Always Guuu’d: Japanese Tapas Time

This post might be old news for some of you, but for people who have never tried izakaya food(please go, like, right now), I thought it will be fun to write about Guu, the izakaya pioneer group in Vancouver and my favorite izakaya restaurant.

Guu Izakaya currently has 6 restaurants in Vancouver and 1 in Toronto. Their location on Robson and Thurlow is their oldest store and my go-to. I have been to their places on Denman, Robson, Gastown and Richmond but I always return to their original shop.

Just seeing the tiny, cramped bar in their Thurlow restaurant makes me excited for happiness to come. I highly recommend sitting at the bar, just because you get to watch the chef make the food in front of you, and you get to see what’s good that day. I think Guu comes up with a specials menu every few days if not daily.  Do order from the specials menu, because those are the new creations and the supply is fresh.

Uni(sea urchin) sashimi, monkfish liver and marinated ikura(salmon roe)(all specials of the day). If you pretend this thing called cholesterol doesn’t exist, this combination is money. The uni was tender and sweet, the monkfish liver was creamy, and the ikura was briny and super fresh. I ordered these separately but they came together. You can try to mix and match them and see how they taste together. I highly recommend wrapping uni and ikura together in a piece of nori. Try it with the shiso leaf too.

Steamed mussels in a yuzu and kelp broth(specials). Steamed mussels isn’t a strictly Japanese dish per se, but I love eating it here. The steamed mussels cost $10 and they gave 10 fatty, juicy pieces of mussels. There were also no stones nor sand in the mussels and the broth was light, citrusy and tasted like the sea, but not overwhelmingly salty.

Deep fried shrimp with sweet chili(specials). This was also good, the shrimp was spicy and sweet. I was curious about the taco bowl-like shell holding the shrimp, but it sort of became soggy due to the sauce.

Gyu Ro-su(regular menu). This is the Japanese rare steak. This photo was taken the last time I was there, and unfortunately I was quite disappointed in the dish. I had the Gyu Ro-su a few times before, and it was always incredibly tender, beautifully rare and just delicious. This time, the steak was basically cooked well done, it was stringy and the garlic sauce was quite salty. I hope this is just a one-off incident, because I do love their steak.

Gin Kama. Grilled garlic soy sauce marinated black cod neck(regular menu). I love Guu’s black cod, and you can see from its charred perfection that it is delicious. While they use the garlic soy sauce, the dressing is still light enough that you can taste the buttery goodness of the black cod. The fish was so tender, you can easily pluck plump morsels off the bone. Must. Order.

I rarely get to eat oden at Guu, because most of the time I order too much of everything else I don’t have space for the oden. Ha. Not that Guu makes bad oden. Oden is kind of like hot pot. In their Thurlow store, they have a big vat of soup at the bar, and you can order oden pieces like fish cake, daikon radish and deep fried tofu that has been cooked in the broth. The broth they use is very light, probably a fish broth and very comforting. In the bowl, I have fish cake, squid rolled with fish cake, sticky rice cake in tofu bag and puffed fish cake. If you’ve never had oden, Guu is a good place to try it.

The Kabocha Croquette(regular menu). This is like Guu’s signature. It is a steamed kabocha ball with a hard-boiled egg wrapped inside. It sounds a little weird, but actually tastes delicious. It’s like vegetarian scotch eggs. I’ve had it more times than I care to count, but I always order it.

Deep-fried Brie Cheese(specials). I debated whether I should order this or not, but ended up getting it anyway. It’s little triangles of Brie cheese breaded then fried, paired with a sweet mango sauce. I mean it’s fried melted and gooey Brie cheese. It’s as decadent and cheesy as it looks. You can probably imagine the cheese taking up a not-so-little residence in your tummy. But YOLO!

Kimchi Udon. One rule of thumb about eating at an izakaya restaurant is to not order carbs, if you want to try as many dishes as possible. But I like Guu’s kimchi udon, because they give you a generous dose of mentaiko that makes the noodles taste extra creamy. While they use kimchi, the dish is not overly spicy or acidic either, it just has a nice kick.

I don’t think Guu is somewhere I can go regularly, but whenever the craving hits, Guu has always delivered. Another thing I like about Guu is that each of their locations have a different specials menu, so it will be fun to visit the different locations.

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