What does “Guu” mean, anyway? Is it the sound of your stomach when you’re hungry? If so, my stomach was Guu-ing aggressively as I entered the Thurlow Street outpost of the Guu empire. It left very happy, and very full.
I was first introduced to Guu in Toronto, where they have a large restaurant at the end of a long queue of eager diners. As such, I was eager to try out Vancouver’s Guu experience where I am glad to report I did not have to line up.
The restaurant is narrow and cozy. There are a number of seats at the counter where you can watch the cooks sear, sizzle and sauté the numerous pub-style dishes. There are also a number of tables if you’re there with a larger group. Guu Original also has a great buzz. The night I was there, there was hip hop music playing (MC Solar in a Japanese izakaya actually worked) and a real energy in the restaurant as the energetic and friendly waiters and waitresses zipped around like worker bees delivering meals at breakneck speed. Top marks for enthusiasm and promptness.
The menu is well thought out and offers a variety of food large enough to make each visit distinct, but not so large it is overwhelming. I ordered a number of items, all of which were lovely. The prettiest was the Kakimayo oyster dish (a baked oyster crowned with spicy cod roe and mayonnaise) but I found that the oyster meat and its briny goodness were lost. Perhaps a larger oyster (e.g., from Sawmill Bay) could remedy this issue?
The sashimi salad came next and was very well executed. The presentation was top notch, and the selection of seafood was well balanced by the use of shiso (perilla) leaf, lemon, and mayonnaise.
The kara-age was also a hit, and had the right balance of crunch exterior and soft, juicy interior. Finally, after a quick digestion break, an order of deep fried calamari appeared before us. I found the quality of the calamari to be good – soft but with enough resistance to give it a pleasant bite – and made a delicious foil for the Guu beer. There was also a lot of it and this dish, like all the dishes ordered, were excellent value for money.
It is the value dimension to Guu (and other izakaya’s generally) that really make them special. You can eat your face off, wash it down with a beer, and not break the bank. I would definitely recommend this restaurant that has it all: Good atmosphere, good service, good food, good drink, and good value.