Guu Izakaya – Rise to Stardom

6 Oct

Guu Izakaya
398 Church St, Toronto, Ontario
(416) 977-0999
www.guu-izakaya.com/toronto.html

No other resturant/bar in Toronto in recent memory has had the kind of cultural and social impact on my surrounding social circles.  Since opening back at the beginning of the year, Guu has literally become the vocabulary of my friends.  I’ve stood by my regard that I will not, under any circumstances, wait over an hour for a meal.  So I’ve avoided it like the plague, I can’t see how good it could possibly be to worth an hour’s wait for dinner.

Until one late night, my friends are coming home and are looking for a bite, they said they are going to Guu, seeing it was 10 PM when they called, I grabbed my camera and went to the famous Japanese Izakaya for ‘Siu Yea’, or a late night snack in english, at the place that had people asking ‘Have you been Guuuuuuuuu-ed?’

My, that gets annoying!

As you can tell, I obiviously had high regard for a place thanks to the social influences of my circle of friends.  So I do have pre-conceived notion coming here.  I know this is already considered a flawed review, but soldier on shall we?

 

Front door next to a Tandoori place... nice

 

Maybe standing next to a Tandoori place isn`t the most eye pleasing landscape, the absolute disregard for architectural flow seems to be a common theme of Toronto though, mixing old with new, mixing trendy and modern, with bright fluorcent lights from the Tandoori.  I like the outdoor design, but it was completely destroyed thanks to the Tandoori place, I mean, who the hell thought THAT was a good idea.

 

Guu Interior

 

Of course, inside, it is more like a Izakaya, lively table even at 11:30 when we arrived, the chefs hard at work trying to get their dishes out to hungry and somewhat drunk patrons.  That evening there was no shortage of rowdy customers.  The table behind us was a bunch of college students who were drinking loudly.  Well, I guess that`s part of the Izakaya culture, in Japan, that`d be even worse in the more ghetto places.

So, no real winners for Guu on the outside, but it was certainly part the fault of Toronto`s utter disregard for urban planning.  Inside carries the Izakaya feel, along with the crowds it attract.

There’s lots of dishes we tried, so I will try to select the best of the bunch

 

Hotate Butter: 3.5/5 (7.50), funny for a dish without butter, it had a sour vinaigrette and chives to bring some flavor, nice and refreshing

 

 

Maguro Tataki: 3/5 (6.80), It was alright, had the same vinaigrette dressing as the Hotate, nothing real special

 

 

Salmon Natto Yukke: 4/5 (8.30), a nice weird mix of a varying bunch of stuff. The Salmon Roe took center stage with the natto bringing a very creamy flavor. Wrapped in crispy and fresh Seaweed, I liked it

 

 

Ebi Mayo: 3/5 (7.80), although the shrimp itself is rather flavorless, I liked the wasabi mayo, nice and rich flavor with a bit of the wasabi smell to kick it to the next level

 

 

Brie Cheese: 4.5/5 (6.80), I love it! Sweet tangy sauce gave the dish quite a unique distinctive character that sat very well with the brie.

 

 

Gyutangue (Ox Tongue), 3.5/5 (6.3), good price, and although a bit dry, the horseradish on top gave it a bit of a bitter distinct flavor.

 

Total Bill: 121.59 (6 people, with 2 bottles of beer)

Fair price for a late night snack, just about 20 bucks per head, with alcohol, while you can say it seem expensive, tapas bar do cost about the same, and Izakaya in the most basic form, is a Japanese Tapas Bar really.  Portions were on par with other Tapas bar too.

Overall Verdict: 3/5

The service level was not acceptable for the prices they charge, BUT, it is an izakaya, it isn’t some high end Japanese place, so that is forgiven.  I can even compliment that they had nothing but Japanese employees working there, a real plus in my book.

It’s location, while I have beef with the way it was planned, again, its not like they can plan around it, again, no points lost there.

Food was good, it offered the unique dishes that actually are quite tasty, things you cannot experience in any typical Japanese resturant, and we have a place that serves the full on Japanese Izakaya experience, service levels acceptable, price while expensive, its not ridiculous, so what’s wrong?

My beef with Guu had nothing to do with the service, nor food, nor price, nor even its ridiculous location.  It’s the way Guu sells itself.

Let’s start with the dinner rush, 2 hours wait?  Honestly? There are plenty of decent, and even good Japanese places around, there’s also many good Tapas places Downtown, my maximum wait for a table at any resturant, no matter what it could be, is 30 minutes.  Anything more and its wasting my time.  How can people even think of waiting 2 hours sometimes just to have this experience is beyond me.

If Guu is selling itself as a late night food and bar, which is what most Izakaya is in Japan, it only gets lively closer to 10 PM, we arrived at 11:30, there was no line up and we did not have to wait at all.  Then they notified us that they are closing at midnight.  Seriously?  A bar with drinking and midnight snack that closes at midnight?

I can’t say that they are wrong, Guu’s plan was brilliant, they took something trendy, and market it as a dinner alternative, and are probably making silly money for it. If its a dinner place, then why have the izakaya atmosphere?

And if it is a late night drinking snacking place, then why close at midnight?  I expected them to open its doors at 9, and close at 4 in the morning!

And if it is a combination of both, they I still stand by my regard, why close at midnight?

I am probably against the grain here, I did not take into account my own personal vendetta against Guu in the score.  For an overall experience, Guu manages the izakaya experience very well, good food, good atmosphere that promises the experience without needing a plane ticket to Tokyo, still a decently hefty price tag.  I just have a problem with the way it sells itself.  Sell it as a real Izakaya to the early morning hours!

What do you all think?  Let me know via the comments!

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One Response to “Guu Izakaya – Rise to Stardom”

  1. MISSY October 9, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    YOU CAN’T SELL SOMETHING THE MARKET DOES NOT WANT/NEED. NIGHTLIFE IN TO ENDS EARLIER UNLIKE IN ASIAN COUNTRIES. THERE IS PROBABLY NOT ENOUGH DEMAND TO WARRANT ALL THE COSTS THAT WOULD INCUR IF THE PLACE OPENDED LATE INTO THE NIGHT. I DID FEEL A BIT RUSHED BECAUSE OF THE LINE UP I KNEW WAS OUTSIDE… AND ALL THE RUNNING AROUND THE WAITERS/WAITRESSES WERE DOING (DURING DINNER HOURS). DIDN’T FEEL LIKE I COULD LOUNGE AROUND AND SIT BACK WITH A FEW DRINKS… WHICH IS WHAT AN IZAKAYA IS SUPPOSED TO BE?

    M!

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