Suddenly all south bay Japanese izakaya's decide to strip down their menus during lunch and offer the really good stuff during dinner only.
Saizo, Tanto have started this tradition, and now Gochi in Cupertino appears to have been the same. They say one of the former chefs from Tanto went over to head up Gochi, so I guess that mentality came over as well, or perhaps these places feel the lunch crowd generally want to eat and run and not spend a lot of money, which would be true.
Upon entry at Gochi, there was a small table with a tray of today's lunch. For $9.50 there were quite a few things, including a spinach salad, bowl of miso soup, steamed rice, what looked almost like agedashi tofu (but stewed) with chicken, and a plate of fried calamari rings probably Japanese style (seasoned).
I passed up on that and looked at the menu instead. The column on the left in the menu were pretty much rice bowls, from teriyaki to tempura, to some Japanese classics like unagi don, oyako don. For about 75 cents to a dollar more you can add a small bowl of tanuki udon. The other column on the menu were combination items (typical teriyaki, tempura etc) and nothing really stood up there that was unique.
The gyu don in the rice bowls column caught my eye, which to me is a great Japanese style fast food so to speak. If you've been to Yoshinoya or had good Japanese beef bowls, then you'll know what this is all about. Basically it is braised thinly sliced beef over rice with onions. If done right this is a mighty fine tasty comforting eat. I upgraded this with tanuki udon, and it was about $9.
After about 10 to 15 mins, my order arrived. Both portions were a little small versus what you might get in another restaurant, but I have to say I was very happy with the quality. The two items made me barely full, though I'm sure very hungry eaters might want more.
On top of the gyu don was a boiled egg cooked to just when the egg white turned from transparent to white, so it was still oozing. I thought this was going to be liked a poached egg (aka "warm springs cooked egg") similar to what I had at the former great udon shop in San Mateo (Tombo), but unfortunately it wasn't. However the gooey texture of the egg melted into the rice and beef, and gave it a lot of texture and really enhanced the flavor. If you've ever had true style sukiyaki and have dipped the beef into the raw egg (and enjoyed this way of eating) then the feeling is similar. Beef was surprisingly light and not heavily marbled like at Yoshinoya, and had a nicer color (ie cooked properly and to perfection).
The tanuki udon was done very well. The dashi broth was delicate and had a very fine taste to it. Udon was cooked just right, and while not the freshly made kind like what Tombo used to make, it was better than a lot of other restaurants. The only condiments that came with it were agedama (tempura batter) and a few pieces of seaweed.
Gochi only takes cash during lunch, but they do accept credit cards at dinner. I had a chance to peek at the dinner menu and did see a few similar things to Tanto's menu. Fish dishes were mostly sashimi or carpaccio, though I suspect they have a specials dinner menu that probably has more of the exotic good stuff.