On Sunday afternoon, I returned to one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo. You won't likely find it in any guidebook and, to be honest, I don't even know its name, but if you find yourself in the Kameido area of Tokyo, just look around near the station for a tiny dive in a side alley across from the train station with a long line outside and you will know you've found The Gyoza Joint.
It isn't much to look at. It is a dingy, slightly dirty, run-down place a little larger than your average basement rec room with a long narrow U-shaped counter running two thirds the length of the place and a raised tatami straw mat-covered platform running along the wall by the door. At the top of the U, next to the door is the open kitchen, a space with just enough room for two men to stand in front of a row of hot cast-iron pans about the size and shape of trash can lids. They don't need a lot of room for a lot of equipment
Imagine that in Japanese with a couple of plump old ladies hollering "Gyoza! gyoza! beer! beer!" and you have an idea of the atmosphere. You don't even order here, except for drinks. You just wave for another plate of the finest cheap gyoza in town - five to a 250 yen plate - or another quart bottle of ice cold Asahi or a Birley's Orange Soda. (They might serve something else but I've never seen it). Fresh plates arrive like clockwork until you start to slow down and when the feeding frenzy ends, the waitress counts the plates and empty bottles and hands you the bill.