Best Funky Asian Food in Toronto - Guu Izakaya

FA Rating: FFF
Price: $$

Be prepared for everyone in the joint to cheer your arrival as you open the door and step into Guu Izakaya (Toronto: Downtown) and then continue to cheer - in Japanese - throughout your dining experience. One of the chefs or servers would yell something out and everyone else would join in and it repeat, so that I felt like I was back at Occupy Wall Street.

Shortly after I arrived, I struck up a conversation the man who sat down next to me. He said that he'd been to one of the Guus in Vancouver, which had been open for much longer. Apparently they were still cheering just as enthusiastically there.

This is one of the places I had picked out for my first trip to Canada ever because the menu is so interesting and different from any I've ever seen before. There were several unfamiliar ingredients, and even the ones I knew already were mixed up in new and exciting ways!

The first thing I ordered was the Gomaae:

Gomaae- blanched spinach with black sesame sauce - $3.80

This was a very nice, light way to start my meal.  It was sweet, salty, a bit bitter and altogether a delicious and interesting dish.

Obviously, I had to order the octopus balls, or Takoyaki, deep fried octopus balls with tonkatsu sauce & karahi mayo

I wasn't sure quite what to expect. As a foodie asshole, I was hoping octopi have balls* and that I'd be tasting them. In reality, they were fried balls of ground up octopus, with some bits less than completely puréed.

An octopus ball close up

Fry anything in a little dough and it'll taste good at least to that extent, but I enjoyed the octopus' contribution to the flavor of the dish.  My only qualm was that the tonkatsu sauce was too sweet.  I enjoyed my balls more when I dipped them in the sriracha face from the pork intestine plate:

Horumon: pan fried pork intestine with sweet garlic soy sauce

I liked these! They were a bit chewy but in a pleasant pieces-of-fat way, instead of in a creepy way.  And you yummify just about anything by pan-frying it in a sweet garlic soy sauce.

My new friend and I started sharing our food to try more things, so I got to try some of one of their daily specials: chicken cartilage.

It was.. chewy.

I suggest not bothering to seek out chicken cartilage.

We saw and smelled a number of these delicious-looking plates going by, so I scanned the menu and determined it must be the kakimayo.

Kakimayo: baked B.C. oyster with mushrooms, spinach and garlic mayo topped with cheese

Yes, it was just as delicious as it looks. If I'm not taking my oysters raw, then I sure as shoot want them baked with a bunch of mushrooms and cheese and other goodies.

It turned out that my random dinner companion's wife also has a food blog, The Walking Stomach, and she did a post on some Boston restaurants that has me drooling and adding more places to my to-do list!

Foodie Asshole wish list from Guu (italics added for Foodie Asshole emphasis):

  • Kurage: marinated jellyfish - $4.5
  • Kabocha Korokke: deep fried kabocha pumpkin croquette with a boiled egg inside  - $4.8
  • Oden - either choose 3 kinds for $4 (and I'd get the squid & fish cake, the puffed fish cake, and the taro jelly) or let the chef choose 6 for $7.5
  • Tontoro: pan fried pork cheek with salt and yuzu pepper - $6.5
  • Unagi Doria: b.b.q. water eel on mixed mushrooms and rice with cheese on top - $9.3
  • Almond Tofu (dessert) - $3.5

They also have sake, a nice sake cocktail menu, plum wine, vodka soda cocktails, a Japanese vodka selection (I want to try sweet potato vodka), some wine, and of course the usual Japanese beers (Sapporo, Kirin, Asahi, and Asahi Black).

Guu Toronto on Urbanspoon

*According to this somewhat dubious source, octopuses do have balls - located in their heads!

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