Sun Chan is a great little Izakaya stye Japanese restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Izakaya are essentially Japanese pubs that sell small plates of food, often Yakitori, Robata, Katsu, Ochazuke and Yakisoba, to go along with a night of drinking. Sake, Shochu, and beer are usually available for the drinking component of the night. Sun Chan serves a great Kimchi Buta (stir fried kimchi, scallions and pork belly), really good grilled rice balls stuffed with cod roe and some excellent meat skewers; the duck, the salmon with scallion and the pork belly are my favorite skewers.
The Dumplings: Sun Chan serves four styles of dumplings; Pork Gyoza, Vegetable Gyoza, Shrimp Shumai and Wasabi Shumai. I recently tried the Pork Gyoza and the Wasabi Shumai.
Pork Gyoza – The gyoza filling was tasty and juicy but instead of the bottoms of the gyoza being crispy fried, the wrappers were limp and soggy. It wasn’t that the gyoza hadn’t been pan fried on one side, they had, but it appeared that they had been over-steamed after the pan frying.
Wasabi Shumai – These shumai were excellent, they had the standard shrimp/sea-food filling but the wrappers were green hued and infused with wasabi. There was enough mustardy-wasabi flavor concentrated in these wrappers to clear the sinuses with each bite. Even with this kick though there was a nice balance of flavor, the wasabi hit the back of the mouth and sinuses while the sweetness of the shrimp could still be experienced in front of the mouth.
The Dipping Sauce: The gyoza came with a pretty standard soy based dipping sauce, while the shumai came with sweetened vinegar dipping sauce. The vinegar dipping sauce worked really well, providing yet another dimension to the flavor profile of the shumai – sweet, sour and spicy.
The Location: Sun Chan is up-town in Manhattan Valley, on Broadway between 103rd and 104th Street, pretty far from the Izakaya hotspots in Mid-town and on St. Marks place. It is a small spot and easy to miss.