When you enter Gyu-Kaku, you don’t just get welcomed; you get pampered. The entire restaurant staff greets the guest saying, “Our guest has arrived” in Japanese, an acknowledgement that is a part of the culture.
Gyu-Kaku is a yakiniku restaurant specializing in Japanese barbecue. At first glance, Gyu-Kaku might be mistaken for another American version of a Hibachi restaurant. However, the place differs significantly in terms of the variety of cuisine that it offers and the choices it presents not just for meat-eaters, but for vegans and vegetarians alike.
My recent visit to the restaurant was a VIP experience — the quality of the food was exemplary and the staff was extremely knowledgeable and courteous. When I arrived, I was given a warm greeting by the staff and then led to a table for a sumptuous tasting that lasted two hours. I must add, it was two hours of culinary ecstasy. I had the pleasure of sharing the table with Karen Tancrede, the restaurant’s general manager, and Jennifer Slobotkin, director of sobycoPR, who provided me with a wonderful introduction to what the restaurant is all about.
Gyu-Kaku has been around for almost a year now, and in that short period, it has managed to claim a loyal customer base. The restaurant offers customers the opportunity to cook various cuts of beef, pork, poultry, seafood, vegetables and desserts on the in-table roasters that are designed to vent smoke through forced air openings built into the roaster.
The menu has a variety of dishes to choose from and also includes discount prices, a majority that are especially for students!
Now let’s get to the important part — the food!
Tancrede ordered for me a wonderful selection of food like “assorted veggies” to grill, seasoned edamame (which were a personal favorite), fried rice (with shrimp and without), garlic shrimp and shrimp dumplings. Kobe style dishes were highly recommended by the staff as Gyu-Kaku prides itself in its fine quality of meat. The vegetarian options included corn, zucchini and tofu. It was a lot of fun to grill my own food, something that I am sure everyone would enjoy doing!
I highly recommend going for the edamame and the vegetarian fried rice — the edamame were delightfully spicy and the rice tasted clean and crisp. The shrimp was seasoned to perfection — something that is rare to discover at any restaurant. Tancrede shared that the dumplings actually come from New York. In fact, the kitchen is a tiny area as almost nothing is prepared there. The experience that the restaurant offers only needs a small kitchen for serving food that is ready to be grilled. The food is simple and clean, which is represented by the way the kitchen is organized.
The restaurant also offers amazing deals on drinks with themed weekday discounts. For example, every Sunday, Gyu-Kaku offers $3 Bellinis. “Mojito Monday” and “Tokyo Iced Tea Tuesday” gets you those drinks for $5 each. Along with that, happy hour for food is from 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and for alcohol is from 5-7 p.m.
No culinary experience is complete without dessert, and Gyu-Kaku impresses in this category as well. I ordered the strawberry creme cake, which was a delicate preparation that melted in my mouth, and I also tried mochi ice cream in mango, vanilla and green tea flavors. For those of you who don’t know, mochi ice cream is made from mochigome (pounded sticky rice) with an ice cream filling. I was surprised to learn that the restaurant also offers s’mores as a dessert, as they are viewed as a delicacy in Japan!
Right now, Gyu-Kaku has a great deal for graduates called “Grads Eat Free” through which a graduate student can get a free meal of up to $25 (check Gyu-Kaku’s website for terms and conditions). The restaurant is also offering a 10 percent discount to students. I highly recommend trying this innovative culinary experience — it is worth every penny! Don’t forget to make a reservation though — the Gyu-Kaku love is spreading fast.