A taste of Japan: DIY barbecue has arrived in uptown Charlotte

Gyu Kaku is now open in uptown Charlotte.
Gyu Kaku is now open in uptown Charlotte.

“Gesuto ga tōchaku shimashita!” That’s what you will hear when you enter the doors of Gyu Kaku, Uptown Charlotte’s newest authentic Japanese dining experience. Waiters and servers chant in unison to alert everyone in the restaurant that our guest has arrived.

With over 700 locations around the world, this one-of-a-kind experience featuring yakiniku (grilled meat) is now in Charlotte — the first in North Carolina.

Franchise owner Helen Xia fell in love with the concept while on vacation with her daughter in Hawaii, and for the last five years she has worked to open a location of her own.

“Charlotte is such a developing city,” Helen Xia, owner of Gyu Kaku Charlotte, told CharlotteFive. “There is a population of nearly 1 million with a lot of young professionals, which is great for this concept.”

Xia moved to Charlotte from the Raleigh area just to open the restaurant, which is also a first for her. She couldn’t be more thrilled to share a place that she loves with the Charlotte community.

“I’m a mom, and I want great food for my daughter, so I also want to make sure that I bring great food through my restaurant.”

How it works

Once you are seated at your table, your server will go through a run down of the menu. For groups of two or more, it is recommended that you order one of the pre-set courses.

These allow you to try several premium meats plus starters, grilled veggies and desserts for a set price.

Veggies prepped for grilling are served at Gyu Kaku. ALEX CASON PHOTOGRAPHY

When you order the meats, you grill them yourself at your special table-side grill, which adds a little fun to the experience.

Cards at your table explain the proper grilling techniques, as well as grilling times, for each item. DEANNA TAYLOR

There are cards at your table that explain the proper grilling techniques, as well as grilling times for each type of meat — easy for even a novice griller.

Your waiter will also explain the best sauces or marinade to pair with your meats (note: all are gluten free).

The Gyu Kaku brand has created special smokeless roasters that actually suck the smoke from the grill into the bottom of the table and away from you while cooking.

Menu offerings

Gyu Kaku is most known for its 21-day aged Harami miso skirt steak, a technique used to increase tenderness and flavor. Fans also come for the certified Angus kalbi short rib marinated in tare sweet soy sauce.

There are kitchen-prepared options also on the menu such as bibimbap, noodle dishes and Japanese fried chicken — if you prefer to leave the cooking to someone else.

In addition to Japanese barbecue, Gyu Kaku offers kitchen-prepared menu items, including noodle dishes. ALEX CASON PHOTOGRAPHY

In addition to the set courses and premium grilled meats, the Charlotte eatery features a full bar. This is perfect for an after-work cocktail or Friday night hangout with friends.

The drink menu, also in theme with Japanese culture, provides traditional offerings such as sake variations, Japanese beers, Shochu and Asian-inspired cocktails.

Don’t forget about dessert. It’s only right that with a tableside grill, you opt for s’mores.

Order s’mores for dessert and roast the marshmallows yourself over the grill at Gyu Kaku. ALEX CASON PHOTOGRAPHY

But if you’re looking for something a little more authentic, Gyu Kaku is the only restaurant in the country to offer desserts from the popular Asian-based bakery, Lady M’s (which has 12 locations in New York, California, Massachusetts and Illinois). The bakery is known for its Mille crepes — choose from the green tea or signature flavor.

The Charlotte location is currently in the soft opening phase. What this means: It is only open for dinner, and you’ll need a reservation.

Xia predicts that the restaurant will open on a full schedule in about 2-3 weeks. At that time, it will also open up for lunch.

Gyu Kaku offers DIY Japanese barbecue. ALEX CASON PHOTOGRAPHY

Gyu Kaku

650 E. Stonewall St., Suite A

Instagram: @gyukakujbbq