A chain of Japanese party-time Yakiniku (Grilled Meat) Joints in Pasadena.
Yakinuku literally translates as to “Grilled Meat”. Now, I shouldn’t have to wax poetic about the joys of grilled meat to sell you on Gyu-Kaku. The fact that there’s also a party going on at the same time could be a bonus…maybe.
The principle works about the same as at ChoSun Galbee. You order the food, and it arrives before you uncooked, and marinated. You sizzle it up yourself, at the convenient charcoal pits embedded in your table. Three to five minutes later you’re eating.
Now, if you’re worried about cooking at your table, don’t worry, the Wait staff is on hand to give you tips. They’re not quite as proactive as the ChoSun staff (where they’ll practically yank the tongs out of your hands), but they’re knowledgable.
Now, the main drawbacks to this place are the following. One, despite the fact it’s a chain, its real popular. Two, because its real popular, most of the crowd are young people getting their drink on, which is not necessarily bad if you’re looking for a party. However, if you’re looking for a quiet spot for you and your date to chat, this may not be the place for you.
Now, another of the supposed drawbacks (at least according to some wusses at Zagats) is that you leave smelling of Japanese Barbecue. I’m sorry, but can you think of a better way smell?
WHAT SHOULD I GET: Let’s just say that their Harami Miso Skirt Steak is their bestseller for a reason. And let’s also just say that I’m a sucker for anything in Miso (which is red bean paste and sugar). But don’t limit yourself to what I like. There are four other marinades to try: Shio White Soy, Tare Sweet Soy, Garlic and Basil. Experimentation is encouraged by both the staff and myself. Also, there is a Spicy Kalbi soup on the menu, which is just about the most flavorful thing I’ve ever tried anywhere on any menu.
One last thing, Gyu-Kaku is an underrated restaurant for vegetarians. I have brought Vegetarian friends here, and they’ve left veeery happy. And they have a fantastic selection of vegetables made for the grill; especially the Japanese Sweet Potato (with butter) and the Spinach Garlic. Both are reasons to eat there, even if meat never passes your lips.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: You can follow the Dim Sum Formula for the number of dishes you order, but be sure to round down, especially if God forbid, you’re avoiding the veggies.
Also, when it comes to cooking times, the Wait staff is bang on the money…at least when it comes to cookin’ up the meat. When it comes to the veggies, I’ve found that their timing can be a bit off. Just make sure you watch the veggies (especially those sweet potatoes) like a hawk.
PARKING: Yeah, here’ s the downside. I’ve been to three locations, and the parking situation was difficult at all three. Price of being popular. Pasadena and Pico both don’t have their own lots, though they do have valets. Fortunately, in Pasadena’s case, you can park in the Schoolhouse Lot down the block for a nominal fee. The Sherman Oaks location has a parking lot that seems to be full 24/7 year round. So you might have to find spare street meter parking to get inside.
Here’s the info from the Pasadena Location Webpage:
Meter parking available south of Green St. on De Lacey & Dayton St.
Meter is free Mon–Thu after 8pm (rules may vary)
Valet – $7 with validation, $10 without
Public parking – Closest parking structure is located on DeLacey. The first 90 minutes are free and it costs $2 for each thirty (30) minutes thereafter with a $6 maximum.
70 W. Green St.
Pasadena, CA 91105
Tel: (626) 405-4842
Everyday 11:30am–5pm (last call)
Mon–Thu: 5pm–11:30pm (last call)
Fri & Sat: 5pm–11:30pm (last call)
Sun: 5pm–10:30pm (last call)
Monday & Sunday All Day Long
Tues–Sat 11:30am–6:30pm (last call)
Tues–Thurs 9pm–11:30pm (last call)
Fri & Sat 10pm–11:30pm (last call)