Richard and I have been hearing about Guu Sakabar and its older brother Guu Izakaya for quite a while now. The problem with being a foodie in Toronto is that there are so many places to visit and so few nights to visit them! We still haven’t been to Guu Izakaya, but when Guu Sakabar opened in The Annex we put it high up on our “to visit” list and we finally made it there last night.
I should preface this post with two warnings: Richard doesn’t eat fish, and we had just had a huge lunch at Sun’s Kitchen in Pacific Mall – a little food court restaurant where they serve delicious soups with hand-made noodles. For these two reasons, we didn’t order a ton of food. But we certainly got a good taste of what Guu Sakabar is all about.
Guu is basically the Japanese equivalent of a pub. It’s loud, it’s rowdy, and a lot of the food is deep-fried. I don’t think that we quite knew what we were getting ourselves into when we walked into the restaurant. We were greeted by the hostess who shouted something loud in Japanese and then the entire staff repeated her at an equally loud volume. We chose a seat at the bar and settled in for what would be a very entertaining dinner. The shouting continued throughout the night. Servers shout their orders to the kitchen and the kitchen staff all shout the order back to the servers. When a dish comes up from the kitchen, the kitchen staff shouts the order (and maybe the table number?) to the servers and the servers all shout the order back to the kitchen staff. And whenever someone enters or leaves the restaurant the hostess shouts to the rest of the staff and the staff shouts back. There’s a lot of shouting!
Guu doesn’t take reservations, so it’s best to either show up really early or much later – before 6pm or after 10pm is best. We opted to arrive early because we’re getting to the age where eating at 10pm doesn’t agree with us. Still full of noodles from our lunch in Pacific Mall, Richard and I decided to take it easy with the food. First we focused on the alcohol. Richard wanted to try sake, but I was skeptical. I’ve only had sake once in my life – I bought a bottle to use as a prop for a studio lighting assignment in college and I drank it when I was finished my shoot. Maybe it was my unsophisticated college-girl palate or maybe it was the type of sake that I bought, but it tasted like garbage juice. So when Richard ordered a sake for himself I decided to be safe and order a pint of Sapporo. They also serve “big mugs” of Sapporo, but I saw someone further down the bar drinking from one and I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to pick it up without having to use both hands like a toddler!
Richard’s sake was actually very enjoyable. It smelled like peaches! I will admit that I ended up helping him finish this.
Soon our food began arriving. The first thing that we ordered was the quail egg kushi age: Deep fried quail egg kebabs, essentially. They came with tonkatsu sauce and garlic mayo for dipping. They were really delicious. I love a good egg.
Next we tried the okonomiyaki – A deep-fried pancake with yakisoba noodles, tonkatsu sauce and mayo. Hmm… Didn’t we have tonkatsu sauce and mayo on our quail eggs? Am I starting to see a trend here? Either way, this was delicious. The pancake was soft and moist and the noodles were perfectly cooked. I would never consider putting mayo on noodles, but it worked. I’m not sure what the garnish on the top was, but it looked as though it was moving! Richard actually made me try this first because he was afraid that it might be some kind of fish.
This next dish was all mine! It’s the maguro from the daily menu: Fresh BC tuna marinated in sweet soy sauce with a hint of wasabi. I liked it, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. The fish was super cold, almost to the point where it felt a little bit frozen. It was chewy instead of being that soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture that tuna sashimi has. The soy sauce marinade was good, but I don’t think that I’d try this again.
Our final dish (I told you that we didn’t order a lot of food this time) was also from the daily menu: The creamy creamed corn croquettes. These were also drizzled with tonkatsu sauce and mayo (surprise surprise) and at this point Richard and I were wondering why we ordered 3 non-meat dishes that all had the same flavours. There were lots of other options! Next time, next time…
After our dinner we relaxed and drank our sake and watched the other dishes coming out of the kitchen, making decisions about what we’ll order next time when we’re not so full. We were entertained by the antics in the kitchen. It seemed as if every cook and chef had a mini-fridge of Red Bull beneath his or her station, and they all took turns ducking down out of view to take huge gulps from their cans. When we looked at the entrance behind us we knew why- By the time we were finishing there was a huge line-up at the front of the dining room. These guys had a long night ahead of them.
559 Bloor Street West