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81 Good

Try the Japanese take on Korean barbecue at this elegant, bustling yakiniku chain.

34 Cooper Sq., New York, NY, 10003


Known For

The lowdown

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 a 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 banchan, 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.

What you need to know

Insider Tips Monday to Thursday there’s a “late happy hour” from 9:30 p.m. until last call.

Recommended DishesU.S. Kobe kalbi; harami miso; yakimochi; prix fixe BBQ course.

DrinksFull Bar, Sake/Soju

Noise LevelCivilized