Typically, I avoid reviewing chain restaurants. However, every now and then, one leaves such an impression that I must tell the world (or, at least my little corner of the universe) about it. Gyu-Kaku is one of those times.
Now, before I begin, I must disclose that I write this review having never experienced authentic Korean BBQ or Japanese Yakiniku (the Japanese version of Korean BBQ) in my entire life. While this restaurant advertises itself as authentic Japanese Yakiniku, some of the reviews that I read beforehand indicate that this restaurant’s menu has been “Americanized” to appeal to Western palates. Still, given the scarcity of this cuisine in South Florida, this place is worth mentioning.The restaurant is located in Brickell, and is actually hard to notice if you’re not really looking for it.
As with most of the restaurants in Brickell, it’s got that hip, modern vibe. It still maintains some Asian flair, though. The concept is pretty simple. You pick from a list of meats, and you get to cook it at the table.
Each table is equipped with its own grill, which your server will turn on and adjust for you.
If you are smart (or lucky) enough to make it to Gyu-Kaku during Happy Hour, they half price drinks and discounts on some of their menu items. In addition, they have courses which feature several pre-selected menu items at a flat rate, which offers a discount from ordering each item a la carte. We ordered the Geisha Course, which included salad, appetizers, bibimap (fried rice), vegetables for grilling, chicken, and three cuts of beef.
Their started salad is served on a large platter for sharing. The star of their salad was, as with many Asian restaurants, the dressing.
When the miso soup arrived, I was ready to pass it on to my sister, but I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. The miso soup kind of tasted like Hibachi steakhouse soups, instead of that weird flavor that most miso soups at Japanese restaurants have. I ate around the tofu, though.
The winner of the appetizer round, however, were the chili shrimp dumplings. These steamed dumplings were served over a chili sauce that was the perfect amount of sweet and spicy. You just felt a slight heat at the end, and didn’t get knocked over by the intensity.
We also had edamame, but we started eating it before I had a chance to take a picture. And, then the main course arrived.
The main course had ribeye, miso marinated skirt steak, boneless short rib, and basil chicken. It also came with a bowl of fried rice to share, called Sukiyaki Bibimap. If I had to guess, they use traditional sukiyaki (Japanese hot pot) ingredients and made bibimap (Korean mixed rice) with it. The bowl that the rice is served in is hot, so you can leave the rice in the bowl and it will get crunchy on the bottom. If you are not a fan of crunchy rice, then you are dead inside. We also got onions and zucchini to grill.
One of the great things about this type of meal is that it is interactive. And, while you are responsible for cooking the food yourself, the servers give you approximate cooking times for each cut of meat at the table. So, it’s hard to screw up. Still, if you want to be perfectly safe, you can leave the cooking to the most competent cook at the table. My sister didn’t seem to mind letting me take control of the grill, as long as it meant that hot steak was still making it to her plate.
The meats at Gyu-Kaku are sliced small enough to where each piece doesn’t take very long to cook. Still, the anticipation of was a killer! However, that first bite of juicy steak completely blew our minds. It was like taking bites of meat-flavored butter that just melted in our mouths. My sister’s favorite was the miso skirt steak, but I was partial to the ribeye. The chicken was also good, and was marinated in basil.
As a final stroke of genius, they also incorporated the use of the grill in dessert. We each got our own S’More to make over the fire. It was like being a kid in Girl Scouts all over again. Or, at least it would have been, if I had ever been in Girl Scouts, or had ever had a S’More. Yes, you heard me correctly. Until having one for Dessert at a Japanese BBQ restaurant in my mid-30’s, I had never had an actual S’More in my life.
Service was stellar. We rarely had to wait for anything. Drinks and food came out at just the right pace.
I should point out that the menu has changed since the time that I dined there about a week ago and the time that I am writing this review. However, that simply means that I can go back and try some new things next time. There will definitely be a next time. My recommendation is to go during Happy Hour to get the most bang for your buck. Also, I don’t think this would be good for a large group of people. I can see fights breaking out over who gets the next piece of meat.
For more information on Gyu-Kaku, visit their website at http://www.gyu-kaku.com/