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.
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.
Eventually, we settled on three stands and placed our orders.
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.
We were done – but not DONE.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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.