One of my favourite things about living in downtown Toronto is the multitude of amazing food joints. There are so many hip and trendy restaurants with amazing dishes that people will wait hours for (in the cold!). It seems that every neighbourhood has at least one gem, with dishes touted in the local papers and magazines. It’s a real treat for us, especially since we used to live in places that had limited dining options.
This past weekend we revisited a favourite in our neighbourhood: Guu Izakaya. Guu is actually part of a chain of restaurants that started in Vancouver; our Guu, on Church Street was the first in Toronto (2009) and in 2011 Guu Sakabar opened on Bloor Street. Both Guu venues have a great atmosphere with trendy furnishings attracting a youthful and hipster crowd. There are long communal tables that place you next to strangers. The food itself is delicious; it’s perfectly portioned for sharing, whether you come in a pair or as a large group. We’ve been about 4 times so far to the Guus and my personal favourites are the spicy negitoro (spicy tuna) and the buta kimchi bibimbap (pork, kimchi, egg and rice in a stone bowl) while Ewan’s are the kakimayo (oyster and mushrooms baked with spinach and cheese) and karaage (deep fried chicken with a special mayo sauce for dipping). Despite these favourites, there is yet to be a dish we’ve tried that we don’t like. And the amazing thing is that the costs are reasonable. On a date night where we were stuffed to the brim and had drinks (you can get a ‘big’ Sapporo beer for $10), our tab came to just $40.
One of the more endearing aspects of Guu is the vibe. As soon as you enter the restaurant you are shouted at by the servers and kitchen staff. When you leave, same story. It’s entertaining to be at a table with a view of the door: you get to see the surprised looks on the faces of those who haven’t yet experienced the yells of the staff. Aside from the hellos and good-byes, the staff get really into birthday celebrations, with all the waitstaff coming out presenting the dessert to the unsuspecting person. They chant a very Japanese-accented version of Happy Birthday with one person holding a whiteboard showing the birthday boy/girl’s name. At Guu Izakaya we witnessed the kitchen staff throwing on ridiculous glasses and one of the waitstaff donning a ‘Mount Fuji’ mask. I think Guu would be one place where I would opt in and not shy away from being singled out on my birthday!
Despite Guu being really close to home, we’ve only recently discovered it, but it’s fast become a favourite. Despite being there last weekend, treating my out-of-town aunt to the place’s exuberance, we are headed there this upcoming weekend for a friend’s birthday celebration. This time I will be ready to snap a shot of Mr Mount Fuji!