Gyu-Kaku Poke On The Windward Side

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - October 05, 2011
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Lyle Matsuoka, Gyu-Kaku managing partner, and Rex Ibanez, general manager, with ahi poke. Leah Friel photo .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Rex Ibanez, general manager of Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ at Windward Mall, has quite a success story.

He was born and raised on the island of Maui and moved to Oahu to attend Kapiolani Community College, and then graduated from a business college.

After working at a restaurant as a busboy, he realized he wanted to stay in the restaurant industry and worked his way up to become a teppanyaki chef and then a sushi chef.

Ibanez worked for several top restaurants on Oahu, and then became director of operations for a large sushi chain, where he was involved in all aspects of the operation, opened 11 new restaurants and oversaw 14 restaurants throughout Hawaii.

Ibanez has been with Gyu-Kaku since it opened Windward Mall. The restaurant has tabletop hibachis for yakiniku-style cooking, and the menu has a good variety of meats (including its new Kurobuta pork), seafood and vegetables. One of my menu starter favorites is the Wafu Salad, a healthy combination of cabbage, sprouts, snap peas, avocado and tomato dressed in a tangy wasabi dressing. It also has a full bar with a good selection of wines, beers and sake, and happy hour specials.

Oh, did I mention the mouthwatering vanilla and chocolate bread pudding bites that are new to the menu, and “broke da mouth” good a must-try!


Ibanez is looking forward to taking on a bigger role in the near future, opening new locations throughout Hawaii. For more information, call 744-2157.

Poke (to slice or cut) is usually served as an appetizer or snack. Poke consists of bite-size pieces of raw fish mixed with seaweed and a very wide range of ingredients including onion, green onion, vegetables, herbs and seasonings.

This recipe is only served at the Windward GyuKaku location, and Ibanez is kind enough to share it with MidWeek readers.


* 1 pound ahi chunks
* 1/2 cup medium-diced white onions
* 1/2 cup chopped green onions
* 2 tablespoons sesame oil
* 1 tablespoon La-yu (spicy sesame oil)
* 1 tablespoon Yamasa shoyu
*1 teaspoon Arashio (Japanese sea salt)

In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients in the order listed. Mix well.


(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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