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Friday, January 09, 2009

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Dining - Pasadena (Old Town)

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Dining - Pasadena (Old Town) 1

It goes without saying that hanging out with the guy cousins and their friends is very different from hanging out with the girls. With the girls, we're more conscious of getting the most bang for our buck. That usually means Korean barbecue or cheap eats. With the guys, it's about getting the best alcohol deals. And the buy-one-get-one-free Kirin and Sapporo beers in frosty mugs definitely fits the bill.

Actually, the guys had taken advantage of Gyu-Kaku's happy hour drink and appetizer specials several times. What? Without me? :(

Just guys, my brother said. But I didn't want to go to hang out with them... I just wanted to see what Gyu-Kaku was like since they sometimes mentioned it.

Luckily, cousin Q's older brother's friend isn't so exclusionary. So when he was in town for his birthday, he invited me along. Yay! I get to play with the boys.

Gyu-Kaku is a chain of Japanese barbecue restaurants. This location was in Old Town Pasadena, one block off the main strip on Green Street, next door to Bucca di Beppo Italian Restaurant.

 This is the waiting area by the bar before our table was ready.

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The guys come for the buy-one-get-one-free Japanese beers served in large frosty mugs. Beers and cocktails range in price from $4 to $7. The deals are during happy hours or late night but only if you order at the bar. So order your drinks first while you're waiting and then bring them to the table. Sometimes there's drink specials tableside. Just ask first to clarify so that you don't order drinks expecting to get one free, only to be charged for it.

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We also ordered a mojito.

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I was torn between the cherry blossom or lychee saketini. The baby-faced bartender recommended the lychee saketini and told me he'd make it pretty for my pictures so he added something blue. How nice!

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The lychee flavor wasn't quite as pronounced as I'd hoped, but still a very nice cocktail.

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The restaurant had a buy-one-get-one-free sake special and it was a birthday outing. The menu says Kikusui (+1, very smooth) is made "using the exquisitely white Gohyakumangoku rice, a strain especially developed for sake, this produces an elegant aroma with a very light palate." I don't know what the +1 means, but this was very, very smooth sake. Not that I drink sake often, but this was very light, refreshing, went down real easy. The sake glasses were frosty too.

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Gyu-Kaku is a yakiniku restaurant, Japanese grilled meat based upon Korean barbecue. But don't expect the variety of side dishes you get with Korean barbecue. The meats have various marinades such as Shio White Soy (white soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil), Tare Sweet Soy (soy sauce, fruit juice, roasted garlic), Miso (red miso soy bean paste, sugar), and Garlic (fresh garlic paste, white soy sauce, sesame oil).

We had all already eaten dinner so we were really just there to hang out. The spicy Cajun miso-marinated beef, chicken, and pork belly was $3.95. Spicy Cajun shrimp was $6.95. It's a good thing none of us were hungry because the portions were tiny. Each plate you see below was actually two portions. The other marinated meats are more than twice the price - $5.95 to $8.95 for a 3.5 oz portion.

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We also ordered $4.95 horumon intestines, sliced beef intestines in a Shio White Soy and Miso marinade, $5.95 bacon-wrapped asparagus, and $2.95 shishito peppers. I really liked the intestines, very tender, slightly chewy.

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The garlic shrimp bibimba was $7.95. It's the Japanese version of Korean bibimbap, but with much less ingredients, served in a hot stone bowl.

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I also, scarily enough, saw Gyu pho on the menu...

My brother's wife ordered the $3.95 yakimochi ice cream for dessert. Mochi to put on the grill!

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The grilled mochi was hot, crispy, and chewy, to contrast with the cold green tea ice cream.

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A month later, we were back again for cousin Q's older brother's birthday.

The holiday special was happy hour all day so the beers were $2 for a small mug, $5 a pitcher. You can get about five mug pours from one pitcher.

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Since it was lunchtime, we opted to get the $19.95 all-you-can-eat special. We started with miso soup with some tofu cubes and seaweed.

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And a choice of four meats: BBQ chuck kalbi, rosu beef garlic, yakishabu beef miso, and chicken. Of course, we ordered everything. The kalbi was slightly sweeter, the rosu beef garlic was slightly more garlicky, and the yakishabu beef was sliced thinner. But beyond that, I had a hard time telling the meats apart.

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We also got zucchini to grill.

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This was the chicken.

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We also got edamame, a salad, and spinach garlic, sweet potatoes, and broccoli to grill.

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A choice between white or brown rice. This was necessary because all those miso-marinated meats were really salty.

