The smells permeate every thread adorning the body, scenting most severely cotton clothing and just-cleaned tresses. One returns reeking of grill elements, which then proceed to linger for days onward. It's an experience from which I derive little enjoyment, chiefly as by no means a carnivorous creature.
An OpenTable reservation was arranged. Taking to the same parking garage as short-lived excursions to Kariya Park and Gong Cha, we proceeded to ground level via one of the many stairwell accesses. Signage indicated travel via elevator, yet the nearby concierge hollered at us, "WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!". I pointed innocently to the sign and its directional arrow, at which point he engaged in a thorough description of a long-winded way to the restaurant. Apparently, Gyu-Kaku was situated in the neighbouring building; it mattered not to me, and I proceeded with this route. Yet, in a matter of seconds, he angrily stood up, plastered on a mask, and pointed back towards the parking garage from which we had come. We departed as told, not because it was the quicker route, but because his tone had replaced all trailblazing innovation with utmost annoyance.
At the centre of our table was a large, circular grill and at its edge a trio of condiments. Behind the array of dipping sauces sprouted a thin metal rod with an angled attachment at its top, similar to a mini mic stand, with spout-like contraption instead. It was later learned that the apparatus was an extinguishing device in case of accidental combustion. The response had come following initiation of the question on the customer side, and no safety protocols were discussed otherwise. In the presence of high heat and flammable materials, I would anticipate words of caution to be uttered at the bare minimum, by any member of the floor staff.
Sake Cocktails were supposedly rarely picked, as draft pints and house sake overwhelmed in popularity. He noted decency of the Sake Screwdriver from his experience as a customer, though the highball cocktail was too common of a combination to pique my interest.
Gyu-Kaku Salad and Napa Kimchi arrived next. While the kimchi appeared to be outsourced and inadequately fermented (ie. sour), the medley of greens was greatly appreciated. The fresh mix of lightly-dressed greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber would prove essential in alleviating satiation sustained from the meat-dominant meal. Wedges of hard-boiled egg were also well-received for protein content.
In place of the Gyu Sushi was the Tuna Tataki, the only plate of the evening that hailed from the sea. Presented before us were four slabs of tuna nicoise, much less vibrant that the slices adorning salads of similar nature. Again spotted were the ever-so-roughly chopped scallions, this time joined by pickled onion and bitter fragments of fried garlic. These fragments hovered about room temperature, with a snappy, cracker-like consistency rather than the anticipated sharp crunch; the deviation confirmed outsourced origins once more.
It didn't occur to us until much later that the Garlic Shio Cabbage had failed to make an appearance altogether.
The manager proposed a table change, professing poor performance of the grill at our existing seating. We relayed receptivity to this suggestion, migrating to a brighter, quieter section of the dining area as multiple members of the serving crew assisted in the shift. New bowls of miso soup were offered, however we opted to abandon them in the face of more captivating dishes.
With the move saw an instant surge of delectability. The sections adopted delightfully crisp edges while maintaining tenderness at its centres. The marinades emanated throughout, infusing with charcoal essences from the grill.
Beef Sukiyaki Bibimbap was served in a hot stone pot. Our server offered to mix the components for us, and urged to us to do so swiftly should we undertake the task ourselves. Based on previous experiences from Hub, the act posed minimal difficulty. That said, the dolsot was likely not hot enough to generate 飯焦 (alternatively referred to as "crunchy rice"). The flimsy spoons were another aspect garnering wariness. In spite of crispy rice components, the dish was thoroughly tasty: well-seasoned with several strips of marinated sukiyaki meat.
Assuming a format of smaller shards, the ribeye involved quick flips on the grill to prevent burning. It was odd to see ribeye presented as such.
A departure from samgyupssal, the Pork Belly was nice and thin, allowing for swift, hatched charring. It also comprised of more flesh than its Korean counterpart, which is too greasy and satiating for my liking.
The Shrimp Garlic left an astounding impression, more intense than I had ever expected. Although a few checks were required to ensure doneness, its bouncy texture (爽ness!) and garlicy brininess were impeccable.
- Meat cut variety and size (pre-portioned for ease of consumption)
- Marinade and pre-marination process (vs. completely raw meat to be later doused in sauce)
- Grill height and format (submerged grid vs elevated with ring of egg and cheese)
Individual bathroom stalls were located by the entrance, but where viable, it is recommended to take our business elsewhere in review of their cleanliness status.