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What are you hungry for? Shiitake mushrooms? Beef short ribs? Chicken in a basil pesto sauce? Squid? They have it all at Gyu-Kaku. Cook it your way.
What are you hungry for? Shiitake mushrooms? Beef short ribs? Chicken in a basil pesto sauce? Squid? They have it all at Gyu-Kaku. Cook it your way. (David Allen / S&S)

OKINAWA CITY — There’s no blaming the chef here if your meat’s overdone — you cook your own.

That’s what I like about yakiniku restaurants. Let’s just cut out the middle man. Bring me the meat and veggies and I’ll barbecue them to my own liking right at my table.

In other parts of the world, this would be known as a Korean barbecue. I just call it good eats.

Gyu-Kaku’s Awase location — it’s a chain found throughout Japan — is one of the newest yakiniku on Okinawa and is a bit upscale. Charcoal logs placed in the pit in the middle of your table provide the heat. And the servers will change the grill when it gets too caked with greasy charred chicken bits.

The meat is also well prepared. Instead of plain chunks of chicken, my plate came with chicken marinated in a delicious basil pesto sauce. And there was decidedly less fat than the fare at some of the all-you-can-eat, help-yourself style yakiniku.

Our feast for two included plates of basil chicken, shiitake mushrooms, pork, egg drop soup, seaweed soup, “King of Harami” beef (tender meat from the diaphragm area), beef short ribs, P-Toro Pork (actually pork jaws) and two whole squids. We also split a huge sizzling hot stone bowl of “Bibinba,” rice topped with beef strips, vegetables, seaweed and spices.

It was all good. So good, in fact that I suffered brain fog several times, my chopsticks poised over several selections, unable to decide what I wanted to eat next.

With soft drinks, the tab was a meager 5,100 yen. Not bad for an evening meal for two.

A word of warning, however: The serving staff spoke very little English, so it might be a good idea to bring along a Japanese friend. However, there is a picture menu in English, so more adventurous diners should be fine.

Gyu-Kaku has a sign on its outside wall that translated means: “We want to be your favorite place to eat.”

It could be.

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to


Hours: Open daily 5 p.m. to midnight with last orders at 11:20 p.m. Lunch service from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Prices: Most meat or vegetable plates are less than 500 yen. Egg drop soup is 490 yen, and “Bibinba” rice is 780 yen. Cocktails cost 450 yen, draft Kirin beer is 890 yen. Soft drinks cost 290 yen. A glass of house wine costs 390 yen.

Specialty: Raw meat, technically. But seasoned and ready for the grill at your table. Also, be sure to try the “Bibinba” rice!

English menu: In the form of a picture menu.

Dress: Casual.

Clientele: Mix of Okinawans and Americans.

Location: Take Highway 329 South and turn left at the McDonald’s just after the Shimabukuro turnoff to Love Hotel Row. You’ll be on the road to the Awase Mall (there’s a huge sign for Toys ‘R’ Us). Gyu-Kaku is on the right just before the mall. (There are three others in the chain on Okinawa, one in Urasoe and two in Naha.)

Phone: 098-932-4129.

Web (In Japanese)


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