Happy New Years! New Years is an important holiday globally, and that is certainly no different than in Japan where the Japanese New Year is celebrated for the first three days- or up to the first two weeks of ichi-gatsu (January).
It is custom for Japanese to decorate their houses and complete a thorough house cleaning to ring in the new years as well as eat Osechi. However, this year, I decided to embrace the New Years by filling my spirits and dining at Gyu-Kaku, a yakiniku restaurant.
Gyu-Kaku means “Horn of the Bull” in Japanese. Yakiniku, meaning “grilled meat” is a Japanese term that refers to grilled meat which is cooked over a hot grill. Gyu-Kaku offers a dining experience where customers share an endless list of different cuts of meat from ribeye to chicken and with different flavors over a flaming charcoal grill. If you are with a group or having a hard time choosing what dish to gourmet in, Gyu-Kaku offers both an a la carte menu as well as different yakiniku courses which come with pre-selected appetizers, meats and even dessert for everybody’s enjoyment.
On New Years, I came as a party of 3 and elected to choose Gyu-Kaku’s “Ninja” course. For starters, this course came with salad, miso soup, white rice, cheese corn butter and fried calamari.
The salad was delicious and a perfect way to start the course, in particular I loved the dressing which tasted like a sesame dressing and the lettuce was crisp. We were later served with cheese corn butter, and this was truly a fantastic appetizer. The dish is composed of melted cheese with corn and is the perfect mixture together. The cheesiness of the cheese and the crunchiness of the corn makes this appetizer a must-have to ring in high spirits for the new year. I also had fried calamari which was also crispy and came with a delicious dipping sauce. In total, the appetizers were a delicious start to the course.
Before the primary course arrived, we were served with a dish of garlic mushrooms. The mushrooms were soft and covered in a garlic sauce and was a perfect complement with the other meat dishes that arrived later. I was able to sample the yaki shabu and the chicken breast. The yaki shabu was thinly sliced beef with a miso flavor. The miso flavor was very light and the yaki shabu cooked very quickly making it a quality starter protein for the feast. The chicken breast was served in a basil sauce and while it took a few minutes longer to cook, the wait was worth it- the flesh was very tender inside and the basil sitting on top of charcoal made it a unique tasting meat.
Pork belly was also served as part of the course and it did not disappoint. There was a perfect proportion of the meat and fat which made it a juicy meat to eat after grilling it freshly on the grill. I was later presented with another spectacular yakiniku dish- the Harami in Secret Pot. I loved the presentation because the protein arrives sitting inside a small pot, which I surmise is to help enrich the flavor of the meat by keeping the sauce mixed thoroughly with the meat. This meat was served with a side of pepper. The meat had a sweet soy flavor and was so tender throughout. I would say this dish was the best meat dish of all the dishes that were served.
I also had Umakara Ribeye, which was a meat that had a light barbeque flavor, the kind that reminds you of baby back ribs. Despite looking very tough and brittle on the outside, the meat was so easy to slice through and was a fantastic choice to end the meat feast. And finally, there is always room for dessert. The course was wrapped up with s’mores, in which we were served with graham crackers, Hershey bars and marshmallows to melt over the charcoal grill. The whole course was outstanding and I would certainly recommend this course to anyone who is a meat lover. I am so glad that I chose this course to celebrate the beginning of the New Year. Itadakimasu!
『Japanese Cuisine / Restaurant Guide』
Writer: Hector Hsu