Saturday, May 2, 2009
Guu with Garlic – Vancouver, BC
If you want Japanese food, and you want atmosphere, then you owe it to yourself to try Guu with Garlic. Of course, when I say atmosphere I don’t mean soft ambiance and romance, I’m thinking more busy and buzzing with shouting Japanese waitresses.
Guu is always busy, and you will most likely find yourself waiting if you haven’t made a reservation. As it is certainly not a huge place, you will either find yourself sitting up at the bar watching the chefs yell and flash pans of burning oil, or at small wooden bench style tables, or rarely, up in their tatami section. Caveat to anyone over five foot five, you will have great difficulty fitting yourself and your legs in or around the little table.
Ordering is an experience in itself. After choosing items from the menu, photocopied calligraphy specials, and bizarre “Guuuuu is Good” touting chalkboards, you will find that the server will repeat each item you order, only at +35 decibels. The kitchen then yells back the order, accompanied by a perfunctory “hy” or “ya”. The waitresses tend to look you directly in the eye when they yell, in a I’m yelling at them but looking at you scenario. This is a fun, albeit slightly uncomfortable, start to every Guu experience.
I think you could define Guu as an Izakaya bar, which is probably slightly wrong as Izakaya is supposed to be drink orientated and the food is an accompaniment. Whatever, to all of us who actually have no idea what we’re talking about, it’s a Izakaya/tapas/small yummy dishes place. Everything is good. Seriously. And almost everything, as the name suggests, has garlic in it.
Briefly here’s what I order: Tuna Yukke – deep fried garlic chip encrusted tuna sashimi with edamame beans and a drizzling of a slightly sweet sesame sauce. Beef Carpaccio ¬– very thinly sliced pieces of Carpaccio – sometimes arranged into a flower – with shredded daikon, sliced onion, wasabi mayo and some sort of delicious plum reduction. Tako Yaki – Octopus balls. (Not what you’re thinking) Soft breaded and lightly deep fried, balls of octopussy goodness. Ebi Mayo – simple dish, easily messed up. Guu has it balanced with a light batter and perfect aioli. Hotate Butter – seared scallops, garlic chips, green onion and melting bonito flakes. These are the staples, but every time I go I try a few different things and am yet to be disappointed. Oh yeah, black cod or Gin Dara is definitely worth mentioning.
While you’re salivating and waiting for the hundred tiny dishes to clutter your table, try one of their sake cocktails. They’re quite good, but you need to order one purely for the bottle of Ramune soda that they use as mix. The Ramune bottles provided me with at least three minutes of focused childlike fascination. Ramune is soda that comes in a glass bottle with a marble stopper that you have to pop out in order to drink it. Okay that is a pretty unclear/confusing explanation, but I don’t have any schematics available, so go try one yourself or Wikipedia it.