Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ - happy hour
I've been meaning to visit Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ with Dennis and we finally made it there this week. Our friend David joined us for dinner to check out the Monday all day happy hour. It was busy at 8pm and I provided my cell to be texted when a table opened up (estimated 45 minutes). To pass time we strolled through the nearby Trader Joe's. I’ve been thinking of late... wouldn't it be awesome if Oh-SoYummy had our own minion (similar to This Tasty Life)? I looked at our friend David curiously… but no, he preferred “consultant”!
20-25 minutes later, we checked back at the restaurant and a table was available within a few minutes. After sitting down, I pointed everyone toward the containers of dipping sauces, consisting of sweet soy, spicy, and ponzu. We prepared our sauces but noted the thicker sweet soy required more *shakes* to get it out! The sign behind the sauces showed that a membership card costs $1, and each $250 you spent earned $25 off your next bill – essentially a 10% 'earnings' ... not too bad of an investment.
The grills here were round and a little smaller than some of the other restaurants I've been to. The grates are smaller too so food wouldn’t drop through the holes as easily! We were hungry and ready to order meat! In fact, there was a whole menu dedicated to the happy hour items, 4 pages worth!
The first item to arrive was our order of Harami Skirt Steak ($8.50), accompanied by the instructions of "30-45 seconds per side." They told us cooking times for all the meats, which was very helpful! They definitely did not do that at Tsuruhashi!
The meat was heavily marinated and was on the saltier side after cooking. It could be eaten alone but the zestier ponzu sauce seemed to be the best partner if dipping was desired. The spicy dipping sauce completely overpowered this though! The dish above looked looked different from the meat platters so it helped us remember which plates touched raw meat and which one we should eat off!
The Pork Belly ($2.95) came out and it was in a million pieces! Well, not quite, but when you put them on the grill, there was a lot of turning to be done! It also broke apart as we turned or moved it off the grill. The recommendation was 2-3 minutes per side. I accidentally left it on for a few too many seconds so there was a little more char. The taste itself was alright but a squirt of lemon juice went a long way.
The Toro Beef ($3.95) only needed 30 seconds of cooking time before they were ready. The flavor came out on its own with little prompting and we didn't even need sauce with this. Kind of like beef bacon. We all agreed this was one of the better items we had tried, and at under $4 an order was budget friendly! A second round was ordered!
The Beef Tongue ($5.95) was another quick cooking item, needing only 30 seconds of heat per side. The meat itself wasn't anything special but pairs well with some lemon or ponzu sauce.
The Kalbi Short Rib ($8.50) was a thicker cut of meat and only required 30 to 45 seconds per side to cook. I preferred the full 45 for me.
This succulent meat tasted similar to the beef short ribs at Korean bbq places but you could definitely taste the textural difference! The meat was super tender and there weren't as many ligaments as you would find elsewhere. This one also required a second round!
To finish off the meat fest, I added an order of the Spicy Pork ($3.95). We were instructed to cook for approximately 45 seconds per side. This was our least favorite item of the night. It was extremely fatty in some parts, which I'd expect in pork belly, not spicy pork. Also it did have a bit of kick in it, but our friend found that it tasted better with the spicy sauce! His reason being we were replacing the not-so-great spicy taste with the better flavored dipping sauce!
After eating delicious mushrooms at Tsuruhashi, I was excited to try the assorted mushrooms here. They came out in foil and we were told to leave them on the grill for 2-3 minutes per side to steam them. After time was up, we pulled them off, and opened the container. The overall taste was on the buttery side but just didn't compare to grilling!
After completing everything above, the bill rang up to be $60 before tip. I was actually a bit hungry but was thinking of going elsewhere for dessert. Dennis fared better due to his two green tea Arnold Palmer refills (no fresh lemonade though). In the parking lot, we all realized that we forgot one thing... to order rice! That would have probably finished the job. Next time then!
Previous happy hour visit
I tried Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ a few weeks ago with a friends and two of his buddies. He's like a “VIP” because he's been there almost ten times himself. Heck, they recognize him! We just used him for his food experience! I didn't take notes so I'm going off memory for the items we ordered. Also, the light at this table was directly above and very bright, in contrast to the darker corner we sat at for the other visit!
The other girl in our group had the small Gyu-Kaku Salad ($3.95), a very simple salad indeed. I had considered splitting the larger size but decided to go carnivore instead.
I was afraid to taste the Grilled Yuzu Shishito Peppers ($4.95) but they ended up not being as spicy as I expected. I left them for everyone else to eat though!
Friend was raving about their unique Cheese Wontons ($2.50), like a version of mac and cheese in a different form. I agree it was interesting but not something I'd order for myself.
I think these are the Sesame Chicken Wings ($4.95). I didn't see any other wings on the menu. Standard with a nice crispy fried skin.
I liked the Fried Bacon Chips ($3.95). Don't forget to dip them in the accompanying sauce for a treat! These were on the restaurant’s “must try” list, although the first page alone had 8 "must try" items! .
After appetizers, we were ready for the meat! Our awesome waitress Tessa changed out the grill and oiled it often. Sometimes the flames went WHOOOOSH!
This was one of the Yakiniku Festival specials, the Prime Rib Eye ($8.95). The seasonings looked amazing and the flavor was there but I disliked how there were entire chunks of fat after cooking some pieces. Did I order that? Nooooooo.
This is Chicken ($2.95) which is standard fare. Dip it in some sauce cuz it needs it. The other place flavored it better. I’d save room for the beef instead.
The Bistro Hanger Steak ($6.95) was somewhere on the better side though I don't remember details. We also threw the tiny veggies on the grill.
The Filet Mignon ($6.95) was heavily covered with garlic. It wasn't all that tender or tasty for us.
We had the New York Steak ($5.95) around the same time as the Filet Mignon and felt the same... not too unimpressed. So what was good, you wonder?
The Toro Beef of course. Plus the Kalbi Short Rib. More or less, all the things we liked on my visit with Dennis. Probably had about three orders each! We also had the beef tongue though there was more pepper in this visit!
The S’mores ($1.95 for two) were recommended for dessert. The grill was pulled off (keeps that meat taste far away) and we roasted marshmellows campfire style. Can you believe someone in our party had NEVER made smores before? The manager Jessica personally helped out the poor fella! Nothing fancy about the ingredients themselves, only the experience haha!
We had quite the feast with mucho mucho food. No hunger at the end of this meal! I also finished off a Lychee Martini ($4) and the Toyko Peach ($4), delicious and sweet as far as girlie drinks go. The guys were downing the $1.50 beers and a bottle of hot sake. The final bill was somewhere around $125 before tip so it definitely can get pricey, compared to an all-you-can-eat Korean bbq! The difference between kbbq and jbbq is that the quality of meat is higher here.
Gyu-Kaku is now open for lunch too! The prices look reasonable so I would like to revisit to try those!
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
9844 Hibert St
San Diego CA 92131