541+: Mastering the art of dumplings and elaborate puns

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Special To The Japan Times

There are all manner of euphemisms to describe the size of 541+: cozy, intimate, snug. But in reality it’s a closet containing three small tables separated from the kitchen by a fridge.

The size is reflected in the gyōza dumplings, which are also petit. In line with a growing trend, the house dumplings are sans garlic; to order the more orthodox garlic variety you’ll need to ask for the “229” — a nod to the owner-chef’s penchant for puns. While the joke in the shop’s name was lost on me, I was immensely proud of deciphering 229. Phonetically, the numbers hint at the syllables for the word “garlic” in Japanese: ni-ni-ku.

The dumplings here are either steamed, smothered in mayonnaise, soaked in soy sauce and scallions or garnished with pak choi and a sweet chili sauce — one of my favorites. 541+ also does a decent bowl of tantanmen (Szechuan spicy soup). Its version is less soupy than the original and closer to the Taiwanese version.

As for the fridge, it contains a decent stockpile of bottled craft beer including the local Minoh Beer and IPAs from Scotland’s BrewDog.

541+ isn’t held back by its cramped location. There’s much to savor here in the variety of dumplings — and the chef’s elaborate puns.

In line with the nationwide state of emergency declared on April 16, the government is strongly requesting that residents stay at home whenever possible and refrain from visiting bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.
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