I fell in love with three pieces of yellowtail fish the other day. The meat was fresh, the texture divine, and they smelled like the sea.
This, in a nutshell, was my experience at Guu Otokomae, the Gastown branch of the Guu chain of izakayas.
“Otokomae”, loosely translated, means handsome, stylish, or cool. When one first comes into the restaurant, one quickly gets the impression that this was the look the designers were aiming at. The restaurant is on two levels, has a lovely, large exposed brick wall , a relatively large selection of properly spaced seating (so you don’t feel like your sitting on top of the neighbouring table) and a big ol’ bar. This was a promising start.
After being taken to our seats by our affable waiter, menus were quickly dealt out. We decided on drinks (a few bottles of the Guu Beer) and an appetizer: Guu Tataki (beef sashimi/carpaccio with grated daikon in ponzu sauce).
The Guu beer was refreshing and a pleasant accompaniment to the delicious, thinly sliced beef. With our palates cleansed and our appetites whetted, we were ready to get down to the business of some serious eating.
We then ordered the spicy ika calimari. The calamari was beautifully tender, not too spicy, and very pleasant to eat. It did not last long.
Our next dish involved more heat – spicy agedashi tofu. This deep-fried tofu gem was served on a bed of lettuce and topped with seaweed, daikon and a nice vinaigrette. The tofu slices were also very generous and the dish is excellent value.
Then came the fish I fell in love with. It was a sashimi special which included that amazing yellowtail sashimi, as well as sweet shrimp and raw scallops. The quality of these ingredients was astonishing. The shrimp was tender but had a nice bite when chewed. The scallops were also amazing, and the hint of of the shiso leave on which the scallops were placed added a cleaver dimension of bitterness.
Unable to stop eating, we then ordered another special: the crab croquette. The exterior was golden and crunch and the interior creamy and warm.
Finally, when we decided enough was enough, we ordered the banana tempura with coconut ice cream. Bananas and coconut are a happy combination, and this desert dish displayed that affinity. It was a great, sweet way to end a great meal.
I freely admit that I have a soft spot for izakayas, but this experience was truly excellent by anyone’s standards. I would highly recommend coming down to Guu Otokomae to enjoy everything it has to offer: Good service, good value, and amazingly fresh ingredients for their fabulous dishes.