later today…I’m in a shuttle to the airport for my flight to Europe and the shuttle driver is playing pop music (and I left my iPhone headset in my laptop bag which is in the trunk), so I won’t be able to hear the audio until after checkin at least.

    I haven’t listened to pop music in a while and all I have to say is that the music industry really needs to lay off the auto-tune for a while. I’m using commenting here as a means to tune it out (pun somewhat intended).

  11. For me at least, Akemi eating squid ink and chicken wing ice cream videos were a no go. Total run time: 1 second each.

    Andrew Zimmern tested the Viper ice cream during the episode I watched last weekend. He did not approve. Said it tasted like…bile.

    So can you tell us more about the charcoal gyoza? I see that it’s black, but does it contain charcoal? Colored by charcoal? The name has piqued my interest.

  12. joe and akemi should do one weird food purchase every day in Japan… too funny and weird

    akemi’s reactions are priceless in the videos

  13. Over 300 flavors, almost enough for a while year, if your palate lasts that long. You sir are bunches more adventurous than I for sure!.
    The gyoza does look good. wondered about the charcoal also.. and the cats in the park ,, that could explain my dream a few nights ago. thanks..
    No wasted spaces over there from the looks of your pictures, busy busy. Have more fun and thanks for sharing!

  14. For some reason, I thought your vacation was up. Glad to see you both are still having fun! On the ice-cream flavors, it reminds me of “Harry Potter Jelly Beans”. Except I didn’t see any earwax ice cream.

    Very happy that Akemi’s eye is better!

    Now I’m craving Asian food….

    Prayers to the East Coasties! I hope they can get electricity back to those folks soon.

  15. I think I’d really like the Eel, Wasabi, Sake and Kasu flavors as well. Those are all things I like here already, anyway. The Uni flavored one sounded like it was mainly Vanilla, so that would be kind of a let down as I do enjoy Uni. As much as I like to be adventurous with foods I think I’ll like because it has ingredients I know I like, some of those flavors sound so awful I’d have to try them if I was ever there just because they are so unique and sound so horrible! If for nothing else but the experience alone, it’d be really fun to do!

    I’ve really been enjoying your posts from Japan. I would really love to go someday and with your posts being so deep and informative, I’m pretty much doing it vicariously with you. I love all the pictures, too! Keep ’em coming!

    -Mike A.

  16. Sounds like you went for the basic 300 yen Namja Town Ticket, as you didn’t mention any of the attractions there, that said paying like 3000 yen each to sample most of the fun stuff there probably didn’t appeal much? lol

    That said, great that you went there, especially as I mentioned about Namja Town weeks before your trip Joe.

    Speaking of those Cats, people probably(Likely do) feed them, Stray cats can easily become friendly to people who feed them, like in most countries some people buy pets and get bored of them and abandon.

  17. Mmmmmm, I love ice cream and would gladly try one per day for a whole year just so I can try them all. I agree with you about the texture of the chicken wing ice cream. I tend to like my ice cream smooth and slightly melted.

    Coincidentally I had dinner the other night at a Japanese restaurant chain here in the UK called Wagamama. I actually had gyoza dumplings and chicken katsu so, for the first time ever, I can actually relate to some of the food you’ve been eating on one of your Tokyo trips! I liked how the bottoms of the gyoza were fried and crispy and the katsu curry sauce was sweet and spicy. No Michelin stars in sight but it was tasty and filled my belly so I can’t ask for much more.

  18. @JimFromJersey “For me at least, Akemi eating squid ink and chicken wing ice cream videos were a no go. Total run time: 1 second each.”

    The same thing was happening for me. I generally view Joe’s blog using Internet Explorer but I also have Chrome installed, so I tried running them using that programme and the clips worked fine. So maybe try a different browser?

    K

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