Guu sakabar!


Very discreet sign (upper left corner) but cool facade with the tiny box windows!
What? Guu Sakabar for dinner
Where? 559 Bloor st w (2 mins walk from Bathurst station)
Price? $35 (for dinner w/ drinks)
The skinny: Opened just a few weeks ago (March 20th), Guu Sakabar (a.k.a. Guu 2) is the second location in Toronto of the super popular Vancouver Guu Izakaya chain. The menu offers a wider dessert selection than the Church location and some new dishes as well from Chef Ippei Iwata—like kushi age (Japanese-style deep fried kebab, $7.8 for five items) and carbonara udon (a no brainer when ordering time came, $8.9)! And then of course, there’s the extensive drinks menu (mug of Sapporo, $9.8, and a slew of cocktails). 

creative! The mini foyer for when the line-ups get loonngg.

I’ve heard way too many good things and read far too many positive reviews about the different Guu locations to not be itching to go. So when opportunity sprung up in the form of a couple of friends wanting to catch up and chat about France (I just got into a “study abroad” program from uni to study in France for a month! :D), I came up with two options for dinner: Guu Izakaya, or Guu Sakabar.

Mike looking good :D haha

Mike (I normally don't post photos up of my food adventure buddies, but he just looked so contemplative, and mysterious…like the future doc he’ll be haha cuz all docs are contemplative and mysterious --> refers to “Dr.” Abagnale in Catch me if you can.) perked up at the word “bar” in sakabar while Phoenix was indifferent and I just really wanted to try their Goma Zukushi dessert (sesame x3). 

The following takes place between 6:15PM and 8:30PM.

The bar: one of three dining areas
I was worried that there would be a huge lineup but upon our arrival at 6:15PM we were able to be seated immediately (mind you we did go on a Thursday so that helped). The choices we were given: bar, zashiki room.

Bar = great photo ops, loud
Zashiki room = tatami mats imported from Japan, (not as) loud. 

Zashiki room. Beautiful craftsmanship!

Seeing as the zashiki room is unique to Sakabar, we opted for that. :D I already had a few dishes in mind so we started off from there. We ended up ordering 3 from the “Today’s Specials” menu, 4 from the regular menu. And then 3 desserts at the end. Okay, let’s start! 

I wanted to get photos of the three dining spaces but failed to bring an additional lens…macro lenses, yeah not so great for shots such as these.

Communal bench/tables: third dining section. Check out the Edison bulbs :D

But I digress. Because it’s food time!!

Their "specials" menu. Such a neat idea with the combo of Japanese & English!

Regular menu. 2 panels on the backsides are entirely for drinks. Rejoice.

One pot yields about 6 cups. It was $4.

While contemplating our choices, we sipped tea (I think it was Genmaicha--Japanese brown rice tea which is a blend of green tea and roasted brown rice). It was really soothing and I'd imagine it would be perfect on a cold winter day. :]

Three wedges?! Perfect since there were 3 of us. :D

Brie cheese 5.2
Deepfried double cream brie w/ mango sauce

The brie cheese (also on the Izakaya menu) came first. It’s a creamy concoction of panko encrusted brie, deepfried sitting on mango sauce. Biting into it, you got a mix of melted creamy melted brie, and the light crisp of the deep fried batter encrusting it. The mango sauce gave the brie a high note and a sweetness. 

Brie cheese: very harmonious flavours present.

“Saba-Pon” 5.20
marinated mackerel sashimi with onion, suchi ginger and green onion, Ponzu sauce 
Next up was Saba-Pon, from “Today’s Special”—one of three dishes that involved some participation from the diner. The little bowl comes with all the ingredients neatly presented and you get to mix it all up. And it’s important that you do because of the Ponzu sauce sitting at the bottom. Mixed, you distribute the great citrusy/soy sauce flavour everywhere. The mackerel sashimi really hit the spot; it was smooth, packed with flavour, and fresh! (kind of firm but definitely not soft and breaking apart in your mouth). Each ingredient kinda hops out at you while together, their flavours complement one another.  

