Gyu-kaku - Yakiniku Cuisine, Anyone Tried It?
- Chino Wayne
I see advertisements and have visited the web site of Gyu-kaku, which is an L.A. branch of a Japanese chain. Yakiniku is apparently the Japanese version of Korean Bar-B-Q, grilled meats. Anyone had this cuisine? Anyone had this cuisine at this establishment? If so what do you think about it?
I am thinking of trying this place, one day when I have the time and energy to make the trek in from The Dining Wilderness That Is The Inland Empire.
I'm interested to learn if other 'hounds have experience with this cuisine and restaurant.
There's a good string of comments on Gyu-Kaku on the board from early September 2001, and even though the world has completely changed since then (sigh), these comments are still basically accurate. Japanese Korean BBQ is essentially the same as Korean BBQ only with the seasoning and the heat turned way down to suit Japanese tastes, and without the more exotic meats and side dishes. The food is pretty good and the place has a fun vibe, but the real attraction (and the reason for the big crowds) is that the Westside Japanese and American populations that swarm to this place don't have to go to Koreatown and struggle with strange locations and unreadable menus and the sort of Korean dishes that can challenge the Western (or Japanese) concept of how food works. If you're coming all the way from Chino, you might rather stop in Koreatown for the real thing.
They do have one unusual and pretty terrific dish at Gyu-kaka, which is hot stone pot bibimbap with eel. This is a mixture of rice and vegetables with a chili sauce, cooked inside a very hot stone pot so that the outsides get crusty. It's a pretty common Korean dish but the version with eel is apparently atypical and it works very well. They also have some fun desserts (S'mores!) that you won't find everywhere. Unless you are with a big group, the thing to do is order one of the "course" menus so you can get a good variety.
By the way, there is another Japanese-Korean place nearby, Manpuku (2125 Sawtelle), which is also pretty good and doesn't tend to have the mob scene you find at Gyu-kaku (although that mob scene, and the vibe it creates, is probably half the reason to go.)
re: Chino Wayne
I used to go to Gyu-kaku in Tokyo- it's basically like the McDonald's of yakiniku (not in a bad way; just many locations). I think yakiniku is generally a bit lighter than Korean bbq with milder, soy-sauce based flavors. I would say Japanese love yakiniku second only to sushi- it's considered a 'treat' in some ways. The beef in Japan is particularly tender, and the thin strips need to be cooked about 45 seconds before you can pop it in your mouth. I like to eat mine with a bowl of rice - put meat on the grill, dip meat in sesame or soy-based sauce, pat the meat on my rice so the rice soaks up the sauce, eat meat, eat rice. It can get pretty filling though, so a lot of people eat it with beer, which is equally satisfying.
The bibim bap is also one of my favorites. The hot stone bowl makes the rice all crispy and chewy- a real treat.