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Located near Gough Street, near Ronin and The Chairman, the exact location of YakiniKuu is hidden beside a flight of stairs. The brightly lit restaurant greets you with a narrow entrance, with two bar tables standing beside it – a perfect spot for guests waiting for their tables while having a drink. The interior is simple, with an abundance of wood furnishings and dark exposed brick walls setting the subdued ambiance. The elongated dining space is well-lit throughout and tables are evenly spaced. Seating is comfortable but the two banquettes at the front of the restaurant offer extra comfort, although not nearly as private compared to the tables at the far end of the restaurant.
The best thing about a good Japanese yakiniku (grilled meats) restaurant is the sourcing of the meat, as well as unique selection of beef cuts that are unusual to some. YakiniKuu excels on both counts. The selection of beef from the menu is divided into three categories, each varying by the degree of marbling. Beef lovers will enjoy the fine selections of beef, each at 100 grams per order and 50 grams for half portions available for most beef cuts from the a la carte menu.
The selection of beef cuts is impressive, as each comes with one of two marinades: sesame oil and salt or sweet barbecue. We ordered the thick cut beef tongue and premium beef rib for the lighter marinade to start. The beef tongue, cut thick and scored on one side, can stand up to the vigorous flame of the gas-stove set at each table. The tongue is best seared quickly until a golden brown crust is formed and within remains succulent and juicy. The same goes with the beef rib, well marbled and cut into thick slices. Seared on the grill as some of the fat melts but the crust keeps the meat tender throughout.
Offcuts of beef are favorites at YakiniKuu. Marinated with sweet barbecue marinade, the tip steak is meatier with a more pronounced flavour than the former selections. Despite on the sweeter side for the marinade, the sweetness does not overpower the meatiness from the meat itself. We particularly enjoyed the diaphragm, whose chewiness may be an acquired taste but it brings much flavour to the mix.
The kitchen also dishes up a la carte selections other than the grilled meat selections. The beef shabu-shabu salad features thin beef slices atop a bed of crisp salad greens and a generous sprinkle of toasted garlic chips. The sesame dressing is light as the dish makes a delightful start of the meal. Fried chicken takes chicken thigh meat, battered and deep fried until golden. The restaurant’s signature beef stew was a disappointment. With a Western approach, the beef, though tender, did not match with the orange-tinted sauce and the accompanying toasts lack the crispness to stand up against the thick stew. Have rice with your grilled meats if you must have carbs, as the fried udon is on the oily side.
At the time of our visit, YakiniKuu has not obtained the valid liquor licence, but as yakiniku goes, an ice-cold beer is the preferred choice to accompany the freshly grilled items.
Dishes are well-timed during our visit at YakiniKuu. Staff are friendly and attentive, although a better understanding of different beef cuts and the characteristics of each is a working progress much needed for the Japanese grill restaurant.
A dinner for two at YakiniKuu with service amounts to HK$1,000, which is good value given the quality of the meats and attentive service the restaurant offers. It is a restaurant that will have us back the next time we crave Japanese barbecued meats.