Gaku Yakitori: Unplanned + Unbelievable

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Following the trail of Andrew Z. and Tony B. has proved to be hit and miss. Often times, success serves to a restaurant’s detriment — providing travel channel groupies with a lackluster and pretentious experience.

So with both icons putting a royal stamp on San Jose’s charcoal-grill powered yakitori joint, Gaku, would the experience suffer?

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In short, I don’t know. Why? Well, I never experienced the place beforehand so I don’t have a good baseline. Also, there aren’t too many other Japanese-style charcoal-grill yakitori restaurants in the country to compare it with. What I do know, however, is that the food was absolutely amazing, the wait was nonexistent [we lucked out] and the prices were within reach.

Journey through our meal:

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Ankimo: Creamy Monkfish liver paired with grated daikon, soy sauce jelly, shiso, green onion, diakon sprouts, sesame seeds and lemon. While I am a bit of a purist when it comes to Ankimo, I must say that this preparation was beautiful, well-balanced and worthy of the divine.

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Chicken Meatball (background): A juicy ball of savory goodness doused in Gaku’s house sauce. This was one of my favorites!

Chicken Liver (foreground): Cooked indirectly over hot coals to a medium preparation, the chicken livers where flavorful and a personal milestone. Now I can personally relate to the belief that one should give all foods a second try. Upon first eating the liver, I was taken back by it’s texture and bloodiness. Let’s just say that the first piece didn’t go down as smoothly as I would have hoped. I revisited it after sampling a few different bites of yaki and, I must admit, the taste grew on me! Would I order it again? Probably. Was it my absolute favorite? Definitely Not.

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Chicken Wing w/ Salt: These butterflied wings were delicate, skillfully filleted and had a deep, woodsy flavor — no doubt from the indirect charcoal flames. No need for sauce with these bad boys!

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Chicken Skin: Doesn’t require much explanation. Crisp fatty skin + charcoal flame + salt = bliss. It’s scientific for sure.

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Beef Tongue: Yep, Twice in one month! I was slightly more hesitant this time due to the thickness of the meat; however, the waiter stamped this as her choice skewer on the menu so I dove in with a nice big bite! It had the mouth feel of flank steak — chewy and juicy consistency with a deep charred taste.

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Pork Belly w/ Spicy Miso: While the glaze was rich and savory, it didn’t steal the spotlight away from the pork belly. So juicy, so fatty. A definite re-order!

All in all, I feel that Gaku has managed fame well and is well deserving of our visit, and revisit and revisit….

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