After several visits to the Guu Sakabar location I decided to give the original Guu Izakaya on Church St. a try.
As soon as my friend and I walked in we were greeted by the entire staff shouting something in Japanese (presumably welcoming us into the restaurant). We went at 5:30PM on a Saturday aiming to avoid the rush, but the restaurant was already nearly full. We were seated at the last two available seats at a communal table.
Most of the tables were communal tables of about 8-12 and there were also several bar seats available. The restaurant had a repetitive beat as background music that fit the hectic and loud atmosphere. Despite the constant shouting (all in Japanese), the servers were very fast and responsive.
There is an authentic Japanese izakaya (family style) menu, so we ordered the Gomaae ($4), Salmon Tataki (7.80), Takoyaki ($5.50), and Kakimayo ($8.50) to share, and each got the Sake Tasting option ($14 for 3 shots). While conversation was made difficult by the loud atmosphere the food and drinks arrived within less than 10 minutes- surprisingly fast for how busy it was.
The Gomaae was a ball of spinach drenched in a sweet black sesame sauce. It made a good appetizer and satisfied my sweet tooth for the meal. The only thing this dish could benefit from is a greater portion size to make it better for sharing.
The Salmon Tataki was a slightly seared sashimi dish with about 5 small pieces. Despite the portion being a little small for the price the food quality was definitely there. The salmon was clearly good quality fish, and the garnish added to the flavour. Would highly recommend this dish for salmon and sushi lovers.
The Takoyaki was battered balls filled with octopus, but the octopus was very lacking. The ball itself was a bit too mushy, but was saved by the excellent garnish and ponzu sauce. If there were more octopus in the takoyaki balls the dish would be significantly better. For once the portion was adequate.
Finally, the Kakimayo was simply amazing. No complaints, even the portion size was good. It was a medley of bc oysters, mushrooms, spinach, and garlic mayo and topped with cheese. This dish was reminiscent of the Twice Baked Potato but with oysters instead. Brilliant creation and creamy taste with a good amount of mushrooms and oyster. There is no wonder this is known for being their signature dish.
The sake selection was limited in variety and their best looking option (the Junmai) was unavailable. I was pleasantly surprised by the dry but sweet tasting Guu’d Sake- it was the best of the three I ordered. Meanwhile the Izumi was dry and less flavourful, and the Gekkeikan was dry and a bit bitter. My friend had the Plum Wine Sake which had a soft cherry taste.
Overall it’s a great restaurant with a very loud atmosphere. Fun for larger groups and for people looking for an authentic Japanese Izakaya experience. I recommend ordering at least two (different) dishes per person and sharing to get a nice variety. High quality food with small portions for the price they charge.
If you want to try Guu Izakaya yourself:
398 Church St.