Restaurant Review: Gyu-Kaku

A meal at this Japanese steakhouse in Clarendon is a theatrical experience.


Gyu-Kaku, which means “horn of the bull,” is interactive and fun, making the place equally popular with families, couples on dates and teenagers who are out on their own. (Reservations are snatched up well in advance, so plan ahead.)

The staff are well trained, eager and knowledgeable—and they provide plenty of theater, whether it’s mixing together egg yolk, sautéed beef and rice for a bibimbap dish; tossing salads tableside with a flourish; grilling strips of meat and cutting them into bite-size pieces with scissors; or slicing open foil packets of vegetables that have puffed up on your grill.

Beef tongue on the grill. Photo by Jonathan Timmes.

The cocktails here are ample and pack a wallop. Spritz the lime wedge garnish into a saketini to balance out its boozy mix of plum wine, sake and vodka. Or go for a colorful Geisha Girl (vodka, rum, orange juice, cranberry juice) in shades of pink with a lime wheel.

Some of the pan-Asian dishes have eye appeal but lack flavor. The spicy tuna volcano—dollops of vapid tuna mush atop deep-fried rice—is sadness in appetizer form. The shrimp shumai (dumplings) in chili sauce are a lackluster rendition of that Chinese restaurant standard. After two bites of “addicting cabbage salad,” I go on the wagon.

I have better luck with The Samurai, a meal that relieves the burden of having to make menu decisions. First comes a mixed green salad with hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, red peppers and cabbage in a nicely tangy vinaigrette. Rounding out the appetizers are miso soup; thick, al dente egg noodles in garlic sauce; and a mashup of beef sukiyaki and bibimbap, the Korean meal-in-a-bowl.

Photo by Jonathan Timmes.

But the grill action is where it’s at. Each table is set with grilling tongs, chopsticks, paper napkins (too flimsy) and three sauces: sweet soy, spicy (it isn’t) and ponzu, all of which impart (too much) sweetness, saltiness or both.

Categories: Food & Drink