The grill is very hot! The pots are very hot! Fully cook your food!

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I like a menu that comes with warnings. The menu at Gyu-Kaku has six of them. The grill is very hot! The pots are very hot! Fully cook your food! Use those tongs to prevent cross contamination! Eat that raw fish immediately! Keep children away from pathways!

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Thinly sliced beef, marinated and ready for the grill

The grill is in the table

Each sauce works with something

Fixings for s’mores

On this particular Sunday afternoon, David and I were looking for sushi, but the place we usually go to in this strip mall was closed and there was Gyu-Kaku, beckoning us with the scent of sizzling meat.

I usually avoid a place that makes me cook my own food, but ever since I had that relaxing, tasty good time at a Korean BBQ place in Dallas, I’ve had more of an open mind about it. Plus, this wasn’t one of those “walk over to the grill that’s located super far from your table” type of place. The grill is inthe table.

We lucked out by getting in just in time to take advantage of the weekend brunch special (Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.), a 20 percent discount off the big Gyu-Kaku multi-course meal for two ($48 instead of the usual $60). When the plates began to arrive, we wondered if we’d ever be able to eat it all. But because you can only cook so many things at a time, each course was well paced, with plenty of time to sip our sake, chat, and gauge our satisfaction.

The restaurant is a chain with 32 locations, 13 of which are here in Southern California, but this one in Scripps Ranch is the only one in San Diego. Gyu-Kaku means “Horn of the Bull,” and the chain prides itself on the quality of its meat. When I tasted the Harami Skirt Steak Miso, a 21-day-aged Angus skirt steak marinated in the joint’s signature miso sauce, I could see why they’d name the place after this protein instead of the chicken or shrimp that also came with our extensive meal.

We repeatedly checked to verify that the heat was turned up all the way, as some items seemed to take forever to cook. The Mushroom Medley, which arrived wrapped in foil that we were instructed to leave on as the mushrooms cooked, never did cook. It was the first thing to go on the grill and the last to come off, and those mushrooms remained raw. Eventually we put them directly on the heat, but by the time one became soft enough to bite, I was over it.

It was a sweet surprise to discover that our dessert was “make-your-own s’mores.” It didn’t seem very Japanese, but we had fun with it, roasting our marshmallows over the flame between us and squishing it and the chocolate between two Graham crackers.


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