To be honest, I had avoided going into Orion Gyoza for the longest time. A chain restaurant with two shops* on major streets, it had to be going for convenience over quality. However, due to a whim, and also due to a fantastic pun, I went in, and didn’t regret it.
*They used to have two shops–one on the Orion Street covered arcade, and one right outside JR Utsunomiya Station, which burned down earlier this year. #scandal #maybe? #notgettingintothatrightnow.
Greeting you as you walk by is their “open” sign–but no ordinary “open” sign. Theirs says 営餃中 (eigyou-chuu), which is a pun on the most commonly seen sign to mean “open for business” 営業中 (same pronunciation), but with the kanji character for gyoza (pot stickers) instead of the character for “business.” Therefore, it reads to the ear as “open for business,” but to the eyes as “open with gyoza.” Fabulous.
So I went in. And was pleasantly surprised. They don’t offer just your run of the mill pork gyoza, but many fantastic varieties, including those pan-fried with cilantro filling or burned cheese, and boiled gyoza in a variety of tonkotsu (pork broth) broths. They also have tonkotsu ramen, my absolute favorite.
I’ve been a few times, and here are my evaluations so far:
Cilantro gyoza: Not really the best gyoza around, but hey, they got cilantro in them. Which is fabulous.
Cheese gyoza: Ditto to everything above, except substituting “cilantro” with “perfectly burned cheese fanning out from each dumpling.”
Tonkotsu ramen: Honestly, one of my favorite broth recipes around. Perfectly savory, and you can customize how densely flavored you want it. It would be my favorite in Utsunomiya except that the other toppings are kind of meh. You get one tiny quail egg and some spinach, but not much else. The noodles are thick, nearly udon-like, which may appeal to some and not to others. The broth is amazing, but the rest of it is a bit disappointing.
Tonkotsu broth soup dumplings: DING DING DING! We have a winner! Normally, soup dumplings are served to you in the boring old water they were boiled in–not here! You get the best of both worlds: gyoza and their awesome tonkotsu broth, which you can even customize! You can get standard, you can get tomato, you can get curry, you can get yukgaejang (Korean-style), take your pick! I’ve had the standard and the tomato, and I have to say, the tomato does add a little something extra. Now time for me to go try the other two.