Yakiniku at Gyu-Kaku

I heart Groupon. Not only because of the discount factor, but because its enticing deals push me to try local businesses and restaurants that I might otherwise drive right past without a second glance. I must’ve driven past Gyu-Kaku’s Mid-Wilshire location thousands of times, and each time, I would make a mental note to myself to dine there. But for whatever reason, I never did. That is until recently when a Groupon offer of $15 for $30 worth of food at this Japanese yakiniku restaurant popped up in my inbox.

Yakiniku is a Japanese term that means “grilled meat” and it broadly refers to grilled meat dishes. At first, I kept confusing Gyu-Kaku for a Korean barbecue joint where you grill your meats and veggies tableside. I guess I wasn’t completely off base since at some point in Japan’s culinary history “yakiniku” was associated with Korean cuisine. I’d been to a Korean barbecue restaurant before and really enjoyed cooking my own food, so I figured that a date with Jave at Gyu-Kaku would be equally entertaining and force us out of the movie date night rut we’ve recently fallen back into due to all of the good movies we’ve been going to this holiday season.

While Gyu-Kaku has several SoCal locations, we chose the West L.A. location because it’s close to home, and nobody has time to sit in rush hour traffic after a long day at work. When we arrived to the shotgun style restaurant on a Monday night, we were promptly seated at our table and were told that happy hour was in full swing all day. So of course we started with some sake-infused cocktails which were delicious and anything but strong which is good since I’m not a big drinker.

Sex on the Beach & Rising Sun

Then, we proceeded to place a massive order starting with the Okinawan Sweet Potato Tempura and the Steamed Chili Dumplings for our appetizers. While the tempura was good, it wasn’t memorable. The star of the appetizer course was definitely the dumplings. Being married to a Jamaican for nearly six years now, I’ve definitely become a fan of spicy food, and I was happy to find that these pork-filled dumplings had the perfect amount of red chili to make our mouths tingle a bit without setting them ablaze. The crunch from the sesame seeds was a nice touch to break up the soft texture. I really wanted to order a second round of dumplings but decided not to so that we could save room for everything else we ordered.

Okinawan Sweet Potato Tempura

Okinawan Sweet Potato Tempura

For our meats we ordered filet mignon, lamb sirloin, and scallops accompanied by asparagus, corn butter, and a mushroom medley for our sides.

“Is that enough for two people,” I asked our waitress.

“Yeah, that’s a good amount of food,” she nodded.

Either we didn’t believe her or we were just in a gluttonous mood – I think it was the latter – so we also ordered the Spicy Kalbi Bibimbap and the Chicken Garlic Noodles. Both were a revelation. Both dishes came served in sizzling hot iron bowls. The bibimbap – meaning “mixed rice” – was served with grilled marinated beef short ribs and topped with sautéed, seasoned veggies.  Delicious! Our waitress told us that the Chicken Garlic Noodles are a favorite dish, and they were also very good. But be forewarned that this dish can be a meal on its own because the noodles are so dense and filling.

Chicken Garlic Noodles

Chicken Garlic Noodles

Spicy Kalbi Bibimbap

Spicy Kalbi Bibimbap

All of our meats came to our table uncooked but pre-seasoned and marinated. My favorite meat by far was the lamb – juicy, tender, and somewhat sweet and savory from the marinade. All of the veggies came wrapped in foil and ready to throw on the grill. Our waitress gave us estimated cook times for the veggies although our asparagus needed much longer than the seven minutes she suggested.

Lamb and filet mignon on the grill

Lamb and filet mignon on the grill

The rising heat from the grill warmed our faces and our moods as our drinks and conversation flowed and as small plates of meat to grill kept arriving at our table from the open kitchen nearby.  When dessert rolled around and we saw S’mores on the menu, I was immediately sold as I haven’t had a proper S’more since circa 1992. A sticky, sweet S’more was long overdue!

Dining at Gyu-Kaku was also long overdue. And my days of Gyu-Kaku drive-bys have officially come to an end!

This post is a part of Date Nights L.A. – a new series on my blog wherein I highlight local points of interest that Jave and I explore during some of our weekly date nights. In any relationship, it’s important to keep things fresh, and the same is true of my relationship with Los Angeles – my home, my friend, my nemesis, my love. So here’s to gaining a new, fresh perspective of L.A.!

Note that the total price of our meal, after applying the Groupon, came to about $50 including the tip. Check out Gyu-Kaku’s website for locations and menu info.

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20 Responses to “Yakiniku at Gyu-Kaku”

  1. Jess @UsedYorkCity
    Twitter: usedyorkcity
    December 24, 2013 at 2:02 am #

    I went to one of these restaurants when I was in Japan a few summers ago and loved the concept of “grilling” your own food, brilliant! However, I have to say your experience looks even better due to that DESSERT! Love smores:-)
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted…Merry Christmas! + GiveawayMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 24, 2013 at 6:45 am #

      I’d love to go to a yakiniku style restaurant in Japan. Japan is high on my list of places to visit – can’t wait to make that a reality!

