A sweet surprise in savory Gyu-Kaku

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When Gyu-Kaku launched its first branch in the Philippines, it opened up to a public all fired up for its grill.

It happened at the Fort Bonifacio Global City. Within the fi rst few weeks of its outing, the Japanese restaurant was met with long lines of people ready to sample fresh meat in the burgeoning dining center of Taguig. There was much hype surrounding the place but that was far from unexpected. After all, when one is dubbed the “No.1 Yakiniku Brand in the World,” one is anticipated to, at the very least, heat things up. Gyu-kaku did that and more. Much to my surprise, however, the pleasure in visiting the place comes not only from its cooked meat, but also from its ice-cold treats.

With a name that means “horn of the bull” in Japanese, Gyu-Kaku opened its doors to a long line of customers at Fort Bonifacio Global City this April. Far from its humble beginning as a small restaurant in Japan, the store’s Philippine incarnation has taken on a form worthy of its now world-class stature.

Outside as well as in, the restaurant brandishes a mix of adventure and refinement as it mixes together sleek black walls and wooden fixtures—a homage to Japanese architecture with a quaintly modern twist. Its love for tradition does not go unnoticed, however, especially after we entered the place greeted with a hearty cry: Irasshaimase! Benny Bernabe, the restaurant’s Senior Operations Director, says that what sets the restaurant apart from others is their dedication to the principle of “Kando Sozo,” which means “all for a customer’s smile.”

“We value excellent customer service, and the guest’s outstanding dining experience is the center of our operations and marketing efforts,” he said. “We assure guests that they are all served fresh and quality meats.” And to first time guests of Gyu-Kaku, that’s not a bad place to begin their culinary adventure.

To start things off one can try Kimchi (Php125), Japanese sausages and bacon (Php245). One can also try the Horenso salad (Php195), a salad consisting of Japanese-style spinach with crispy garlic and creamy sesame dressing. The spinach leaves have a very crisp texture that goes very well with the bacon and sesame based dressing. The dressing, in particular, has a very nutty and creamy texture.

During peak hours, diners may notice that, even with the air conditioning, temperatures at the restaurant might go up. This is partly due to a flurry of waiters carrying containers of coal to hungry diners waiting to grill their own meal. The fact that diners can cook their own food has contributed to the restaurant’s popularity.

Bernabe added that the restaurant serves imported meats from countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States to assure diners of the quality. The Wagyu beef, in particular, is of superb quality, being Grade 5, the highest level under international classification standards.

One can choose from an assortment of meat, there was Wagyu Karubi (Php795), the Wagyu tongue shio (Php495), lamb chop (Php695), scallop foil (Php145) and chicken thigh fillet (Php165). Personally it’s better to grill the Wagyu medium-rare to retain the juicy flavors of the beef. The tongue shio in particular is very delicate and must only be cooked for a few seconds and drizzled with lemon sauce to enhance the taste. The Wagyu Karubi is sliced very thinly and almost melting in one’s mouth due to the high marbling of the beef. The lamb chop is also quite tender and flavorful, while the scallops are quite fresh and sweet.

Most of the dishes come with an assortment of sauces that one can choose to suit one’s taste. The choices are tare, shio, miso, spicy miso, teriyaki, garil and basil. Tare is sweet-salty, shio is salty, the miso is salty with a strong soybean taste, and spicy miso is a spicy version of the miso sauce. For the beef, the best sauce would have to be the tare sauce, while for seafood items, the shio sauce would be better. However, even without the sauce, the meat items are already quite flavorful.

While it is renowned for its meat products, it is actually in desserts where Gyu-Kaku really shines. It offers various types of interesting and innovative flavors that are guaranteed to satisfy any sweet craving. The ice cream that comes in a sample plater (Php 245) which serves four different flavors: Gyu-Kaku (vanilla), Kurogoma (black sesame), Matcha (green tea) and Yuzu (Japanese lime) sorbet.

The ice cream platter comes with four large scoops of ice cream that must be consumed as fast as possible as the ambient heat from the restaurant can cause it to melt away quickly. Apart from the creamy goodness of the ice cream, the toppings liberally sprinkled over the ice cream give an element of flavor and texture to this sweet treat. The flavors Gyu-Kaku serves offer a mix of the familiar and the novel that would definitely satsify one’s sweet tooth.

With an excellent lineup of hot and cold items, Gyu-Kaku certainly has all its bases covered. That’s good news for the establishment but it’s not always so for the customers. Even up to now, months since its launch, people ares till fired up for Gyu-Kaku and there are times when one would have to wait for a seat. Patience, however, is a virtue because those wiling to endure the line will most likely get their just desserts.

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