“It’s been a crazy week. We’re so busy,” says Gary Ngo. Reached by phone, the owner of the first American location of the worldwide yakiniku chain, Gyu-shige, is dealing with a very good problem: Too many diners are eager to try his restaurant. Since it quietly soft-opened on February 14, the dozen or so socially distanced tables currently available have been packed.
What are diners ordering? According to Ngo, even he’s surprised at the popularity of the A5 wagyu imported from the Miyazaki prefecture of Japan. At $58 for a four-ounce portion of strip loin, the stuff isn’t cheap, but diners are eating it up. That’s just one of 27 meat options that are expertly grilled by staffers at the table. Other cuts of beef include tongue, short rib, filet mignon and large intestine. But the menu goes well beyond beef. Choices range from duck and pork belly to scallops and squid.
“We’re proud that they’re all nice premium cuts unlike other barbecue–they use marinades to cover up the taste of the meat itself. [Ours is] so good you don’t need to marinate. All you need is simple salt and some soy sauce to dip it in,” says Ngo.
The menu doesn’t begin and end with grilled meat, though. In fact, Ngo says sushi and sashimi have also been popular. Quirky rolls, including one that combines eel and tempura banana, stand alongside comparatively austere kaiseki-style seafood meals. Appetizers are divided into cold seafood options like uni shots and tuna-salmon yukke. Hot dishes include Korean seafood pancakes, chawanmushi and karaage.
Among cocktails, Ngo mentions the Snow White mocktail as a favorite. It combines coconut milk with lemongrass, pineapple and citrus. Desserts include taiyaki (fish-shaped waffles) with ice cream, matcha tiramisu and Kyoto Matcha crepe cake.
For now, Gyu-shige is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Diners can make reservations through the restaurant’s Yelp page. // 2980 District Ave., Ste. 100, Fairfax
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