Japanese Barbeque in Center City (Gyu-Kaku)
Originally posted by Raven at A Chocolate Cat
Last weekend (oh how I love those every-other Fridays) I took my fiance out for a nighttime dinner date – We have opposite schedules, so I now attempt to make every other weekend a time to do something pretty nice. Two weeks before then I had taken him out to Simply Shabu, a Korean based HotPot restaurant based within Chinatown of Philadelphia. That’ll be a review for another day. ♥
The restaurant is nestled right off of the Ben Franklin Parkway, along 19th and Callowhill, just a few blocks away from the Community College and Moore College. The really awkward part is the fact that I had lived in the area for almost 4 years for when I went to school, and hadn’t once heard of this place being so close! At the same time, maybe it’s better that I didn’t have such easy access there… They are expensive, even though it was completely worth it. The area is upscale and high class with lots of high rise apartments, obviously having been built within the last few years as the city has been doing its renovations. Considering that it was a Friday night, lots of people were out, whether having parties in those condos, or having a time at the other indie-like restaurants that littered the block.
Gyu-Kaku’s First Impressions
Gyu-Kaku stands out. I mean, it’s on the corner of the block with really high walls of glass, letting you see into the dim black and red decor of the place. It had class. At the same time, while it was somewhat awkward upon first stepping in, the feeling quickly left us. I think it was more from the personality of the staff there, from the three girls who immediately greets everyone in Japanese “いらっしゃいませ” (irasshai mase) and calling out orders and arrivals to the other wait staff, to the two waiters who tended to our table who were super personable, friendly, and not afraid to make friendly and lighthearted jokes. It was a great contrast to the otherwise serious and upscale appearance that was given off by the deep mahogany decor.
When we first sat down at our table, our waiter made sure to greet us, asking us if we’ve ever done this before. Obviously not – but you didn’t feel silly for not knowing so. He jokingly went over the obvious warnings on the front of the menu such as don’t touch hot bowls, don’t touch the grill, watch out for cross-contamination and eating raw food, and don’t let children crawl all over the aisles and table. We went over how turning up or down the grill worked, using our tongs for cooking the meat, and so on.
We got recommendations of the various packages they have for meat, what entrees were popular and delicious, and what meats would be great to have and even the cocktails they recommended. I’ll have to admit, it took us a while to decide, especially for me since i’m not much of a meat eater – while we considered going for the meat lovers package (7+ types of meat cuts, as well as various vegetables and side dishes) it was just too much for us considering we were just starting out.
In the end, we went with three types of meat, a sukiyaki bibimbop rice bowl, and tuna volcano rolls. Our waiter turned on and greased up the grill once we secured our orders to give it time to heat up while we waited…
And then came the food.
Our waiters brought out the sukiyaki bibimbop first. It was presented in a hot bowl, sizzling (one of the things we were advised not to touch!) and with a freshly cracked egg in the very center of the rice. See, at first I thought it’d be a problem: I don’t usually eat eggs straight.
He mixed it in for us, and amazingly the heat of the ingredients and bowl itself fried the egg into a consistency even more fine and blended than most fried rice. And oh, was it delicious. The tuna volcanoes came as a tuna and spicy mayo mix atop squares of rice that was grilled into a delectable crispy goodness, while remaining fluffy on the inside. A bit too spicy for me, but that didn’t stop me from eating it. I do wish that it came with four pieces, rather than just three!
I had ordered the short rib, and some vegetables while the fiance had went for spicy pork and miso marinated steak. Oh man, one day I’ll get to try the Kobe meats but.. my wallet wasn’t having it this time. Anyway, the waiter had explained everything to us – how most of the things only took 30 seconds max to cook through. This was no joke. The first few times, we had let it cook even longer given being new to the whole cooking your food (this was literally the second time in a formal restaurant setting) but after that, I had become more comfortable with it.
I don’t think I could put it fully into words, but it was delicious. My only thing was that I ended up not really enjoying the vegetables that I bought – next time I’ll make sure to pass. I would like to try one of their cocktails, however. The Tokyo iced tea really caught my curiousity, but was rather expensive at 13 bucks or so. The smores that you could make? I was just wayyy too full for them. I guess I sort of lived it through the table across from us, haha (believe me, I’m not usually an evesdropper!)
Overall, the bill came up to about 50 or so. About 16 dollars cheaper than their meat lovers deal which covers all of their basics, but we were stuffed with what bit we did eat.
While my fiance isn’t all too sure he’s going to make a trip back, I think I might return on my own for their lunch special which lets you pay 10 dollars at most for a full course meal.
Overall? Check it out.
19th and Callowhill in Center City Philadelphia, located just off of the parkway and a short walk from the art museums.