Mon-Thu, 11:30am-11pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30am-midnight; Sun, 11:30am-10pm
6 at 51st St.; E, V at Lexington Ave.-53rd St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Cars, gadgets, hair perms, and more: The ideas may originate elsewhere, but the Japanese spin lifts the mundane to new heights. At Gyu-Kaku, a bustling cook-it-yourself, California-based chain restaurant, Korean barbecue gets the Japanese makeover. Sauces are sweeter and milder; vegetables and delicate seafood come wrapped in easy-to-grill foil packets. Dominoes of harami skirt steak, marinated in sweet dark miso, turn caramelized and succulent on the hot grill. A quick sear of the fat-veined Kobe kalbi yields unctuous, buttery bites enhanced by the house’s soy-based tare sauce. There’s no panchan, Korean-style nosh freebies, but reasonable prices mean diners can splurge on starters like the Hawaiian-inspired ahi poke, wasabi-soy-marinated cubes of pink tuna stacked on a bed of seaweed. The yakimochi dessert, less nostalgic than s’mores but just as fun, pairs grilled, chewing-gum-size blocks of nutty mochi with ice cream. Best of all, every roomy, dark-stained wood table in the expansive dining room houses gas-powered, diamond-mesh downdraft smokeless braziers, with vents that suck smoke back into the grill, so you won’t reek of roasted flesh all night.