We are lucky to live in a region saturated with Korean barbecue. The Japanese equivalent, known as yakiniku? Not so much. That’s why anticipation was as red-hot as a tabletop grill when we announced that Gyu Shige was coming to NoVA. The global chain has more than 250 locations worldwide, and the first in the United States debuted in Fairfax’s Mosaic District on Valentine’s Day weekend.
Since then, the modern dining room with its faux bonsai branches separating two seating areas has been one of the hardest reservations to get in Northern Virginia. Why? The not-so-secret ingredient to Gyu Shige’s success is platters of A5 wagyu shipped straight from Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture.
Cuts range from 3 ounces for $48 to a full 7-ounce strip loin for $98. No matter what type of wagyu the diner picks, it arrives with much fanfare, vapors of dry ice streaming from a plate decorated with a single orchid.
While diners cook most of the meats from the menu of 30-plus grilled goods, a trained server takes up the tongs when it comes to the intensely marbled beef. It is seared just enough to render the lacy fat that threads through nearly every micron of muscle. The hot slices of meat are served with a trio of simple accompaniments: Himalayan salt, earthy truffle salt, and piquant freshly grated wasabi. The server encourages his charges to try a piece with each individually before combining them to taste. A squeeze of lime is also included, to add a bit of acid to the adipose beef.
But this edible performance is the last part of the proceedings at Gyu Shige—at least, the last before a slice of not-too-sweet Kyoto matcha crepe cake or a fish-shaped waffle called taiyaki. Before even thinking about food, it’s advisable to order a mocktail, perhaps The Voodoo, a passion fruit blend that’s rendered purple with the addition of butterfly pea.
But a drink is just the first step in a dance that is best executed in many courses. Appetizers include Japanese favorites like agedashi tofu, takoyaki, and karaage, though before embarking on an orgy of turf, we recommend partaking of some surf.
The tuna-salmon yukke features an ornate ring of avocado surrounding cubes of Day-Glo fish. Perched on top is a barely poached egg, the yolk of which coats the fish and combines with the soy-based sauce.
It’s possible to have a meal of nothing but sushi at Gyu Shige, but the grill is the inarguable center of the proceedings. Whether it’s hanger steak, brisket, or a wagyu strip loin, the meat on offer requires no marinating. All diners need is that pair of tongs, some scissors to cut their grilled goods into bite-size pieces, and an appetite for the finer things.
Grills sizzle at every table in the sleek black dining room with Japanese design features.
Tuna-salmon yukke, brisket, A5 wagyu
2980 District Ave., Ste. 100, Fairfax
Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday; reservations recommended
Appetizers: $3-$15 Sushi: $6-$35