Gyu-Kaku, for those of you who don’t know, is a Japanese BBQ restaurant. There are two locations in the city, one in the East Village (34 Cooper Square) and the one that I visited this past weekend in Midtown (805 3rd Ave. 2nd Floor). Everyone in the place was equipped with their cameras, and I don’t blame them! It’s quite the interactive dining experience. You get to choose which items you’d like off the menu & then grill them right at your table. Pretty cool huh?
We’ve been meaning to go for quite some time. They’re ALWAYS booked solid, but since it was Memorial Day Weekend and everyone headed to the shore they were able to squeeze us in.Since we’d never been there before, and we had no idea what the items on the menu were, we decided to go with their Kiwami Course for 2 ($120). We figure we’d get to taste a little of everything so it was a better option than us pointing and hoping for the best!
The whole atmosphere is amazing in this place! It’s on the 2nd floor of a building with floor to ceiling glass windows so you get a great view of Midtown Manhattan while you eat. Each booth is sectioned off with dark wood, their own little Japanese gazebos. It really makes you feel like you’ve landed in a different country. I even saw an area in the back where you are seated on the floor w/ pillows. Not sure how you get that room, but how cool is that?
Anywayyy, on to the food. They started us off with their Hot Oil Seared Salmon in Citrus Sauce. It was delicious. The salmon is served sashimi style except that its covered in hot oil to cook it & then drizzled with a citrus sauce & topped off with sliced scallions. The outcome is similar to a ceviche. There was essentially no fishy taste at all. A very solid start!
The Gyu-Kaku salad was also very good, we got field greens topped with a couple quartered hard boiled eggs & shredded cabbage. The best part was the miso-mustard Japanese dressing. I could have drank that stuff — which is a good thing because my salad was a tidbit over dressed. Good none the less.
The most disappointing part of my meal, almost ruined the whole experience, was the Gyoza Soup. Which I was initially very excited for, I love gyoza! But to my dismay my second gyoza was FULL of fish bones! I didn’t know what to do, I’m trying to pull them out but in one little bit there was at least 4 bones, not good — I still had a whole bite in my mouth. When I mentioned it to the woman cleaning off the table she told me it was odd because they’re made with shrimp.You’d think I’d get some sort of apology, my Lychee Martini comped, something. But I got nada, definitely a thumbs down. (The woman told me later she had told her manager, so everyone was in the know.)
Other than that, cooking your own food at a restaurant is pretty cool. You get to eat the steak, fish, dessert fresh off the grill. As they begin to roll out the proteins and veggies they stop briefly to explain how long to cook each separate dish. Your table is equipped with their delicious original BBQ sauce & the Spicy BBQ sauce, both work great with everything you’re given (impressive :)). The spicy won’t blow your taste buds away so don’t be nervous to give it a try.
The Chillean Sea Bass is definitely worth mentioning. It comes wrapped in foil & doused with their spicy ponzu sauce, 3-4 minutes on each side & you’re ready to dig in! The fish was falling apart, it was really so flavorful and delicious. Not too spicy, the average person could handle it just fine. It was a favorite of mine until we were served the Harami Skirt Steak – Miso. It was so tender, so bursting with flavor, I wanted the whole plate to myself. Luckily for me, Jared was a huge fan of the Garlic Scallops, so a compromise was made.
Another dish that was part of the tasting menu we chose is the the Sukiyaki Bibimbap. I could have done without it, it’s a shame. It probably would have been decent but it sat in the hot stone bowl, cooking for quite some time while we waited for our waitress to come and scoop it out for us. I’m used to the runny egg yolk you get at the Korean BBQ places that you can mix in with the rice. This was a little dry, not even the amazing Gyu-Kaku BBQ sauce could bring it back.
When we initially placed our order, the waitress told us to keep the menu just in case we wanted something else. People must come famished normally because by the time we were finishing up our lastpieces of steak I was full to the brim! But we weren’t finished just yet. Our tasting menu also included two desserts, the smores, a little cliche but brought you home, were very good. Exactly what you’d expect, Hershey’s chocolate & all. The second dish was the Dessert of the Day, a chocolate tort covered in a thick layer of chocolate ganache & paired with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. We each took a few bites & polished off the ice cream. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate so this dessert didn’t win me over, Jared either.
All in all, Gyu-Kaku is a great restaurant to go to for dates or even in groups, maybe even a birthday event. It’s a lot of fun to be so interactive with your meal. Next time I will definitely order off the a la carte menu. I know now what I like and don’t like and how much food my stomach can handle. The steak and fish were excellent, tender and full of flavor! The bibimbap & soup sub-par, but that won’t stop me from going back. The atmosphere alone is enough to reel me in again and next time I’m going to be even more adventurous with my choices. Can’t wait!
And just a little reminder, Gyu-Kaku Midtown has an awesome happy hour!! Another reason to check this hot spot out.