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And if you show them your parking structure ticket, free S'mores. Well, I don't know if that was just that day, I only noticed the free S'mores sign on the bathroom door. One order is two graham crackers, 2 pieces of chocolate, and two marshmallows. If you're going to put the graham crackers on the grill, remove them very quickly or they'll burn.

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Four hours of eating and many, many, many beers later, we were finally ready for the cake. My brother and his wife brought in an excellent chocolate cake from Aux Delices.

Aux Delices - Pasadena (Old Town)

Other posts about Old Town Pasadena:
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant - Pasadena (Old Town)
Mi Piace - Pasadena (Old Town)
Old Pasadena Film Festival - Pasadena (Old Town)
Pinkberry - Pasadena (Old Town)

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Dining (Various locations)
70 W. Green St.
Pasadena, CA 91105
Monday to Thursday Dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. to midnight
Sunday Dinner 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Happy Hours Monday to Thursday 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and after 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and after 10 p.m.
All-You-Can-Eat Barbecue (Various prices) offered Friday to Sunday.
Happy hours and specials often change so please verify before going.

Aux Delices
16 W. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91105
Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

1 year ago today, Trieu Chau Chinese cuisine at Seafood Village - Temple City.
2 years ago today, Rau Muong Xao Toi Voi Chao (Vietnamese Water Spinach Sauteed with Garlic and Fermented Bean Curd).



  1. Mmmmm..that looks delicious! The s'mores and yakumochi especially. How did it stack up to the Korean equivalent?

  2. wow this place looks like tons of fun. I dont think we have anything like it here in Houston. HA another place to add on my to do list when I get back to Cali. Thanks for the post.

  3. This looks delicious! The street holiday lights look very familiar to me. I like that you got to capture the speeding car on the top photo! It looks very cool.

    Interesting place I have to say. It was very nice of the bartender to do something to improve your photo! It's not very occasional that people would be happy and do something special so you could take a good photo.

    I've never heard of white soy sauce before. Wonder how that would look like! It was cool that you were also able to grill your own mochi. Mmm...

    The meats, even raw, look delicious the way they already are to me! Maybe it's because of the sesame seed on top.

    Dig the idea of cooking smores on the grill. Your melted marshmallow picture looks so tempting! The chocolate cake looks excellent too with all the rich chocolate!

  4. I've never seen grilled mochi, it looks yummy! Usually when I read any of your entries, I feel hungry...but in this case I feel full. That is a heck of alot of food!! :)

  5. I went there once two years ago, so freakin expensive and I was still hungry ;-;

  6. Oh....yakiniku, thanks for reminding me that's it's been a while since I've had it.

  7. The food, the BBQ, the beer...looks like it's party all day all night :)

    P.S But I hate eggplant even more. I'm ok with pumpkin/butternut squash. Also I bought it over the Chinese New Year since it symbolizes good fortune. Buaahahhaha!

  8. I hate to tell you this, but if we go KBBQ or JBBQ, you would have to do all the cooking. I hate manning the grill. Too much work. Ha!

    Seriously tho, you should have ordered the gyu pho!!! That would have been epic! LOL

  9. Gyu Kaku is one of my favorite restaurants! We usually go to the one in Sherman Oaks ...just love it. Great review!

  10. Thanks for allowing us to celebrate Cousin Q's older brother's friend's birthday as well! That is sweet of the bartender to make the drink look especially vibrant!

    And also, I really did want to thank you for always posting fantastic Vietnamese recipes and your amazing 24, 24, 24 post during Thanksgiving--and for also referring me to Foodbuzz! You are an inspiration! (I wasn't sure if you saw the little link, but next time, I will put it at the top and make it bigger!) I am very grateful for all of the wonderful food blogging friends that I have learned from through the years (with an emphasis on YOU).

  11. Ben,
    Korean barbecue is always my preferred choice. :)

    Go for the all-you-can-eat option. Ala carte is pricey! But it's great for drinks and hanging with friends.

    The photo with the lights were taken in December so holiday lights were definitely still up. White soy sauce is just light soy sauce, I think? It doesn't literally look white.

    But you're used to Korean bbq! Spread over 4 hours, this didn't fill me up as much.

    Craving Cinnabon,
    Yeah, ala carte is freakin' expensive.

    This was my first experience with yakiniku.

    So you made an exception for the lunar new year but not for me? :(

    Pepsi Monster,
    Haha! Maybe some other time. But I haven't dared venture to Korean pho yet, so gyu pho is scary.

    It's fun huh?

    You're much too sweet lady. Your Mardi Gras post was awesome all on its own.


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