The Japanese barbecue restaurant Gyu Shige is finally ready to make its American debut at the Mosaic District (2980 District Ave.) in Merrifield after a long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Owner Edward Wong says the restaurant will open its reservation system tomorrow (Wednesday) so people can book tables ahead of a soft opening planned for the weekend of Valentine’s Day. Doors will technically open earlier in the week, but customers for the first couple of days will be limited to family and friends.
Gyu Shige has a strong presence in Japan, but this is the chain’s first venture into the U.S.
Wong was introduced to Gyu Shige — one of several brands operated by the company Food’s Style — in Japan about two years ago, and he says he has “great confidence” that it will prove just as popular on this side of the Pacific Ocean, particularly with a setting like the Mosaic District as its launching pad.
“Mosaic District definitely has [a] combination of all different people, from young kids to older people,” Wong said. “…I believe the Japanese barbeque experience is not just for any group, so it will be a great place to attract all kinds of people.”
While Fairfax County diners are no strangers to sushi restaurants and noodle shops like fellow Mosaic tenant Jinya Ramen Bar, they might be less familiar with Japanese barbecue, or yakiniku, which literally translates to “grilled meat.” Before Gyu Shige’s arrival, the closest venue specializing in this kind of cuisine was Gyu-kaku in Arlington.
Like Korean barbecue, yakiniku is cooked at the diners’ table, but it tends to come in smaller portions to encourage patrons to try a variety of dishes, and there is a greater emphasis on the quality of the meat cuts served, Wong says.
Among the options on the menu for Gyu Shige customers will be A-5 grade wagyu beef imported from Japan.
“The taste is definitely different from Korean barbeque, and we want people to take the time to enjoy the whole process,” Wong said. “…We also offer the service to cook for them if they want to, but we mostly let them cook for themselves. Let them experience it. Let them have fun with it.”
In addition to yakiniku, Gyu Shige will have a variety of appetizers and sushi, which will be prepared by a former Sushi Seki chef. The restaurant’s head chef also comes from New York City, where he previously worked for EN Brassiere.
The appetizers and sushi will be available for takeout, but the barbecue can only be served in-person and indoors, another potential challenge presented by COVID-19. Wong says the pandemic led to a three-month halt to construction. Even after work resumed, progress was slowed since fewer people could be on the site, resulting in an overall delay of about a year.
Initially, Gyu Shige customers will need to reserve tables in advance, and the restaurant will only be open during dinner hours, which will run from 4-10 p.m. The menu will also be exclusively a la carte, though set meals will be added in the future.
“When people order the set menu, they tend not to order other stuff. So, right now, we’re going to put the meat into a combo menu,” Wong said. “That way, people can experience most of the meat, but at the same time, they can get to choose their own appetizer, their own other items and try it out.”
In addition to Gyu Shige, local diners can look forward to the opening of Urban Hot Pot right next door. Tysons Reporter first reported that the Chinese restaurant was coming to the Mosaic District in September 2019.
After being delayed by the pandemic, Urban Hot Pot is now on track to open in May, according to Wong, president and CEO of IVEA International Restaurant Group, which is guiding the marketing for both restaurants.
Photo courtesy Gyu Shige/Facebook