“Filet of Fish” 5.80
Filet of black cod rice burger with Pink tar-tar and Tonkatsu sauce
It’s rice burger time!! I’ve had noodle burgers where my mom fried noodle biscuits but rice burger…that sounds intriguing! Plus, I did read that this dish was a winner. And oh yeah, it definitely was. The black cod, moist and tender. The grilled rice buns, genius! The coleslaw, pink tar-tar and Tonkatsu sauce all did their part in bringing out the cod. 

How to split into thirds?

Getting equal portions was a little err…difficult. Oh well, it was really funny watching my friend use the skewer to hold the burger down!

One final look at the "Filet of fish". The pink tar-tar is the "out there" colour, but that's cool.

The next few dishes kinda all came at once. The bombardment of food was really exciting but space on the table, limited.

Kakimayo 6.8
baked oyster w/ spinach, garlic mayo topped w/ cheese 
I don't think I've ever had oyster. Frankly, I’m intimidated by them. But oh boy this, was good. I mean real good. It was quite sizable too! (think a little smaller than your hand). The concoction of puréed spinach with garlic mayo and CHEESE was creamy, gooey, savoury goodness. 

The cheese was a "au gratin"--the oysters were baked so the cheese formed a crust.

Sitting on a bed of salt. Not necessary but it was pretty!

Then you discover button mushrooms. And then the oyster. Dun dun dun!!!! :D:D It wasn’t chewy or fishy at all (I don’t know why I expected either considering only fish gone bad would taste fishy and Guu would never serve bad fish). I now know I like oyster. Or at least Guu’s take on it.

Temari zushi 8.9
Torched salmon, cream cheese sushi balls
I cannot thank Mike (who ordered this) enough. It was pretty darn amazing. Definitely one of my favourite dishes of the night. You know how you can smell aromas wafting from the kitchen? 

Last one.

Well think of a burst of smokey “air flavour” in your mouth that wraps around the salmon--that’s a little raw and a little cooked so you get best of both worlds. The cream cheese sauce brings it all together. Winning! lol

Litte icons for each Guu restaurant! (from left): Thurlow, Robson, Gastown, Richmond, Toronto (Church), Garden.

“Salmon Natto Yukke” 6.80
Chopped salmon sashimi w/ five friends
Natto, shibazuke, Takuau, wonton chips, green onion and quail egg.

The super cute description caught Phoenix’s eye; “five friends”, aww! Haha What came was a little pot of colourfulness sitting on top of some nori sheets (which you use to wrap up the salmon and the five friends in). It looks so fresh! 

Terms: (looked these up since I was clueless but curious ;D)
Natto = fermented soybeans; gooey, nutty, savoury and a little salty.
Shibazuke = bright purple pickled cucumber or eggplant; pickled with rice bran
Takuau = ?? couldn’t find this one. Help please!

Mike helped model the food by pausing for shots as he mixed it. Thanks! :D Steps: Mix. Seaweed. Spoon. Wrap. AHH um nomnomnom. (the “AHH” = opening your mouth haha). There was crunchiness, smooth, creamy, salty, perky, almost sweet, mellow…so many textures = one happy carmen. However, one component really stood out, couldn't place it but it kinda bothered me.

Carbonara Udon 8.3
creamy udon w/ bacon, onion, half boiled egg 
Oh damn. This was creamy alright. Final “diner participation”-required dish of the evening. More food modeling was in order as Phoenix broke and mixed the egg into the udon. Yolky goodness just burst out. Haha This carbonara is not quite like any other I’ve ever had--in a great way. ;)

Takashi, our awesome server came halfway and replaced our plates. Nice!
It wasn’t in-your-face-buttery-overload-gonna-hit-your-hips-and-thighs creamy, but a good, packed with flavour gooey. This dish seemed like an indulgence compared to the cleaner (but still complex) flavours of the other dishes. Also another fav dish.

