Next Meats
Photo: Next Meats

Taste test: how the vegan meat barbecue at Yakiniku Like compares to kalbi beef

You’ll find the plant-based Next Meats at Yakiniku Like locations nationwide

Kaila Imada
Written by
Kaila Imada

With more and more vegan options becoming available in Tokyo, plant-based restaurants and desserts have become part of the city’s regular dining scene. Now, even the most carnivorous restaurants have become more inclusive such as barbecue chain Yakiniku Like. Vegans can now get in on the grilling action with mock ‘kalbi’ meat at Yakiniku Like joints across Japan. 

The meat substitute, developed by Next Meats, was rolled out at all Yakiniku Like locations back in 2020. The latest offering from the brand is the Next Kalbi 2.0, a new and improved version of the brand’s first kalbi mock meat. The Next Kalbi 2.0 has increased protein content, which apparently helps give it a meaty texture, and is served with a vegan-friendly sauce developed by Yakiniku Like.

Wondering if the meat substitute lived up to its description, we headed to Yakiniku Like to try it out for ourselves.  

Next Meats Yakiniku Like
Photo: Kaila ImadaGrilling Next Kalbi 2.0 (right) next to regular cuts of beef (left)

Before cooking, the mock kalbi resembles thin slices of cooked chicken or pork, rather than beef. However, when placed on the grill, it cooks up quite nicely and gets evenly charred like any regular piece of meat. 

Next Meats Yakiniku Like
Photo: Kaila ImadaA close up of Next Kalbi 2.0 when cooked

When we took a bite, the texture was surprisingly similar to meat, although the Next Kalbi is not as tender when compared to actual beef. Still, when blindfolded, we’d say the taste could easily fool anyone. No doubt the special sauce that’s served on the mock meat helps give it that quintessential kalbi flavour.

Next Meats Yakiniku Like
Photo: Kaila ImadaAt Yakiniku Like, you can order from your own individual iPad

Next Kalbi 2.0 is available in two different sets that both come along with regular beef, rice and soup. One set gives you a total of 150g of meat for ¥1,180 while 200g of meat will set you back ¥1,300. If you don’t want to commit to a large order, you can also get a 50g serving of Next Kalbi 2.0 for just ¥320.

With prices this reasonable, you can’t go wrong trying out this unique vegan-friendly meat. Plus, Yakiniku Like’s individual grills make it perfect for a solo treat – or a way to enjoy yakiniku without worrying about sharing your grill or utensils with your friends. Bon appétit! 

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