Friday, July 11, 2014

Gyu-Kaku : West Broadway location

Many people are aware that Chinese restaurants do not provide much service, whether it is hard to get the staff's attention or they are just not friendly. But, how come there is never anything about Korean restaurants? Thinking back to most of the Korean restaurants I have visited, the staff is rarely friendly and only speak when a table is ordering. However, there is an exception for Korean owned Japanese cuisine restaurants, where countless visits to those include extremely friendly and welcoming service! But what is with the staff at many Korean barbecue restaurants? I do not not understand.

After our negative experience at Go Gung, we decided to try Gyu-Kaku the next evening. Gyu-Kaku is a Japanese barbecue chain restaurant and offers a generous happy hour period. On Sunday as well as Tuesday-Thursday, happy hours start at 11:30am-6:00pm and begin again from 9:00pm-10:30pm. As for Friday and Saturday, the evening happy hours begin at 9:30pm-10:30pm. Furthermore as for Monday, the happy hours go on all day long! Even though only some items are a bit cheaper and the discount ranges from $0.50-$3.00, it is still worth it because little things add up.

Walking in, our friendly waitress seated us and explained the menu. She was professional as well as polite and after ordering, brought over hot hand towels for the both of us. Gyu-Kaku is located on a second floor and has window wrapped walls. There are wooden booth seating arrangements and the interior is fairly comfortable, not cramped at all.


REGULAR, PONZU AND SPICY SAUCE.
The restaurant offers set menus along with a la carte and we went for the latter, since the both of us prefer selecting our own items. Every order of barbecue meat is either marinated or simply seasoned with salt n' pepper. The options of marinade are miso, tare sweet soy, garlic, basil and yuzu.

STEAMED RICE ($1.95). 
As we were ordering and selecting which type of meat pairs well with what marinade, our waitress mentioned to leave it up to the kitchen because they know what is best. Even though we did not mind selecting our own marinades, it was nice to see what the kitchen would prepare.

FILET MIGNON TENDERLOIN ($7.95) -> ($5.95).
The filet is 21 day aged and has a simple salt n' pepper seasoning. Before barbecuing, the waitress smeared some oil over the barbecue and there did not seem to be enough because the cubes of filet stuck onto the grill.

SCALLOP ($7.95).
The scallops have a shio white soy dressing and are topped with sesame seeds. In addition similar to the filet, the small scallops stuck onto the grill as well.

3.5OZ HARAMI SKIRT STEAK ($8.95). 
Declared by the restaurant as the "#1 Must Try", the harami skirt steak is 21 day aged and the preferred choice of marinade is the miso (red miso soy bean paste and sugar). Fortunately because the meat is marinated, the slices did not stick onto the grill like the above.

SCALLOPS, FILET AND HARAMI SKIRT STEAK.
Starting with the small scallops, we found them nothing special and since the scallops stuck onto the grill, the first few were a bit overcooked. However, the rest tasted tender as well as moist (as much as the small ones can get). Following, the filet was surprisingly not tender at all and quite chewy as well as slightly dry. As for the "#1 Must Try", the miso marinade tastes flavourful and there are some slightly sweet n' salty flavours. Although similar to the filet, the meat tastes very chewy.

NEW YORK STEAK ($6.95) -> ($4.95).
Similar to the harami skirt steak, the new york is 21 day aged and the recommend marinade is the miso.

PORK BELLY ($4.45) -> ($3.25).
The restaurant's preferred choice of marinade for the pork belly is a spicy miso and the slices are topped with sesame seeds.

EGGPLANT ($2.95) -> ($2.45).
Sesame oil is drizzled on the slices of eggplant which are then topped with sesame seeds.

First up, the new york steak is actually our favourite; the meat is the most tender cut of all. Second, the pork belly has a tasty spicy marinade along with a fatty taste. However, no matter how we cooked the pork belly, the lean portion tasted a bit dry. Third, no complaints with the eggplant.

PREMIUM RIB EYE ($10.45).
The steak arrived frozen as well as rock hard, with freezer burns on the bottom which we were not expecting. Personally, I think it is beyond amateur for a chef to serve rock hard frozen steak to barbecue. As for the restaurant's preferred choice of seasoning, it is a simple salt n' pepper.

After cooking, the rib eye tastes somewhat tender and only slightly chewy. If anything asides from the frozen steak, the seasoning was a bit too salty which we did not mind. Furthermore, the rib eye was the longest item we had to cook since it was frozen.

SPICY KALBI SOUP ($4.95).
The soup does not taste spicy and is oddly extremely salty. Furthermore, there is not much of a broth taste. As for the ingredients, there is an egg along with a couple of tender slices of beef. The soup is one of the items we left behind because it really was not good.

3.5OZ KALBI SHORT RIB ($8.95).
Without being satisfied with what we ordered, we added an order of Gyu-Kaku's "#2 Must Try". The meat is 21 day aged and the preferred choice of seasoning is salt n' pepper, topped with sesame seeds.

The short rib tastes fairly tender and is a lot better than Gyu-Kaku's #1 must order (harami skirt steak). Also, the thin slices of meat cook fast so make sure not to overcook these!

S'MORES MILK CHOCOLATE ($3.95) -> ($2.50).
The marshmallows took a while to grill because of course there is no open fire. Also, the marshmallows would be slowly melting but not browning, and could easily slip off the skewer. After a bit of patience, one of the marshmallows browned up a bit which we sandwiched between a Hershey's chocolate and graham crackers (which did not taste stale).

TOTAL: $68.50 + TIP $11.50 = $80.00 .

Despite having average food at best, there is not much to complain about because we did not have any expectations when we walked in. Plus, it is the novelty of table top barbecuing. As for the atmosphere, the restaurant is fairly clean and the windows are cracked open for a slightly better ventilation. Furthermore as for the staff, everyone was very cheerful and friendly. If anything, it was hard to find our waitress when we needed drink refills and the bill (although she was friendly and professional in the beginning). All in all, we will probably try out Gyu-Kaku on Granville someday because apparently that location is better, but we would not revisit here. To me, Gyu-Kaku is something to try and is a fun novelty to table top your own meats, but, the quality was… meh.

POSITIVES
- Friendly staff
- Large selection of choices
- Clean and comfortable restaurant
- Great happy hours

NEGATIVES
- Spicy kalbi soup (1/5)
- Prices can add up
- Service may be hard to get (but is friendly)

LITTLE THINGS
- Something different compared to Korean barbecue
- I do not recommend the scallops but the bacon wrapped ones may be better
- We probably subconsciously felt like our dinner was not that bad because we were expecting the bill to be a lot higher

Food: 2.5/5
Service: 3/5

Gyu-Kaku on Urbanspoon

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