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The Thrill of the Grill

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
March 3, 2013

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Things are heating up at Windward Mall, thanks to Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ, a relatively new hot spot to hit Kaneohe’s dining scene since it opened its doors for business almost two years ago. Diners can’t get enough of the thrill of the grill, as you cook your desired meats and vegetables over a stone grill, which, as an added bonus, doesn’t leave you smelling like barbecue after your meal.

According to general manager Jason Wong, Gyu-Kaku is the perfect place to bring people together. The possibilities are endless as far as the cuisine is concerned, and the trendy and relaxed atmosphere makes for an intimate setting.

Dining Out recently caught up with Wong, as he delved into the ins and outs of Gyu-Kaku, a place worth visiting again and again.

DO: Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ is always bustling with diners who can’t wait to sample the famous cuisine here. What makes Gyu-Kaku stand out from other yakiniku-style restaurants?

Wong: Unlike other yakiniku restaurants, which are usually all-you-can-eat, everything at Gyu-Kaku is served a la carte or in sets. We are an upscale yakiniku restaurant and we only utilize high-quality meats. There is high demand for our meats. In fact, we probably go through 100 pounds of chicken per week.

DO: For someone who has yet to dine at Gyu-Kaku, how would you describe the dining concept?

Wong: As a Japanese yakiniku-style restaurant, Gyu-Kaku is a great place for the whole family and to meet up with friends. We provide a very interactive dining experience here, where you can cook your own meats, enjoy a variety of dishes and talk story. Gyu-Kaku’s vibe is laid back. We don’t put a time limit on our customers, so you can even stay for five hours, if you wish.

We’re known for our lunch sets, which are complete meals for one person, and dinner sets, which are complete meals for two people. Here you can order a bunch of different things. Portions are usually around 4 ounces. We want our patrons to be able to try a little bit of everything.

DO: What are some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes?

Wong: Kobe New York ($13.95) offers diners Kobe steak with Japanese sea salt. It’s highly marbled and has a lot of flavor. This exceptional cut of meat is now prepared by the distributor exclusively for Gyu-Kaku — the only location internationally where can find this specific cut of beef.

Our customers also like our Yakiniku Set ($8.95), which is only available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for lunch. This set features garlic chicken and yaki shabu teriyaki with salad, rice, soup and a beverage. Yaki shabu teriyaki is a tender, thin cut of beef.

When looking for our barbecue beef best-seller, our No. 1 pick is Harami Miso Skirt Steak ($8.50).

Besides the meats that you cook on the grill, our bi bim baps are popular. For instance, we have a Smoked Pork Bi Bim Bap ($8.95), a rice dish served in a stone bowl. This dish consists of rice, smoked pork, carrots, snap peas, onions, kimchee and egg splashed with shoyu. It’s similar to kimchee fried rice, but it cooks in the bowl and our servers will mix it together for you.

DO: Delicious! Are there any new items on the menu that patrons must try?

Wong: Yes. We have a new appetizer, Agedashi Tofu ($4 regular, $3.50 happy hour), which is not listed on the menu yet, but our servers will tell you about it upon your visit. Agedashi Tofu is a firm tofu, fried with a barbecue sauce, garnished with chichimi (seven spice), and topped with nori, ginger and green onions.

DO: What do you think has contributed to Gyu-Kaku’s continued success?

Wong: I would say our happy hour because it’s basically never-ending. Diners can take advantage of happy hour specials available all day Sunday and Monday, as well as from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to closing Tuesday through Saturday. Additionally, Gyu-Kaku features “Super Happy Hour” deals from 9 p.m. to closing Sunday through Thursday, which is a great deal for the late-night crowd. We draw in a lot of people for happy hour. We also recently unveiled our very own beer called Aka ($2.50 glass, $10 pitcher), a red lager. It looks like a heavy beer, but it’s really light. It’s caramel-like with a hint of toffee-like nature. It has a real nice flavor to it. It’s our top-selling beer at the moment.

We also have an unbeatable 10-course menu, which is perfect if you’re really hungry or want to try a bit of everything. And many people would be surprised at our dessert selection. We have S’mores, Bread Pudding Bites, Deep-Fried Cheesecake and a variety of ice cream, including green tea and wasabi flavors.

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

46-056 Kamehameha Hwy. #F1, Kaneohe
744-2157
Open daily at 11 a.m., last dinner seating at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and midnight Friday and Saturday
gyu-kaku.com/hi/windwardmall.htm