Get your tongs out. Gyu-Kaku is now open Uptown.
Today is currently the start of their “soft opening” stage, so they may not have alcohol and reservations are encouraged.
Gyu-Kaku specializes in Japanese “yakiniku” grilled barbecue. Every table has its own individual grill on which diners can cook their meat, seafood or veggies at their own pace and with a selection of sauces. It’s a similar tableside grilling experience to Let’s Meat, the local Korean barbecue restaurant in South End.
Gyu-Kaku’s grills are “Smokeless Roasters” that draw the smoke down away from diners, thereby enhancing the barbecuing experience and keeping you from smelling like a campfire.
Menu: Gyu-Kaku’s menu consists of ready-to-eat appetizers, noodle dishes, salads and soups along with raw beef, pork, chicken and seafood options and fresh vegetables for grilling. Unlike Let’s Meat, which offers all you can eat for a set price, Gyu-Kaku’s menu is priced a la carte.
Background: This international chain has more than 700 restaurants worldwide, including 50-plus U.S. locations in places like Beverly Hills, San Diego, Las Vegas, New York City, Atlanta and Miami. For research, the Agenda visited Gyu-Kaku’s Atlanta location at Atlantic Station — a local outdoor shopping and dining center.
Location: The Charlotte restaurant at 650 E. Stonewall St. in roughly 9,000 square feet of space at the new Savoy Apartments. For parking, Gyu Kaku offers validated parking for the first 90 minutes (it’s $4/hr after that).
OK, here are 12 things to know about Gyu-Kaku.
(1) Start with wings and things.
The “Miso Chili Wings” are a must-try warm up for any big meal at Gyu-Kaku.
These wings come in a set of four and are covered in a sauce of savory miso and spicy, crunchy garlic.
Related Agenda guide: 7 best wing spots in Charlotte
(2) Get your dumpling fix.
If you’re craving dumplings, try the “Chili Shrimp Shumai,” which also come in a pack of four.
These petite dumplings come in a citrus ponzu and garlic sauce and are topped with scallions for a crunch that accents the soft shrimp texture.
(3) Spice up your life with zesty small plates pre-barbecue
Order the “Spicy Addicting Cucumber,” which is a plate of mouth-sized cucumber bites in a spicy sauce. You’ll definitely be addicted.
Or, try the “Spicy Cabbage Salad,” which is a crispy stack of thin cabbage slices tossed in a Japanese dressing with a hint of spice.
If you’re feeling brave, order the “Yuzu Shishito Peppers.” About one in eight peppers is extremely hot, but you won’t know which are the hot ones until you dive into the pile.
(4) That’s not Kentucky fried
Gyu-Kaku’s “Japanese Fried Chicken” with chili mayo sauce is not your average fried chicken.
This fried finger food has a crispy skin and savory flavor that pair perfectly with the creamy chili mayo sauce.
(5) Eat all the meats
Once you’ve had your fill of the fun snacks and finger foods on the Gyu-Kaku menu, gear up for a meat feast.
Gyu-Kaku offers a wide range of beef cuts with a large price range as well, from thin slices of “Yaki-Shabu Beef” and “Angus Beef Ribs” at around $6 to the favorite “Harami in Secret Pot” and “Kobe Style Kalbi Short Rib” at $26.
The “Harami in Secret Pot” is a half pound of Gyu-Kaku’s best selling skirt steak marinated in a miso sauce (and recommended for two people).
The “Kobe Style Kalbi Short Rib” is a rich marbled meat with a choice of either sweet soy sauce or salt and pepper as seasoning.
There are about ten other beef cuts from which to choose, three selections of both pork and chicken and four seafood options, including tasty garlic shrimp.
(6) Can’t decide what to order? Go with their pre-fixe options.
Gyu-Kaku offers BBQ courses based on your group size.
For our group of three, we ordered the $90 Ninja deal. It included a wide variety of items miso soup, salad, mushrooms, calamari, white rice, s’mores — and a bunch of different meats that the bring out in waves.
(7) Or, go vegetarian if meat is not your thing
Gyu-Kaku has assorted vegetables you can grill or various options you can steam if you’re not interested in having meat sweats.
There are numerous non-barbecue vegetarian options on the menu as well. My favorite is the “Spicy Tofu Chigae Soup,” which is filled with tofu, kimchi, an egg and spicy highly flavorful broth that will warm you up no matter the weather.
Other tasty vegetarian options (without as much spice) include the “Shio Negi Tofu” and “Seaweed Salad,” both of which are more mild and refreshing than the tofu soup. The “Shio Negi Tofu” is a cold soft tofu dish that is covered in white soy sauce, sesame oil and scallions. It is a perfect vegetarian alternative to those wings and fried chicken bites.
(8) Send noods
If you prefer noodles over grilled meat, then Gyu-Kaku has you covered with several bowls of ramen.
Try the mild “Gina Negi Shio Ramen” if you’ve had enough spice. This bowl features salt-based house broth, an ample serving of noodles, thin slices of pork, sesame seeds, egg, green onion and sesame oil.
(9) Rice to the occasion
Gyu-Kaku also has several rice dishes that will not leave you hungry. These arrive piping hot to the table, and your server will immediately mash up the sizzling ingredients (even before you can take your food pics!). The end result, however, is delicious.
Order the “Sukiyaki Bimbimbap” with beef or vegetables. The dish includes a considerable serving of rice, as well as mushrooms, onion, green peppers, and, of course, raw egg, which cooks as your server stirs the steaming dish in its hot bowl. The bowl is flavored with a house special sauce and accented with sesame seeds.
(10) Try new things, like beef tongue
One of my favorite reasons to dine at Gyu-Kaku is that you’ll inevitably try food you’ve never eaten before. For instance, beef tongue.
One of the most popular cuts on the menu, this thinly sliced meat is rich and delicious, especially when combined with a few drops of lemon juice to enhance the flavor.
(11) Raw, raw, oh-la-la
In addition to all of the meat that cooks on the grill, Gyu-Kaku also has a variety of raw fish options.
Try the “Spicy Tuna Volcano” or “Tuna Poké Nachos.”
The “Spicy Tuna Volcano” includes four pieces of raw spicy tuna topped with scallions and perched on top of crispy rice cakes. The textures are an interesting and pleasing combination.
The “Tuna Poké Nachos” feature diced sashimi tuna, avocado, and seaweed salad. These are then covered in a yuzu basil aioli and a sweet teriyaki sauce.
(12) A million layers of fun
Lastly, a visit to Gyu-Kaku would be remiss without a slice of the legendary “Mille Crêpes” cake – a masterpiece of many layers of crepe and cream from the expert Lady M cake-maker.
Gyu-Kaku offers the green tea cake with a choice of green tea or vanilla ice cream. The many layered, soft, creamy cake melts in your mouth and pairs delightfully with the rich ice cream.
Or, just crush some of their signature s’mores.