398 Church St (at McGill St, Toronto)
Fatty Kat Eats: Beef Carpaccio, Kakimayo, Buta Kimchi Bibimbap, Almond Tofu
I was in Toronto for a wedding last weekend and had time for just a few meals. Guu Izakaya was on every must-eat list, so my fatty date and I decided to take matters into our own hands.
As it turns out, you need to give up your firstborn child for a table. We waited for quite a while, along with many other hungry, desperate people. There were several tiny windows that allowed us to creep on all the happy people inside, which made it that much more enticing for us to stay and wait. Once we got our bums into the restaurant, the incessant roars of "welcome," "thank you" and "happy birthday" raged on and on until we left.
Ordering our meal was a daunting task. Just look at all the different menus, fonts, sizes and colors. Unlike many restaurant menus, you actually have to read this stuff and ask questions, because:
A) WTF is kakimayo?!?!
B) Deep fried brie...I'm sorry, what?!
C) Is "shibazuke" a kind of weapon?
We started our feast with the Gyu Carpaccio, a Japanese version of beef carpaccio. While the quality of the beef was decent, it merely served as a canvas for the tart ponzu sauce, heavenly garlic chips and smooth wasabi mayo. If that wasn't the goal, then someone needs to get Mr. Wagyu in the house.
The Buta Kimchi Bibimbap came out looking much prettier than this, but the server got to the mixing spoons before I got to my iPhone. My resident Korean and eating partner allowed the stone pot to cook the rice to a smoky crispiness that only the patient deserve, and I'm usually not one of those patient people! This was a pretty standard bibimbap with the Korean national condiment, kimchi. You bet your bottom that a bowl of steamy rice, egg, pork and veggies hit the spot in the cold of Toronto!
The Gomaae was far from my favorite dish of the night. The blanched spinach was (surprise surprise) bland, save for the overly salty black sesame sauce. This dish would have been great with crunchy, sauteed greens and a lighter version of the sauce. Plus, the black stuff doesn't look so appetizing. Feel free to use your imagination.
Our server was pretty enthusiastic about the Kabocha Korokke, a fried pumpkin croquette with a boiled egg on the inside. This croquette was the hugest one I've ever seen, and the egg amped up the richness of the entire baseball-sized thing. I had no idea what the pink sauce could be, perhaps thousand island? Needless to say, I wasn't a fan. It overpowered everything else and was, of all things, a vomit-colored pink.
Uni, just because... I'm an uni pervert, loud and proud!
The Kakimayo was easily my favorite dish of the night. You can't go wrong with an oyster, cheese and some real heat. The mushrooms, spinach and garlic mayo also did some serious damage; and by damage, I mean an intense foodgasm. These ingredients were made for each other.
I was so so so excited to see the Hotate Carpaccio on the menu. Tell me, does "Hokkaido scallop sashimi with wasabi dressing" sound good to you? Yes, of course! I was sorely disappointed to see these silky slices of scallop completely overpowered by that same pink sauce (above). Why the hell would someone waste a precious scallop like that? RIP scallop.
In concept, Banana Tempura sounds good, but it's so hard to do well. I can't even remember the last time I had a good tempura fried banana. Maybe at Lovely Day? Anyways, these bananas were too heavily coated with a less than desirable tempura batter. Also, in my world, mangos and bananas should not mate. The two just don't taste good together. Should we also mention that we saw the banana floating in the same fry basket as the shrimp? Nobody wants to see that.
We ended our meal on a higher note with the Almond Tofu. This self-proclaimed "world's smoothest almond tofu" was pretty banging. I was surprised at how robust the almond flavor could be in the silky tofu. Me like.
The restaurant sends out the check with frozen grapes. Nice touch. These purple guys look much more beautiful and complex than they actually are. Just grapes...but the iciness somehow remindes me of a sorbet.
This place is rowdy as hell and makes for a fun dinner with good food. If you can appreciate all the shouting and craziness, you'll really enjoy yourself. Now, if you're strictly look for mind-blowing food, Guu Izakaya is not the place for you. Since this place is an izakaya, I understand that the emphasis is placed on the drinks, so I let a few things go.
I can safely say that I'll be back the next time I'm in Toronto. Our dinner was that much fun!