The suggestion for the priciest AYCE Japanese BBQ establishment in the west side of the city came after a thorough review of similar eateries: Gyu-Kaku had been tried, Daldongnae had been eliminated, and Gyubee's menu appeared decent at best. A lukewarm review and general reluctance from the sleepy polar bear further steered me from the Hurontario-and-Eglinton spot.
It's worth nothing that, while the booth itself was quite spacious, leg room had been compromised drastically due to installation of the grill infrastructure beneath the table. A few spotty bits were observed on the seating cushions; these were voiced to the dress shirt-donning, manager-like authority, who expressed little concern by promptly flipping it over and gesturing that I sit down.
Resting at the inner edge of our table were a trio of sauces: a sweet-savoury BBQ, tangy Ponzu, and squat pitcher of Spicy Sauce. Also seen was a small container of togarashi for those craving solid specks of heat. A printed QR code was tacked onto the separation panel to access the menu from the convenience of one's smartphone. Above it was a plexiglass barrier for visual delineation from the diners on the other side of the panel.
A request for warm water was met with mint chocolate ceramic mugs filled with a zingy lemon infusion. Several water refills ensued over the course of the meal, ensuring hydration in the face of smoky, seasoned meat.
After congregation of the entire party and pondering of the menu for some time, we finally agreed on a starting selection. The items were relayed to our curly-haired server, whose name wasn't far off from one half of ODG's favourite child duo. Buttered Corn, Cabbage Slaw, Enoki Mushrooms, and two dishes of kimchi were delivered shortly, along with a chunk of beef fat for readying the grill.
The corn and furikake-topped shroom stems were shifted to the grill. Meanwhile, our orders began to arrive steadily, soon accumulating to an amount incapable of being easily shifted across the table.
Takoyaki, Cheesy-Mussels, Onion Soup, Beef Tongue Appetizer, and a Poke Bowl with Coconut Wasabi sauce were chosen. While I did not sample the first two, I was informed of their mediocre profile. The Takoyaki was camouflaged beneath a generous dusting of bonito flakes, soft enough to disintegrate into the pile with the poke of a chopstick. In contrast to the gooey, cheesy surface of French Onion Soup, Takumi's rendition was, quite frankly, a loose, grey puree. The profile was consistent with its appearance: drab, dull, tacky, and, admittedly, a tad bitter in its aftertaste. Decent was the Poke Bowl, though the coconut wasabi sauce bore greater resemblance to spicy mayo than a creamy, tropical blend lightened with horseradish.
My personal preference lay with the Beef Tongue Appetizer: ranging between 25 mm to 50 mm in thickness, the slices were seasoned lightly then tossed with garlic and scallions for a solid punch. Two more plates were requested in the latter rounds.
Garlic Shrimp earned a silent nod of approval for crisp edges and plump interior, exceeding the standards that Gyu-Kaku had put forth.
Pineapple and Zucchini had also made their way onto the grill. Both remained stiff even after gaining char marks, at which point I deemed our household's holiday-ready, pan-frying method with butter more enjoyable.
- The sake of the Sake-Marinated Clams to be tastier than the clams themselves
- The Beef Tongue Appetizer more indulgent than its pre-grilled version
- Filling Leaf Lettuce with a dash of ponzu and charred beef yielded ssam wraps emphasizing the savouriness of the meat
- Boneless Beef Short Rib more tender and superior to the Marinated Beef Short Rib
- Salmon Fillet smooth from a half-steaming/half-cooking process, yet certain segments undeniably salty
He remained attentive throughout our stay, even taking the initative to set aside a Yuzu Creme Brulee for our table to prevent disappointment. In response to my gleeful yelp, I observed him swerve in our direction for dessert delivery, despite his original path being geared to our neighbour.
My expectations had erred at the higher end of the spectrum, leading to a greater degree of disappointment at witnessing the uneven surface charring of the contents of the foil cups. Another aspect warranting suspicion was their room temperature properties - chilled they were not, at least inadequately so.
Having gazed upon the Yuzu Creme Brulee quite miserably and the Matcha Creme Brulee with an air of disgust for its "bitterness" (Oh, kids.), the sleepy polar bear leaped for the Banana Melona, but not before I had firmly snapped the top quarter off. Indeed, it was the same Banana Milk flavour I had been hoping for - Binggrae takes the cake!
"Next time!" our curly-haired server replied. In that moment, I hadn't thought far enough for a "next time". However, in consideration of the variety of offerings, comprehensive service, and absence of hiccups, a follow-up event isn't impossible. Affirming the potential is the noticeable lack of greasy fumes clinging to one's hair and apparel - an impressive feat amidst the customer density.