Sunday, August 28, 2005

Oahu Yakiniku Battle

Although we kept the day-time meals on a budget, we splurged a couple nights on dinner. Since we had several very active days - climbing Diamond Head, exploring the "World's largest walk-in maze" at the Dole Plantation, and ocean swimming every day - we usually craved a pretty big dinner. We took advantage of our hungry appetites by indulging on tasty meals we wouldn't be able to find in the Bay Area... really good Yakiniku!

Yakiniku is Japanified-Korean BBQ, and although we have the Juban chain in the Bay Area, it pales in comparison to the yakiniku houses I loved and miss dearly in Japan. When my Japanese guidebook recommended several yakiniku houses in Honolulu, my heart sprang with joy, knowing that I can expect Japan-quality food there! So two nights out of the four nights we were in Hawaii, we feasted and stuffed ourselves with some tasty grilled meats. I can't think of a better way to cap a day of fun in the sun!

Yakiniku Hiroshi and Gyu-kaku are kiddy corner to each other, and boy, both of these places do a booming business! Both restaurants were full with a long wait-list! I guess there is enough interest and customer-base for two yakiniku houses to peacefully co-exist in Waikiki - I sincerely wish they could spare one of them to fill the niche in the Bay Area!

Unlike the original Korean style BBQ, yakiniku meats often aren't marinated before cooking. Although a splash of sauce come sprinkled on the meat, the main seasoning comes from dipping the grilled meat in different sauces to suit our preferences. Both Yakiniku Hiroshi and Gyu-kaku offered different sauces, but I have Hiroshi's sauces a slight edge on taste. While Gyu-kaku's sauces felt a little bit 'processed', Hiroshi's sauces tasted like they were really made from fresh fruit and made in-house.

All of us gave Hiroshi's meat a higher score than Gyu-kaku with better marbling, tenderness, and sweetness. Although Gyu-kaku would hands-down beat Juban here in the Bay Area, Gyu-kaku would have a hard time competing with Hiroshi for flavor and quality... except that Gyu-kaku has a significant price advantage. I suppose one gets what you pay for, but Hiroshi is about 50% more expensive than Gyu-kaku, making Gyu-kaku better in terms of price performance. Gyu-kaku is definitely yummy - just not as yummy as Hiroshi. Hiroshi is yummier, but pricier. Makes sense to me how the two can co-exist happily in the small Waikiki corner!

These pictures today are from Hiroshi, since frankly, Hiroshi's food was amazing. I'd say my yakiniku experience at Hiroshi would rival any yakiniku house in Japan. I used to think I could only get that quality of yakiniku in Japan, but now I know I only need to go half the distance and get my butt over to Waikiki!!

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