In 2010, during a trip to Japan, Jeroen and I thought about bringing a grilling concept to Manila.
Our friend Joey Lorenzo told us to check out Gyu-Kaku, a popular grilling chain in the country.
We found one in Shibuya. It was a very casual kind of hole in the wall.
We liked the vibe and found it charming. The food, not bad.
After a few emails, we found out we had to go through Singapore to get a franchise. We flew to Singapore to meet the owner and found out that casual vibe we enjoyed in Tokyo was nowhere to be found.
It looked kind of posh, which was not what we wanted.
So the idea was scrapped. Then last week at while dining at the Fort, I saw that Gyu-Kaku had opened right next to IHOP.
I thought it would be expensive, so I asked my dad to take us to Sunday lunch.
Luckily I found someone on Twitter who knew the manager. I was able to reserve a table for 8 people at 12 noon.
On Sunday, while getting my hair blown out at home, I started getting calls from a 0915 number that I didn’t recognize.
Signal was bad, so I had a few dropped calls. I wondered what the emergency was.
Then we got connected. Gerda from Gyu-Kaku was confirming if we were coming for lunch. I checked the time, it was 11:30 PM.
“Yes we are coming,” I said.
“What time?” she wanted to know.
“Diba 12 o’clock our reservation?”
So I kept calm and carried on.
By 11:45 we were already in the car. I got another call from Gerda confirming if we were going to be there.
I told her we were in the car and on the way.
“But it’s already 12 o-clock!” she said.
I became nervous and checked the time. “No it’s not! It’s 11:45!”
I felt like I was being pressured to fly over there or lose the table.
I felt my blood pressure shoot up. “What’s your name?”
“Would you please stop calling me or I will tell the owners what you’re doing.”
She hung up. Hence, the blog entry.
We got there at exactly 12 o’clock. I thought there would be a long queue, but the only queue was for IHOP.
I found Gerda on the phone talking to someone on the phone, which she would not put down when I tried to talk to her. Was she harassing other guests?
I found the Singaporean trainer next to her and told her that Gerda had called me five times since 11:30 and it was annoying.
Gerda never said a word or apologized. She just stood there smiling. #manhid
My parents arrived shortly. We tried to order but found out that so many things were not available, like scallops, bacon and certain kinds of beef.
At 12:30 noon, no sign of salad, drinks or even edamame.
Not even beef, which my brother pointed out, is served raw.
To think Gerda was bugging us to be there at 11:30, there we were starving at 12:30. Never mind the adults, I was worried about my kids.
12:45 came. We finally had some food to share—us five adults. We felt so hungry. Where was the rest of our order?
We couldn’t even cook the beef because the coals took so long to arrive. There were no dipping sauces, no rice, no drinks.
The food came in trickles. Here’s my dad’s onigiri that we grilled
The shrimp was good and came in a foil, steamed in garlic butter
The wagyu beef was OK, but expensive (Php 1500++). I liked it, but my dad found it fatty. I found it tiny. Definitely not for sharing.
The other beef order was so tough, it took 48 hours to chew. My dad gave up.
Here’s what we all liked—the grilled Japanese sausage.
I wish I could come back for it, but the service was so bad, my dad called it “the worst meal of my life.” LOL.
Our total bill for 8 people was Php 7,000++. Not bad.
But it was pure chaos. Everybody lacked training. The Singapore trainer shouldn’t leave. Where are the owners?
Twice, the manager and staff would came to our table to say, “Is everything OK?”
And I can’t lie. I said, “We’re coping.”
Not saying you shouldn’t go there. Just don’t go now.
P.S. The kids liked it because they had no idea the adults were trying to manage the bad service. They loved the grilled sausage, which I can probably find in the Japanese grocery anyway.
(Update: this branch is now closed, but a much better Gyu Kaku is open at Shangri-La Plaza East Wing.)