Life is Guu'd: Guu on Thurlow | Memosne

Life is Guu'd: Guu on Thurlow

Guu is G'uud. At least that's what the motto says. =P I'm the first one to admit that I'm a a Japanophile and I've been more than pleased with the popularity of Japanese Izakaya restaurants around Vancouver. One of the more famous "chains" of Izakaya is Guu. There are a grand total of six "Guu'd" restaurants in Vancouver: Guu on Thurlow, Guu on Garlic (Robson), Guu in Gastown, Guu in Richmond, Guu Garden, and Guu Kobachi. Each of these restaurants has a different specialization and unique "house specials." The cuisine of the Guu's takes traditional Japanese food and give it a nice "twist," it's not necessarily always "east vs west," but instead whatever the chef wants. =P  

The one that I went to this particular night was the original flagship store of Guu, Guu on Thurlow. I will confess to you, my dear readers, that one of my dreams is to eat at every Guu store for lunch and dinner. OH and eat everything on the menu. Haha, but that will have to wait for a time when my wallet is fuller...*sigh*

Anyway, the staff, chefs, and kitchen crew are all Japanese. So you don't have to worry about authenticity. =P  They are very polite and efficient, I wasn't sitting at the bar, but I did notice that the chefs and the diners had a very boisterous and friendly banter. They were even sharing sake! =) As a table diner, I had to share a table with three other parties. The ambient noise level is very high and speaking to my friend next to me was difficult, because the surrounding conversations were loud and then on top of that you had to add the noise from the waiters shouting out orders. The overall decor is very...hard. Lots and lots of hard surfaces. No frills. Just hard bench seats, tables, and a bar.

At every Guu they have two menus, one hand written with specials and seasonal items and the other the "permanent" menu. 

One overarching theme that I noticed with all the Guu restaurants are that their servings are small. I usually have to order quite a bit, or at least a carbo, in order to get my fill. Luckily for everyone, there are many ramen noodle bars nearby so if you're not full from Guu you can stop over at Benkei, Kintaro, of Santouka instead. =P As small as their serving sizes are the dishes are executed well and I don't usually find myself disappointed in anything.

Beef Tataki
Something I enjoy anytime is Beef Tataki. In a sense beef tataki is the "Japanese" form of beef carpaccio, seared beef with a deliciously juicy, ruby, red center. The delicately cut slices are served atop a bed of stringed radishes, fried garlic slivers, green onions with a ponzu sauce and a lemon wedge.

It was fresh, it was good, and it was savory. Citrus flavors with meat and garlic is probably one of my favorite flavor combinations. I enjoyed everything on the plate, eaten together or separately, and was very pleased that the beef wasn't "frozen" for it's preparation. I've had some beef tatakis that are icy in the middle...thankfully this time wasn't one of them. I was picking at this plate for a long time, even though all the meat was gone.

Grilled Sea Bass 
This is the miso marinated black sea bass. Honestly the flavor combination isn't very unique, I've had it at several other Japanese styled restaurants, and it is a staple in most izakayas or sushi bars. The sea bass was perfectly baked and was moist. Through the baking process it had retained a lot of its flavor.

This dish is definitely an oily one, from the natural oils of the sea bass and the addition of mayonnaise on top. It's also a very sweet dish, due to the miso marinade (which probably includes some sugar and mirin) to the natural flavors of the fish. Very good in any case and an oily indulgence.

Sato Imo/Taro Croquettes
Unfortunately this is the dish that I disliked the most: Sato Imo or the Taro Croquette. I love croquette, a fried mashed potato ball, and I love taro so I had high expectations for this dish. I expected a sweet dish with a crunchy outside and a creamy sweet filling. I know it's bad to have expectations and I kept an open mind, but....I didn't like it. I also wasn't very thrilled with the textures and the flavors associated with these little guys.

The fried skin of the croquette was good, but the inner filling was where it fell flat. Once you bit past the crunchy skin, the filling of the croquette was very solid and a bit tasteless. It derived most of the flavor from the sauce on the plate and even then it wasn't enough to make this little croquette very appealing. It had taken the worst qualities of taro, the starchy, sticky, throat "prickliness," and the worst qualities of the potato, flavorless-ness, and made that it's filling.

You can see in the picture that another party, other than us, had ordered it as well and it is a staple on the Guu menu. However, I'm just not a fan.

Ton Toro
This particular dish was the Ton Toro, the grilled pork cheek. In contrast to the last dish, I loved this one. Again, the portion size was small and sharing with someone else, I felt like I ate 75% of the dish *oops*. I'm not typically a fan of pork, but the way that the pork cheek was grilled... it exemplified its tenderness, juiciness, and natural flavor. It's hard to say no to that winning combo. The main flavors were smokiness derived from the grill and hints of yuzu taken from the lightest drizzle of the sauce on top. The meat was very tender, but had enough resistance to make eating the dish...addictive.

The sauce that you see pooling at the bottom of the dish is a light yuzu ponzu sauce, again proving that the ponzu + meat combination is killer. In the good way! =P

Kimchi Udon
To seal off the meal, my friend and I ordered a carbo option since we were both still hungry. What we decided on was the Kimchi Udon. This is actually a "spin" on one of my favorite dishes, Mentaiko Udon, but instead of just straight up adding the Mentaiko they also decided to add kimchi to give it a spicy twist.

Good, buttery, and carbo-y. This called out to my childhood. I liked it a lot.The only problem we really ran into was mixing it all together. We were left over with quite a bit of kimchi and neither of us particularly liked to eat a pile of kimchi straight. So my word of caution with this dish is probably just: MIX WELL.

Overall, Guu on Thurlow didn't really differ from my previous Guu experiences. Good atmosphere, excellent execution, and polite service. I recommend that you give this Guu a try. Thanks for coming!

Kid Friendly: I would lean towards no, very cramped and items on the menu are definitely for bar faring adults.  
Price: $$$ out of $$$$$
Repeatability: Yes

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  1. everything looks so delicious. it's been awhile since i last dined in a fancy japanese restaurant. maybe i will this weekend :)

  2. @cushy <3 Posting food at night is always the death of me. I end up binging on junk food around the house because I'm so hungry. =P Treat yourself out! You definitely deserve it! ^_^~<3

  3. I've never really had authentic Japanese cuisine and it could be because of the availability of some ingredients due to geographical locations. Oh well. Love the review. :)