takako tominaga.jpg
takako tominaga
A Bellevue restaurant is adding yakiniku to its repertoire, marking the local return of the Japanese style of tableside grilling.

A staffer at

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Yakiniku Coming to Bellevue

takako tominaga.jpg
takako tominaga
A Bellevue restaurant is adding yakiniku to its repertoire, marking the local return of the Japanese style of tableside grilling.

A staffer at Ginza, who confirmed the rumor first posted on Chowhound, says there aren't any other yakiniku outlets in the Seattle area. An internet search seems to bear out her contention; A Yelper's lamentation that a Redmond yakiniku joint closed in 2004 is the only online evidence that the cuisine ever existed here.

"It's barbecue at your table you cook yourself," the staffer explains.

If you think that sounds very much like Korean BBQ, you're right: Yakiniku was introduced to Japan by Korean immigrants, or Zanichi, which means what customers get is bulgogi filtered through a Japanese lens. Since eating beef was prohibited in Japan until 1871, many of the nation's favorite red meat preparations are borrowed from other cultures. Although Yakiniku dates back to the early years of legal beef, its popularity surged in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to improvements in grilling equipment; the Seoul Olympics and the availability of cheaper beef.

Yakiniku is hugely popular in Hawaii, but even connoisseurs struggle to articulate what differentiates the style from its Korean progenitor. The Ginza staffer didn't offer any specifics, but online discussions of the genre tend to center on the seasoning process. Yakiniku typically isn't marinated, but is presented with an array of sauces that feature more soy sauce (and less garlic and sesame oil) than a Korean BBQ eater might expect to encounter.

Ginza plans to fire up its grills by the end of the month.

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