Guu OriginalPosted: 07/09/2012
Finally, the izakaya. After twenty-something posts, I finally get to write one about my favourite type of restaurant. Simply put, I love izakayas: the food, the atmosphere, the usually reasonable pricing. Guu is the best-known izakaya in the Greater Vancouver region, with six incarnations in Vancouver and two in Toronto. So when a dinner was planned with some old high school buddies, I was definitely glad that Guu Original was the restaurant of choice.
The diners that night consisted of Pickles, Dolph, Jess, Hui, Su, CDiddy, Shikha, LeanieJim, Jasper, Stanman, and yours truly. Guu is a small restaurant, and we were given the table in the back, which wasn’t ideal, but at least it ensured some quiet for our conversations. Due to the large size of the group, we split ourselves into smaller sections to order food. Dolph, CDiddy, and I started off by selecting four items off the menu…
Let’s start with the Salmon Yukke. I’ve been to this location of Guu several times, but for some reason never had this before. The three of us noted the obvious contrast between the crunchy shrimp chips and the rather slimy salmon. The chips themselves had a distinct and unique taste, but we found them difficultly shaped to fit a decent amount of salmon in. I was rather disappointed that the raw quail egg, which is usually served in the spoon you see above, somehow slid out of the spoon as it was served to us. Therefore, we didn’t get to mix it in with our salmon, which, to be honest, was devoid of any real flavour. This was an acceptable dish, but I remain uncertain as to whether I would order it again. Maybe the quail egg would have added a much greater depth of flavour than what we had here.
Next, we had the Maguro Steak. CDiddy and Dolph both believed this to be a miss, as the dish lacked any flavour, except for the garlic chips. My opinion differed from my fellow diners’. I liked the textural contrast between the thick tuna and the accompanying vegetables. For around eight dollars, I thought this was a great value, considering the steep cost of ahi tuna elsewhere. I ended up comparing this version to the sauce-drenched version I had at The Boathouse a while back, and thought that the sauces here were natural and understated, and allowed the texture of the tuna itself to stand out, which I enjoyed.
Next, we chose the Okonomiyaki. Here, we had no complaints, except that the large dollops of mustard were unevenly distributed. I’m not much of an expert on okonomiyaki, but I thought that the sauce would have helped more if it were served on the side (which is basically my consensus on all sauces, as I like to control the amount of sauce with each bite). I thought the portion size was respectable, and that the okonomiyaki itself was full of ingredients. I liked the addition of bonito flakes and nori, which added a decidedly fishy flavour that contrasted with the dollops of mustard. This was an acceptable dish, but I definitely would have liked the mustard to be more evenly proportioned.
If you’ve read our previous posts, you’ll know that Dolph’s favourite food is…noodles. So here we ordered the Yaki Udon, which arrived topped with nori again. This was the dish I enjoyed most, to the point that I had no complaints! The sweetness of the green onions complemented the beef, as well as the earthy mushrooms and the chewy noodles. The noodles were not at all oily and the portion size was great.
After four dishes, we found we were still hungry! Guess a day of shopping will do that to you…we decided to order another dish, and Dolph ended up picking the Sato Imo, or taro potato croquettes. These were…um…interesting. To be quite honest, they were just extremely salty, thick, and full of way too much potato flavour. Dolph remarked that they simply tasted like expensive tater tots drenched with the sauce usually served with pork cutlet. Although this is one of the more inexpensive items on the menu, I probably would not order this on another visit.
To summarize our experience at Guu: some of the food was great, some of it was less than satisfactory. Still, for a popular dining spot downtown, Guu is one of my favourites. The prices are low, and many of the dishes are well-executed and yummy (I especially love the Chahan, or kimchi fried rice, although I didn’t have any this time). The service at this location can be quite spotty. Sometimes the servers go out of your way to make you feel comfortable, and other times your food comes incredibly slowly, without any apology or explanation. The interior itself is a little lackluster, but definitely has a homey quality. Depending on what you’re looking for, it can be a hit or a miss, but it’s certainly worth a visit.
838 Thurlow Street