Last night I went to a restaurant called Gyu Kaku. Despite the difficult to pronounce name, the food was simply delicious. What’s so special about this restaurant which is located in the East Village and Midtown is that it is Japanese BBQ. What is Japanese BBQ, you may be wondering. Let me paint you a picture…
Do you ever just want to roll out that barbeque and get some sweet grill marks on your favorite fish or steak? Do you crave that smokey smell of your food over an open flame? Do you want the satisfaction of taking a raw piece of flesh and turning it into something edible? Well, Japanese BBQ will be able to satiate all of these desires.
Here is your grill, your palate so to speak. Atop this fiery surface you can place a number of foods from Kobe beef to chilean sea bass. Cook them to desired doneness, delicately pick them up with your chopsticks, dip them in one of the two delicious marinades and devour. Chomp, swallow, repeat. Among other menu choices, you can order vegetable plates to grill or even rice and noodles dishes.
The way food is ordered at Japanese BBQ is family style. Order as many dishes as you think you can eat. This is great for big parties because everyone gets to share. If you’re a picky eater or have dietary restrictions, beware because things will probably get mixed up when you place them on the grill. Order your desired dishes and they will arrive promptly and raw. Sorry Mom, this part might gross you out. Take the raw meat, fish or vegetable and place it on the grill and you’re in business.
Danny and I ordered Ahi Tuna, Chilean Seabass, vegetables, and vegetarian bimbimbop. While the tuna was very tasty, especially with the spicy marinade dip, the cut wasn’t as fresh as I was expecting it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely fresh enough to eat, but you can certainly see the difference between this Ahi and some from Sushi Samba or Morimoto. Perhaps I’ve become a bit of a tuna snob but I’m just the messenger. Our favorite dish was definitely the Chilean Seabass. This fish is always buttery and delicious no matter how you do it. It is served in a small tin foil packet and you grill it for about 4 minutes on each side. Open the packet and spicy steam will waft in your direction. The fish is flaky and flavorful. I would definitely order this again.
The vegetables that we didn’t accidently burn to a crisp were also fresh and juicy. I really enjoyed the tomatoes with a little char on them. As for the none grilled items, the bimbimbop was a very special dish. The waitress came over and stirred our rice with an egg and cooked everything together in an extremely hot bowl. The result was a very glutinous, sticky, smooth rice. It was divine.
The best aspect of this restaurant is the atmosphere. The lighting is dark and attractive, great for a date but not so great for taking pictures- sorry they aren’t too clear today. Anyway, everyone just seems to be happy. Perhaps it is the fact that they are satisfied by cooking their own food, or perhaps they’re just excited to be with a large group of family or friends. Whatever it is, Gyu Kaku is doing something right. Even on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was pretty packed with hungry patrons waiting for a seat in front of one of the many hot grills.
If that’s not enough for you, I even had a celebrity sighting there. On my way out, I passed by Leighton Meester. If she eats there, it must be good right?