Chao Chao Gyoza at Royal Square @ Novena was first established in Osaka in 1971. It was positioned as a Chinese restaurant in Japan and now there are outlets all over Japan, and in Hong Kong and Philippines. This Singapore outlet is brought over by the Taberu group which also owns the Ah Mah Traditional Egg Sponge Cake.
Here, in Singapore, Chao Chao Gyoza is more like an izakaya than a Chinese-restaurant-from-Japan concept. Like any izakaya, the space is small, the menu is extensive, and the pricing is right. There is a set menu for only $15 for gyoza (16 pieces), cucumber pickles, and one draft beer.
For appetizers, the mixed sashimi ($15.90) is extremely affordable when compared to other casual Japanese restaurants. It consists of tuna, salmon, and prawns. None of them is really outstanding but given the price, we shouldn’t complain. The tuna is flavourless; the salmon is satisfactory; and the prawns are the best among the three, sweet and not slimy.
There are so many gyozas on the menu that it becomes confusing for the customer. They have poached and pan-fried gyozas that are hand-made daily by the chefs. They use a ratio of 1:4 of gyoza skin to paste; and make them bite-sized. That means the gyozas are really, very, extremely tiny.
Because it was our first time here, we didn’t notice the chao chao gyoza ($7.90 16pcs, $4.90 8pcs) on the confusing menu, and we didn’t order it.
For the poached version, the 5 kinds platter ($12.90, 2 gyoza for each flavour) consists of shrimp, mushroom, curry, chilli, and cabbage. The skins stick together but they are light. The worst of them is the chilli: it is call-995 spicy, so spicy that it overwhelms all flavours and kills the tastebuds so you can’t taste anything else for the next 15 minutes. The cabbage is completely bland. The prawn one is not bad, but dim sum har gow is similar and better.
The fried ones don’t fare well too. They are too small to taste anything in the mouth. Between the Age Tori Cheese Gyoza ($3.90 for 3) and the Salted Egg Tori Karage Gyoza ($4.90 for 3), the cheese is better because at least you can taste the mozzarella cheese. For the salted egg gyoza, you can’t really taste the flavour.
The best thing we ate that night was from their yakitori menu, ika maruyaki ($12.90) or bbq squid. We almost finished our meal when it came; it came so late that we forgot we ordered it. But it is excellent. It’s grilled nicely so that it is chewy and tender, not rubbery. It has a nice smokiness but unfortunately the sauce is overly salty, way too salty. Perhaps it is meant to go with beer.
Including a plain soba ($10.90), we spent $68 for two persons but we did eat a lot. The gyozas aren’t delicious enough to warrant another visit and there is nothing special about the other dishes.
Chao Chao Gyoza
Royal Square @ Novena #01-05, 103 Irrawaddy Road, Singapore 329566
tel: +65 6352 0200
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–Hokkaido-Ya, Vivocity: A New “Smart” Japanese Casual Eatery by Sushi Tei Serving One-Bowl Meals
–Japan Rail Cafe, Tanjong Pagar Centre: Summer Specials from Different Prefectures in Japan
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.