It was 2pm and we wanted all you can eat Korean BBQ. Most places close from 3-5pm for dinner prep. Our search for so open place eventually yielded “Gyu-Kaku”. They weren’t Korean BBQ and they weren’t all you can eat, but they had a really good Japanese BBQ and a great happy hour menu, which ended up being just as good and just as cost efficient. But I will get more into that later.
The restaurant was the second floor of a building complex along Broadway. Their row of red flags flying marked the place. Though getting their would be tricky. The complex comes with its own parkade, it’s entrance was right off the main road, you would miss it if you didn’t know. Although there is sufficient parking right out front and around the corner during specified times.
Inside, the restaurant is fairly new, with simple patterns and strong lines the restaurant looked modern. Brown and black all over. They had lamp shades branded with their logo, a Japanese quote in red and black splashed across the wall, and walls dedicated to the display of Polaroids. The instant photos were hung by clips and were strung up on a line. They were captured of staff members in their branded black tee uniforms and customers enjoying the space.
Each seating arrangement was set up like a booth, benches on either ends of the attached table. Each table had its own heat source built into it and a water tap installed overhead. One was necessary for the other, for safety reassurances. All seats were arranged around the metal grill and the protective gold ring around it. Between tables were cut-out wire separators, they provided breathing space and the sense of privacy between seating arrangements. They also dual functioned as a way to post specials. Though this barrier only separated the table top space, you still had to worry about seating and the actions of others. We had to move down a booth because a fellow diner felt it appropriate to have her bare feet on the seat and encroach the personal bubble of my guest. That was not very appetizing.
Our server was friendly, he introduced himself by name, which isn’t typical at most Asian restaurants that I have been too. He was soft spoken and polite. He didn’t make small talk, but made sure to do laps around us in case we needed anything of him.
After taking our order he set the barbecue process up for us. He greased the rack with oil before allowing us to grill on it. And mid way through our meal, when we had over sullied the rack by burning too much meat on it, he removed it with tongs into a specially designed bucket. He then replaced it with a fresh clean grill plate and a fresh coat of oil for us to work with. This was repeated once again before our dessert course as well.
The menu was made up of various laminated and coloured signs. The pictures allowed you to see what you are getting. Coming during happy hour was an effective way to test out the menu without committing and paying too much. Our logic is, if the inexpensive stuff is good the more pricier stuff should be even better.
We ordered several dishes as part of their happy hour deals. All the meat came raw and we cooked them as they arrived. Therefore I cannot guarantee the accuracy of meat to picture. I will blanket my post by saying the cooking process is just as important as the eating itself. The enjoyment we had and the time we took to put meat on grill, and to serve one another was almost just as satisfying as eating. Having to cook for yourself elongates the dining experience. You spend more time in the company of your guests. You spend more time socializing in between bites. You spend more time on one another.
As for the food, everything was flavourful and if anything was over or under cooked, we only had ourselves to blame. Though we did feel that the meat looses a lot of its flavour once it is cooked through. However we were able to use the available sauces as an easy remedy of this. All the meat looked and tasted like good cuts, we cooked them to our ideal tenderness. This is defiantly a fun activity to engage in with larger groups. The more people around the grill, the more food, and the more fun.
The “Chicken basil” would be a wise one to start with. Especially as the chicken was the least flavourful when compared to the others. Though it lacked flavour overall, it didn’t have enough time to properly marinade. It also didn’t have enough oil, this it constantly getting stuck on the grill. The chicken comes in either basil, spicy miso, or yuzu sauce. Basically, the three sauces everything else came in as well.
“Filet mignon ponzu”.
“Bistro hanger steak miso”.
The “Toro beef tare” was easy to identify because they referred to it as “beef bacon”. It was an accurately descriptive name.
On top of happy hour they were also advertising their “yakiniku fest” from July 7 to September 7. On it was New York steak for cheap, so we had to order s serving. Despite all the deals, there were so many specials, that it was all so confusing to wrap our heads around.
The “fried gyoza dumplings” was also part of happy hour. It was fried to order with a crispy skin. It was served with a nice sesame sauce for dipping. It had the same filling as the steamed gyoza.
The Mushroom medley and Broccoli offered us a way to take a break from all the meat. A side of veggies. Both were served wrapped in tin foil and goes straight onto the grill. This was a little harder to cook perfectly, given we couldn’t see its colour change and we didn’t have a timer. Over cooked or not, our fault or not, we finished both.
We also had the “Happy hour set menu” at $49.95 for two. This saved us $13 on everything that it came with.
Miso soup for two with cubes of tofu and sheets of seaweed.
The “Gyu-kaku salad” was a mix of lettuce, shredded cabbage, daikon, cucumber slices, cherry tomato, and boiled egg. It wasn’t anything special, but given the amount of meat we went through, this was a nice break and refreshing pause.
The “Steamed chilli dumplings” were delicious. Juicy pork coated in chewy dough, topped with chunky chilli, roasted garlic, and fresh green onions.
The “Sukiyaki bibimbap” was your typical rice bowl cooked at your table. The server tosses everything together with a raw egg right before your eyes. He then presses the mixture against the bowl to further cook it. The stone bowl is heated and the rice continues to cook within it. This made for good filler. The rice was tasty and delaying the cooking process longer crispened at our table for a nice crunchy texture. However my guest stumbled upon a bone by way of tooth, it was an unpleasant surprise that turned him away from further scoops. It also really wasn’t great with the barbecue meats. It already had beef in it and it was already pretty tasty.
Not on the specials menu, but on the regular one: one of my guests ordered the “sweet onion”. It was literally a chopped up raw onion for around $2. In hind sight, this wasn’t a bad order, but instead one that should have been ordered much sooner. Cooking it alongside the meat above would have lent both additional flavour. Instead this was ordered towards the end, and we watched him eat almost a whole, partially grilled onion by himself.
The “Yaki onigri” was a solid brick of rice shaped like a rectangle. It was also part of the regular menu. It was meant to be cooked on the grill like everything else. However it being such a thick mound of rice, only the surrounding seeds toasted on the grill, and we had to remove the onigri prematurely before the seeds burnt. What we were left with was just steamed rice.
I was impressed that even their desserts utilized the grill. The “Taiyaki pancake” was a sweet dough fish filled with red bean paste. We were given a new grill plate and instructed to set the fish down for two minutes to cook on both sides. It never went golden brown, went pale to black so we removed it from heat without a thorough cooking. The filling was whipped smooth red bean. It’s texture and taste is best likened to sweet refried beans.
With all the heat from all the grills and the warmth of a hot day we also ordered ice cream to cool down. Much needed before we went back out to brave the heat of a summer’s day. The ice cream made for a great sauce with the red bean pancake. The black sesame tasted like roasted peanuts.
The “Maple syrup gyu-kaku ice cream” was maple syrup and powdered malt mix over vanilla ice cream. Tasted exactly as it is described.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This was better than the all you can eat meal we were originally planning to go to. And the prices here came out to be better too: $23 per person for happy hour here, instead of the $25-27 per person for all you can eat else where. We had lots, but not the point of being stuffed, nor did we feel like we had to eat more than we could because it was all you can eat. This was a good amount of food, with a good variety of meats. And although they were seasoned similarly, they all looked different and tasted differently after cooking. And at $2-4 per plate, you can go wrong even if you didn’t like it. I would recommend this best on a cold day, as a nice way to warm up and enjoy an interactive meal with good friends. Don’t deny your cravings.