What? Guu Izakaya for dinner
Where? 398 Church st (5 min walk from College station)
The skinny: The “original” Guu is in Vancouver. This is the first location in Torontoand although it’s been open for 2 years, there are still line-ups for dinner service. Here you’ll get tapas-like dishes, Japanese style and great drinks for a rather reasonable price!
Having been to the other, more recently opened location—Guu Sakabar (opened this past March), I had no doubt that Guu Izakaya would meet my expectations. I came with a couple of friends and no surprise, we had to wait. After about 45 minutes, we were seated at one of the long communal tables.
What lies beyond these walls with pixel-like cube windows? It's deceivingly quiet outside but every once in awhile when the door would be opened, you'd hear some of the chatter escape.
There is outdoor seating in addition to seating by the bar, up by the open kitchen and the more conventional rectangular tables.
The menu is divided into several sections by course and the way the dish is prepared. At an izakaya, you’ll find not only a menu for food, but an extensive one of drinks as well. The mood is casual, relaxed, and definitely happy. :D
The servers, bartenders and chefs, they’re always cheery and that kind of atmosphere is so contagious! Be prepared for (good) loudness. Oh yeah, this is no place for an intimate dinner. No doubt we were intrigued by the specials, including the drinks. :D
|Such a whimsical specials menu.|
Our drinks. Like at Guu Sakabar, the Sake Mojito and Cherry Blossom were ordered. From the “special drinks” section, we decided to try the Momo Toro. The latter was a very refreshing drink, seeing as they used fresh peach juice, albeit pricey.
Here’s a close-up on the Sake Mojito. The fun comes from opening the bottle of ramune by popping the little glass ball into the reservoir. I haven’t tried many drinks here, but so far this one’s my favourite. :)
|I wouldn't mind adding more mint to the mojito! ;D|
Brie Cheese (6.8)
Some items from guu izakaya had been carried over to the guu sakabar. Good thing this was one of them because it’s so delicious! It’s decadent but not overly rich. Supposedly there’s blueberry sauce in there…I saw it but didn’t quite taste it.
The mango sauce goes perfectly with the gooey brie that oozes from out of its crispy deep fried crust. This dish is shaping up to be a constant for my guu visits and I certainly do not mind.
Fuwa Toro Yaki (6.8)
Next came this “puffed Chinese yam pancake w/ cabbage, eggs, prawns and tonkatsu sauce mustard mayo.” This description proved to be very useful once the dish arrived. It was enjoyable but the flavours weren’t phenomenal enough to make a big impression on me.
This is another regular dish. The flavour is incredible. Having been baked, the oyster’s piping hot and a beautiful crust has formed from the cheese that tops it.
Great flavour combination of the oyster, mushroom, and spinach. The cheese and garlic mayo just brings it all together.
Unagi Doria (9.3)
Cheese isn’t a traditional Japanese ingredient but you gotta keep in mind that this establishment is all huge on tweaking Japanese dishes, and always keeping it playful. I won’t be one to complain about this repetition, especially when it goes so well with everything!
I love my unagi so this dish is right up my alley. MMM so good! It looks like there’s too much sauce and creaminess but for once, I don’t mind the singularity of its texture. It’s the sauce that brings it all together!
Gyu Carpaccio (6.5)
The thin slices you see here is seared beef sashimi. My friend was really rallying for this dish and I’m glad he did. It’s delicate but you get mini punches from the Ponzu sauce and the garlic chips that make it really yummy.
Here we've got a close-up on the beef carpaccio. Garlic chips sound like a great idea to add pops of flavours to a dish.
I was surprised by this when I went to guu sakabar but this time around, seeing someone celebrating their birthday, I was prepared for the enthusiasm level to peak. The chef's joined in and the sung their own version of "Happy Birthday." So much fun!
Banana Tempura (6)
Dessert time! :D Three people means three different desserts to try. YAY! This is deep fried banana with coconut ice cream, chocolate & mango sauce.
Some of my favourite flavours are present in this dish: mango and coconut. The contrast between warm & cold was addictive. I’ve never had deep fried banana and this was a great introduction to it. :D
Almond Tofu (3.5)
I’ve heard of flavoured dessert tofu before but I’ve only had the traditional Chinese one. I’m gonna guess that this is a sort of silken tofu that’s been made with almond extract? Or crushed almonds? But that can’t be considering it’s so smooth!
|Cute cup containing the Almond Tofu. The cute rabbits remind me of the milky "The White Rabbit" candies!|
Tofu is a great ingredient because of the great range in texture that you can get from it as well as how it takes to other flavours so easily.
I’m sure I could’ve finished one all by myself because it’s light enough to be a guilt-free dessert. ;) It was only while enjoying dessert that I saw this in the “Today’s Special” carte: “Big Boy Almond Tofu.” Why didn’t I see that before?! That’s okay, next time we’ll order that.
Ice Cream Tempura (4.8)
Our final dessert also comes from the specials. What we’re presented with is green tea ice cream encased in tempura batter, then deep fried. It has been drizzled with red bean sauce and on the side, whipped cream. Like the Banana Tempura, the contrast in temperature is present. Very enjoyable. Now here’s an odd thing, I normally enjoy whipped cream on most of my desserts but here, it didn’t do much for me. Hmm.
So our meal has come to an end. I’m not stuffed but I’m not hungry. And that’s perfectly fine because I’ve had a meal where I got to try a lot of dishes. Frozen grapes to cleanse the palate? Cool.
Verdict: So how much damage did we do? Quite a bit. It’s interesting to see that the most expensive item was the momotoro (a cocktail). There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll return. Oh goody! A new guu, “Guu Kobachi” opened just last month in Vancouver. Lucky them haha
Check ‘em out! http://guu-izakaya.com/toronto/
5 out of 5 NOMs