I’m always reluctant to dine at a restaurant that can immediately accommodate a group at 8pm on a Friday. After being declined for a table at Ippudo and searching for a new place in the pouring rain this weekend, however, I couldn’t have been happier to be seated at Gyu Kaku right away. Gyu Kaku reminds me a lot of childhood favorite restaurant, Benihana, but instead of Japanese food, it’s Korean, and instead of sitting and watching talented chefs cook your meals, you’re making your own at your table. My visiting family and I were seated at a booth with a wooden table and a habachi grill in the middle. The place is seductive: dimly lit with black walls, it supplements the fun concept of cooking and eating with a small dose of sophistication.
The menu looked like a mess of hundreds of thumbnails of raw meat, so rather than selecting a la carte, my family and I went for order the Gyu Kaku meal for two that included salad, soup, salmon sashimi, garlic rice, and a variety of red meat, chicken, shrimp and veggies to grill for $90. Considering the amount of extra food despite splitting the meal between three people, this combination was quite a good deal.
I loved everything about the meal. The salad was cold and crisp, the salmon sashimi was incredibly fresh (and even better after searing it on the grill for a few seconds – an absolute crime in any sushi restaurant), and the sea bass was tender, flavorful, and smokey. The red meats won the table popularity contest, and between every variation we were able to taste, the Kobe was definitely the standout.
Another favorite of mine was the sukiyaki bibimbap, which was one of the few items that required no self-preparation. The waiter comes to the table with a stone bowl, stirs around the rice to cook the egg, and then spins it a few times so the rice crisps up against the hot edges of the serving dish. After waiting three minutes, the rice concoction is ready to eat, and along with the grilled meats, is one delicious garlicky concoction.
I could definitely see myself making a birthday party out of Gyu Kaku. Cooking food, while at times distracting to any formal conversation, is interactive, fun, and makes an adventure out of eating out with friends. Yes, cooking while starving can be overwhelming and not ideal for those looking to kick up their feet and be fed, but I will definitely be back when entertainment and originality calls.
Location: Multiple; 34 Cooper Square