Gyu-Kaku A Good Fit At Windward Mall

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - June 01, 2011
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Rick Nakashima and lyle Matsuoka. Jo McGarry photo

It took a couple of minutes to realize what the flashing to the left of me was. Eating appetizers at newly opened Gyu-Kaku at Windward Mall, I was aware of a constant, rapid movement just across the table.

Turns out it was the well-coordinated movements of one family and eight pairs of chopsticks flying back and forth between mouths and plates of food with barely a break in between.

I thought it was an apt image to bring as a description of the “new” GyuKaku. The successful franchise - there are more than 700 locations, including one on Kapiolani Boulevard and one in Waikiki - has adapted to its Windward audience, and instead of a cookie-cutter brand, owner rick Nakashima has cleverly modified both menu and décor to suit his Windward guests.

The result is one that will appeal to diners from lunch to late night.

“We’ve created some different dishes that we feel bring more local flavor to the menu here in Kaneohe,” says operating partner Lyle Matsuoka. “We wanted to provide somewhere that would appeal to a wide range of customers, and we also wanted to create dishes that reflect the kind of food local people like to eat.”

Rick Nakashima and his partners also brought popular ruby Tuesday to Hawaii, and judging by the lines that formed outside the restaurant last week and the crowds that poured in over the weekend, GyuKaku is another perfect fit.

We shared an excellent ahi Poke ($8.95), Spicy cold Tofu ($3.25) and an order of Namaru ($5.75) that was so good we ordered three more portions.

Shrimp Katsu ($6.95), one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, has been a huge seller since opening day, and the bite-sized shrimp patties, lightly dusted with panko and then deep fried, have the irresistible crunch that perfect tempura technique brings. Served with a wasabi mayonnaise, the dish begs for a cold beer as accompaniment. and while I appreciate that most of you will go for Gyu-Kaku’s wide selection of meats, I found the salads - especially the house Gyu-Kaku Salad ($6.95) - and Spicy cold Tofu ($3.25) reason enough to go back. you’ll find all the traditional Gyu-Kaku grilled meats (filet mignon, kalbi, rib eye) on the menu along with new offerings that include the marbled P Toro ($5.25), a rare cut of pork that sizzles up bacon-style within seconds of hitting the tableside grill.

There are high quality cuts of meat like Kobe Kalbi Short ribs ($21.95) and Kobe rib Eye ($26.95), but you also can feast upon more humble fare like Liver ($4.50), Tongue ($6.95) and Skirt Steak ($8.50).

For our all-girl lunch, the table was spilling over with salads, seafood and fatty little Berkshire sausages (yes, that was me), but I could easily have ordered - and eaten - almost anything from the menu. oh, and while it’s easy to be wooed by the banana and caramel deep-fried cheesecake, don’t overlook the humble vanilla bean ice cream, made by local company Tropilicious, that almost steals the show with its super premium creaminess and generous helping of vanilla beans.

By opening up the restaurant’s interior, providing tables large enough for families or small enough for intimate dining, and by employing a group of enthusiastic, friendly waitstaff trained in the trademark Gyu-Kaku style, the newest addition to Windward Mall has clearly announced to its Windward community that all are welcome here.

Happy eating!

Windward Mall
Open daily 11 a.m.-4 p.m. for lunch;  4-11 p.m. for dinner


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