  2. JR Riel
    Twitter: driftersblog
    December 23, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Mmm…I REALLY love yakiniku! Everything looks so awesome and delicious there. Great post.
    JR Riel recently posted…Exploring Gaudí’s “Park Guëll” in Barcelona, SpainMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 24, 2013 at 6:47 am #

      Thanks, JR! I’m definitely going back for seconds…and thirds… 😉

  3. Mike | Earthdrifter December 22, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    It might be hard to not find good Japanese in LA. Those dumplings look so good.

    Last summer I was taken to an Izakaya or Japanese bar/restaurant called HONDAYA in Little Tokyo. Japanese people are serious culinary connoisseurs. You’ll find them eating there. I can’t recommend this place enough.
    Mike | Earthdrifter recently posted…Breakfast at San CamiloMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Thanks so much for the recommendation. I’m definitely going to have to try this place on a night out with my girlfriends!

  4. Freya
    Twitter: HolidayNomad
    December 22, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I love Japanese food, because of this post I’ll have to find a Japanese restaurant tonight. I do not use Groupon as much as I could, planning to change that.
    Freya recently posted…Ice Hiking and Ice Climbing in IcelandMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Oh, I’m sure that you’ll become a Groupon believer once you try it. It’s perfect for anyone who loves to save money just as much as they love trying new places.

  5. Marisol@TravelingSolemates December 21, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    You wouldn’t heart Groupon?! Isn’t it great. It does not only offer you nice deal but introduce you to other places in your area you wouldn’t know exist but also entice you to try those places you don’t normally pay attention to. It looked like you and Jave have a wonderful date night at Gyu-Kaku. Everything looks delicious. I hope to try it next time I visit SoCal.

    • Dana Carmel December 21, 2013 at 11:21 am #

      You’re based in NYC – right, Marisol? If so, there are a handful of locations near you, so you should definitely give it a try!

  6. Mike December 20, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    Oh Dana and Jave you two are slayin’ me with this yummy food post tease! While not the same it brought back memories of Ichiban which I love. But, this is far more cool in that you guys got to cook the food!! Once again Reno is, literally, always 20 years behind the rest of the modern culture on all levels and who knows when we will ever get a great place like Gyu Kaku. I haven’t had a Sex on the Beach cocktail in probably 30 years. That made me smile seeing that drink again. Places like this are so dangerous for me (and I can eat ALOT) but you’re right on the noodles being a filler. I would start jonesing for more dumplings then be too filled up for the other treats like the meats. And you get to finish it off with s’mores! That sent me over the edge. Great post! :)
    Mike recently posted…My Golden Retriever, Phoenix, And I Believe In Santa ClausMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 21, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      I’ve never tried Ichiban, but it looks like they have a few locations locally so I’ll have to give it a try.

  7. Rachel M December 20, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    What a lovely place, the ambience looks great, and the meals scrumptious.
    Rachel M recently posted…Temple Point ResortMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 21, 2013 at 11:21 am #

      It was quite yummers, Rachel! 😉

  8. Mary {The World Is A Book} December 19, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Bookmarking! I need to go to one of these and look for a Groupon deal for this place. I see there’s one in Pasadena and we’ll be in the area next week. Everything you ate looks delicious! Drooling over the garlic noodles. I can imagine my kids eating whatever I give them, including veggies, with a promise of s’mores :) Looking forward to getting more ideas from your date nights. Great series idea!
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted…Tropical Fun at a Luau in OahuMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 20, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      I think your kids would really enjoy this place because they’d really feel like they’re a part of the food prep process. And yes, you’ll definitely have some pull with the promise of S’mores! Glad you enjoyed this post! 😉

  9. Agness December 19, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    What a lovely place to dine out on a budget. It’s really cozy and I wish I could have some spicy kalbi bibimbap and sweet potatoes on the side. That looks and sounds so delicious!
    Agness recently posted…WWOOF Around New Zealand for Under $25 A DayMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      It was definitely delicious. I think the noodles were my favorite, but they’re just so filling!

  10. Sarah December 19, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    Drooling all over my keyboard right now!! The S’mores are a cool twist! :) I can’t believe it only cost you $50! I like your Date Nights L.A series!!!
    Sarah recently posted…8 Days in South VietnamMy Profile

    • Dana Carmel December 19, 2013 at 8:23 am #

      Thanks, Sarah – glad you like it! I know, the S’mores were a perfect ending. The food was so good and they have locations all over SoCal and around the world, actually. Even in Asia.

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