Friday, 10 February 2012

Guu Revisited on New Year's Eve

Inside Guu SakaBar.
Some time after trying (Kitanoya) Guu on Church St. in Toronto last year, Guu opened another izakaya, Guu SakaBar, on Bloor St. W. near Bathurst St.  My sister had previously been to this particular Guu and preferred this location more, partly for having more seating and being less crowded.  Perhaps because it was New Year's Eve, with partygoers having gone elsewhere to celebrate, Guu SakaBar still had a few empty seats available during the entire evening we were there.
Guu SakaBar's specials menu for New Year's Eve 2011-2012
Kitchen staff at Guu Sakabar
We managed to score bar seating once again, giving us a good view of the open kitchen... and the dishes being concocted, not to mention the aromas of those dishes.  The staff here also exhibited their enthusiastic demeanours, something of which I won't be tired easily.  The enthusiasm seems infectious, and it certainly livens up the atmosphere in this restaurant.
Guu Sakabar's Carbonara Udon
Like our last trip to Guu, we ordered six dishes to start.  The first to arrive was an udon dish.  During our last visit we enjoyed the Yaki Udon, but this time we went with something more creative and exotic, Carbonara Udon.  Like the original Italian carbonara dish, there was bacon and egg in this dish, while it definitely retained its distinctive Japanese heritage with the stir-fried udon flavoured with soy sauce and the garnishing of finely shredded nori.  I really enjoyed this dish for its creativity and its flavouring.  Had this dish been larger I definitely would've eaten more, not leaving room for more dishes to come.
Lobster and Uni Sashimi, two of Guu Sakabar's specials of the evening.
Next to arrive was two of the specials that evening, lobster and uni sashimi.  Unfortunately the uni (sea urchin roe) had a slight bitterness, meaning that top-quality uni likely was not used.  Excellent-quality uni would have a smooth, creamy texture and would be mild and sweet in flavour.  The lobster, on the other hand, was nice, sweet and tender to the bite, and lightly cooked on the outside to give it a more presentable colour.
Ebi-cado, another Guu Sakabar daily special.
We also ordered another special, the Ebi-cado, to satisfy my craving for avocado.  For some reason, I thought that there was going to be avocado stuffed in some large prawns, but what was presented was the complete opposite; the avocado halves were stuffed with prawns and topped with Japanese mayo and panko.  Unfortunately my sister and I thought this dish was a bit on the heavy side with the amount of mayo on top of the size of the avocado, and we couldn't finish the avocado.
A favourite of ours, Kakimayo.
The Kakimayo was one of our favourites from our last trip, so it was a no-brainer to order this one again. Topped with mushrooms, spinach, garlic mayo and cheese, these baked beauties tasted as delightful as we last recalled.
Saba, grilled saba mackerl.
The last of the first six items we ordered was the Saba.  A piece of saba mackerel was grilled and served with dill, fried garlic chips, lemon and onion on a hot iron plate.  Unfortunately we found the mackerel to be on the salty side, though I did appreciate the contrasting texture of the soft mackerel against the lightly crispy mackerel skin and the aromatic and even crispier garlic chips.
Karaage, Guu Sakabar's fried chicken.
We still had room for more food, and after seeing one of the chefs complete so many orders of Karaage before us we decided to give that dish a go.  Pieces of boneless chicken were marinated in soy sauce before they were deep-fried and served with garlic mayo.  The chicken pieces were alright, still moist on the inside while pleasantly crispy on the outside.
Ikapiri, calamari coated in spicy ketchup.
We also ordered Ikapiri to satisfy my sister's craving for calamari.  We definitely enjoyed this dish due in part to the fact that the calamari were lightly dredged rather than battered, ensuring they didn't taste too heavy and they were nicely crispy.  After they were deep fried, the calamari were tossed in spicy ketchup, giving them the nice red colour and the sweet and spicy zing.
Tontoro at Guu Sakabar.
Last to arrive was another dish we enjoyed during our last Guu visit, Tontoro.  Slices of grilled pork cheeks, slightly chewier than most other cuts of pork, were grilled and simply flavoured with salt and yuzu pepper, allowing for a mildly spicy and citrus-laced play with our tastebuds.
Another view of the kitchen and bar at Guu Sakabar.
Once again my sister and I had a pleasant experience at an izakaya, and I visibly demonstrated my appreciation to the staff this time when they all shouted their thanks for our patronage by doffing my fedora to them.  If you don't mind the constant cacaphony of the enthusiastic staff, then this place is definitely worth a visit.  With lots of good dishes to select that can be shared and such an animated atmosphere, the more people you can bring with you here to share the experience, the better!

Name: Guu SakaBar
Address: 559 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON
Cuisine: Neo-Japanese
Price Range: Dinner $25-$50 (depending on diner's appetite)
Accessible: No

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