If you expect cheers when you walk in the door, then Guu Sakabar is the restaurant for you. Their staff is kept busy serving up Japanese Tapas (Izakaya) with enthusiasm and erupts in cheers every time someone steps into the restaurant.
Even on a Tuesday night, by 8pm the place is packed. Since we don't mind sitting at the bar we didn't have to wait more than five minutes to be sat, but if you hate waiting and want to be guaranteed a real table definitely make a reservation.
The main dining room where you can see into the open kitchen. Guests sitting at the bar have a brilliant view of all the food being made and can get totally immersed in the culinary experience and high energy atmosphere.
On the right there's a separate and *slightly* quieter dinning room for reservations. Here the tables rise up out of holes in the floor and there is a strict no shoes policy.
We started off with salmon sashimi with green onion, wasabi mayo, and garlic chips. The West-Coast salmon is thick-cut and incredibly fresh tasting.
One of my favourites: baked B.C. oysters smothered in a spinach and mushroom sauce and topped with melted cheese. If you're curious about oysters but are afraid of the texture and flavour, or are a little squeamish about raw food, then these are a great place to start. The baking process mellows out the texture and flavour, and you don't have to embrace the idea of raw shellfish. I must warn you though: these are a gateway oyster. After trying these, it won't be long before you're pilling on the horseradish and tucking in to a whole plate of raw oysters.
Another favourite: black cod marinated in miso and served with miso sauce. I love black cod in general and this is done to perfection. The fish is meaty and rich tasting without being at all fishy, and it's served with just the right amount of miso to balance the flavours.
Deep-fried brie cheese served with mango & berry sauces. What more can I say?
Carbonara Udon: creamy udon noodles with an egg sauce, bacon, and seaweed garnish. This Italian-Japanese fusion, like everything at Guu, was super-tasty and an interesting mix of flavours. But, compared to everything else we'd already had, it didn't blow me away. If pasta is really what you're looking for, you'd probably be better off at an Italian restaurant.
We tried something new this time around: blowtorched mackerel sushi, and it has definitely made it's way onto our list of must-haves. Unlike the sushi we're used to, the fish is cooked and the blowtorch gives it a subtle extra layer of flavour. Mackerel tends to be a fishier fish but this one had just enough character without being too strong. Don't be tempted to ask for soya sauce because the chef has already brushed the sushi with the perfect amount to bring out all the flavours.
I always think I'll have room to try one of their deserts but we were both way to full to even think of an after-dinner drink. Dinner for two with six sharing plates and two rounds of drinks came in under $100 including tax and tip. And we had food leftover!
If you're looking to try Japanese cuisine beyond your basic sushi I highly highly recommend a trip to Guu. Just be prepared for a loud and raucous atmosphere, and maybe think twice about bringing any elderly guests who need supportive seating. In addition to being full of character, Guu offers a chance to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Their extensive menu is unlike any other Japanese restaurant I've been to and always features an exciting list of specials.
For more information or to make a reservation visit: www.guutoronto.com