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.

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