So after a breakfast of sushi rolls and a lunch of Japanese-American hot dog fusion, Amanda said it was time for her to show me her favorite Japanese izakaya in town. And who was I to refuse? This girl knows where to eat!
Guu is guud. It really is. It even says so on the chopsticks wrapper. And everyone knows that if it's in writing, it must be true. Hah.
We sat at the bar, and although there's not as much elbow room at the bar as there is at a table, the bar offers a great view of the chefs hard at work. Substitute elbow room for a glimpse into the fast-paced chaos of an izakaya's kitchen? Count me in!
The menu at Guu is quite extensive. Not only does the food menu come in a laminated, ring-bound, mini-Rolodex-like, school-report format, it comes in the forms of paper (the chef's specials of the day) and wood too. (The entire menu can be viewed from a podium-like fixture by the front door.) From sashimi to salad, from hot oden to cold dishes, from fried to grilled... Guu has it all. I wanted to order everything. But I called upon Asahi-san first, as he, Sapporo-san, and Kirin-san are my very good buddies. Amanda chose to have a Ramune mojito, which substituted Japanese marble soda pop for the mojito's traditional fizz. Cheers!
Based on Amanda's recommendation, the first item we ordered was the daikon salad. At first I thought, "How can you possibly make a salad out of radish and have it taste good too?" Well, just throw in silky strands of shark fin, gleaming noodles of jellyfish, and curls of fried onions, and you've got yourself a salad. Mmm... the combination of different textures blend well together... and the delicate flavors from the sea create a salad that is not too strong or overpowering. Cobb salad, this is not. A light and refreshing Asian-style salad, this is.
The next item that we selected was the salmon yukke. I've only ever had tuna yukke before, so this was one of my rare encounters with salmon yukke. And this rare encounter was almost magical. The salmon had a gorgeous, glowing, radiant color... but I'm sure that the dark teriyaki sauce in the background helped to bring out the glow too. What struck me most was not the color but, once again, the combination of textures. There was the tender and fleshy-sweet salmon sashimi that contrasted with the smooth saltiness of the teriyaki sauce... and then the slight, crackling crunch of the shrimp chips against the firm resilience from the pine nuts. Wow, Guu... this really was guuuuud.
Beef sashimi was next. We moved on from a red-fleshed fish to a red-fleshed mammal. And oh, the red flesh of this cow was oh, so tender. I wish I could say tell you how raw beef is supposed to taste, but honestly, I can't. I only know if beef is good or bad when it's cooked. The best bovine expertise I can provide is that the meat didn't smell like past-the-date beef from Vons, and it tasted pretty similar to the rare cut of prime rib at Lawry's. The paper-thin slices of beef were surrounded by a ginger tomato sauce, a drizzle of mustard mayonnaise, and a sprinkling of chopped basil and green onion. Okay, I rescind my comment. I know how raw beef is supposed to taste.
My favorite item was the ebimayo, a signature item at Guu's Thurlow location. The ebimayo was also Amanda's recommendation, and I know exactly why Amanda (or any Guu regular for that matter) would swoon over it. Shrimp and potatoes are baked together in a gratin-style dish, mixed into and blanketed by cod roe, cheese, and Japanese mayonnaise... Seeing it made me hot and bothered. Tasting it made me melt like cheeeese. Ahhhhhhh... and the best part was that the curled-up shrimp and the spherical potatoes were the same shape and size. Covered under the layer of cheese and cod roe mayonnaise helped disguise the sea critter and the land veggie... I was in for a surprise everytime I forked this into my mouth. Really though, it's easy to distinguish shrimp from potato, but... I was eating with my eyes closed.
I ordered a fifth item... the butabara skewers. Cannot. stay. away. from. pork. belly. If pork belly is in front of me, I will eat it. If pork belly is on the menu, I will order it. If there is no pork belly in sight, I will crave it. Sweet garlic cloves separated strips of my favorite meat, and sesame seeds somehow held it all together. Mmmm... say no more. PORK BELLY was here.
Four dishes for two people is usually quite the meal in itself. But I... well, if it's good, I can eat. And if I don't destruct what's in front of me, I'd be happy to let it destruct me. So five. Five dishes. Two and a half stomachs. Countless times I heard Amanda exclaim, "How can you be hungry right now? I'm still FULL!"
Poor Amanda. Look at the hell I put her through with my attempt to eat my way through Vancouver. And we had yet to hit up Vancouver's annual Summer Night Market. If that's not culinary masochism, I don't know what is. But for now... some more digestion via walking? You betcha.
Next post: Some more Japanese... and little bit of Taiwanese
ML - 20100729/20100703