Address: 34 Cooper Square, New York
Gan and I knew about Gyu-kaku before the yakiniku chain from Tokyo came to New York City. Yakiniku ("grilled meat") by the way, is Japanese adaptation of Korean BBQ. I first found out that about Gyu-kaku from reading US magazine long time ago; it was reported in the magazine that stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Gisele Bunchen (who were dating at that time) love eating at Gyukaku in Los Angeles. So we went to check out the restaurant when we were in Los Angeles. Gyu-kaku opened its first restaurant in New York City a couple years after that, we were actually one of the first few people invited for pre-opening. (Pre-opening is a common practice used by new restaurants to test its operation before opening to public)
Gyu-kaku is famous for its modern restaurant interior, smokeless braziers that are built into each table and the use of Bichotan charcoal made from oak. According to the restaurant, Bichotan charcoal is special because it can actually add flavors to the meat. The meat/fish for BBQ comes with three types of marinate - Shio (salt), Tare (flavored soy sauce) or Garlic, with Tsuke (Tare sweet soy) and Ponzu (Japanese citrus soy sauce) dipping sauces to choose from. These dipping sauces are also available at most Japanese supermarkets in the city.
What we like about this yakiniku place is its happy hour specials (MON-FRI: 5 - 6:30PM, MON-THU: 9:30PM - CLOSE), where selected BBQ meats/fish and beer are 50% off from the regular price. Gan and I also like the East Village location better than the midtown one since it's easier to get table here (and the Maitre 'd here is nicer too).