While eating our final dishes we realized we should probably take advantage of the long drinks menu. 
So Phoenix ordered a Cherry Blossom, Mike got a Milky Sakura, and I got a Sake Mojito (came w/ their own guu Ramune!). 

Every cocktail was great! (the Cherry Blossom really shined) 
Sake Mojito, Cherry Blossom, Milky Sakura

The green plunger on the left. Right: try to find the glass marble in the bottle!

I particular liked my cocktail because of the cool Ramune (Japanese pop, smells like bubble gum!) bottle with its glass marble stopper. Plus, the mojito seemed bottomless. 

Second drinks!? (Pam from "The Office") 

I say bottomless because after drinking a bit I'd be able to refill it by pouring in more Ramune.

My mojito long after everyone else finished their cocktails.

Sake tiramisu 5
guu’d sake tiramisu

The sake was present in every component. From the sake soaked biscuits, to the sake incorporated into the mascarpone(?). It was great. But I’m not a huge drinker so this wasn’t exactly my cup of tea…or rather, tokkuri? lol I know, I’m funny. Thanks.

Goma Zukushi 5
sesame ice cream w/ sesame rice cake, sesame cracker
Ate this first because of the ice cream. Good call.

Was looking forward to this during the entire meal. I loved everything and now it was going to be capped off nicely. Oh yes it was. 

The sesame ice cream was undoubtedly sesame. The mochi was great, the sesame balls had red bean paste inside, love!…can’t praise this dessert enough. 

One thing though: I’m not really a fan of wafers so that component was a little lost on me. But it did make the presentation prettier! haha

The sesam ice cream melted so quickly! :(  It was slightly heavenly. Not entirely. But slightly haha

Cheese cake 4
roasted green tea cheese cake
The half-melted whipped cream was questionable

Super like. Enjoyed this to the max! You can definitely taste the roasted, toasty flavour of the green tea leaves. It lent beautifully to the cheesecake. 

The texture was denser, a little crumblier, and a little less creamier than your normal New York Cheesecake (my fave, I’m sometimes a puritan like that) but I that didn't deter me. Really enjoyed this and I'm definitely getting this next time! Kinda hoped the portion was bigger though...haha

Always smiling & polite. It's am

Service. Impeccable. The servers are super friendly, attentive, and efficient. Although they’ve got their uniforms, you can see their personalities through their socks. Don’t judge, you notice these things when you’re in the zashiki room where shoes need to be taken off haha. 

Our server, Takashi was so funny! (he's the guy waving his arms in the photo below) He offered his faves and descriptions to each dish. When I asked if I can take home the Ramune bottle, he was kind enough to ask his manager, come back, and did a fine job acting. There was a tense moment waiting for his answer before he cracked his smile and said, “Sure! You can take home the bottle!”

Happy birthday!!!!

Atmosphere’s crazy loud but I enjoyed that. There were two birthdays being celebrated that night and everyone in the restaurant was made aware of that when the entire staff joined in to sing “Happy birthday”. It was great! Takashi actually ran and slid on his knees across the room while singing. I love the staff's fun/light attitude! And you can tell they care. :D

For the amazing food, service, and atmosphere, this price really isn't that bad. :)

Gift from Phoenix & Mike. THANKS!!!!!!!

Verdict: Okay, so this post was way TOO long. Sorry. I just really enjoyed my meal! I hope you enjoyed the photos at least. :D Needless to say, I will be returning here as well as going to Izakaya. Whenever I find myself in Vancouver, I’ll be hitting up the Guu’s there too ;D

Check 'em out!! http://www.guu-izakaya.com/

5 out of 5 NOMs

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  1. Great Post! Love your pictures ^_^

  2. thanks!! :D definitely tried the "filet of fish" because you wrote about it. so thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Stella's post, then yours.... drooling and need to go very very very soon =P

    and great pics, love how there's 2-3 pics per dish =D

  4. :D thanks kiki!
    yeah, its about time you went! haha ;)