I’ve been dying to tell you about this place, but hesitant at the same time. I have a soft spot for Gyo-O, and being that it’s already difficult enough to try to get a table on most nights, I’d rather not have more people to line up behind.
But I have to tell you. It’s so good.
I found this place when I was searching for a decent chirashi. Chirashi is a bit of a strange craving, because it’s essentially deconstructed sushi. Why wouldn’t I crave sushi instead? Listen… it’s different. It’s akin to the difference of craving tacos instead of burritos. Sort of.
Gyo-O is a tiny cocoon of hustle and bustle. The place isn’t large, it’s cash only, but there’s a certain harmony to the coming and going of people.
The walls are covered in Japanese, except for the huge mural on your left when you walk in.
The service is friendly and snappy, and the menu is pretty large - there are generally a lot of things I want to try when I sit down. But first… kaisen don (seafood on rice)!
For some of the rice bowls you can have them in mini size, so this was a smallish bowl perfect for me. Salmon maybe seems a tad skimpy - the difference between 2 and 3 slices is significant, for some arbitrary reason - but the portion was good for me.
Of course, I’ve been back a number of times. Oh yes. And I’ve tried a few more things on the menu.
The bukkake udon is one of their specialties. HEY! Mind out of the gutter!
The takoyaki bukkake udon is a little bit slimy overall, though. It’s topped with a sauna egg (hot spring egg?) that is like a runny white + runny yolk poached egg. It gets all over everything. Be warned, if you don’t like goopy things. The takoyaki has a lovely color and texture on the surface and the batter mix is done really well. Sometimes the tako is hit or miss, but when you get a good piece it’s a damn tasty takoyaki… and I don’t even normally like the stuff!
If you order it on its own with the sauce and everything, it’s tangy and crispy and chewy and fishy. Yum.
The above is one of the combos you can get on rice as well (a lunch special, I believe?). You can get an assortment of tempura items, chicken karaage, takoyaki… oh man. Deep fried goodness.
The tempura is done very nicely - a truly light tempura batter that doesn’t taste greasy or have too much crinkly bits of batter all over. The prawn comes with some seasoning salt for dipping.
I’ve tried a whole variety of different things on the menu and keep coming back for more delicious surprises. There are a large number of smallish dishes that are very reasonably priced and of a very decent quality, and they work at a fast pace to keep up with the revolving door of hungry customers. Worth your time to check out one time in Richmond if you want decent Japanese fast food.
Oh, and another word of advice - don’t watch the TV, because they almost always have eating competitions on and unless seeing people stuff themselves with 40+ hotdogs gets your appetite going, make sure you keep your eyes on your prize.