On a family outing years ago, we once wanted to go to the Guu restaurant on Church, but on a Friday night it takes a while to get in!! I sent them an email this time, to find out there can't be any reservations made, but instead they recommended we arrive 2hrs earlier.. not my favourite way to spend Sunday afternoon. (5 degrees outside)
Instead I got in touch with the Guu Sakabar on Bloor, which takes reservations on Sundays and we went on our double date there.
Driving along Bloor, knowing roughly where to look is not enough to find this gem. From the outside grey tiles and wood, no sign until you notice it on the side corner. From that tiny side street, there is a long glass entrance to the restaurant with their substantial black wordmark on it.
We entered that glass tunnel and waited a bit. There were gaps in the tiles. Being curious, I ended up looking through one and staring as someone fitting a large bite in their mouth. It felt like we are spying
raspberry, cherry, allspice
Getting to the front, we noticed how loudly the staff yells something to people leaving (a bit embarrassing). I asked for our reservation. We were given a choice of sitting in an area with small, charming wooden tables and chairs or a more traditional area where you take your shoes off and it looks like you are sitting on the floor. The picked the ladder, as it seemed a bit more secluded and quieter.
It was beautiful inside - the main area with natural wood planks and soft warm lights created a very intimate feel. I was torn to sit there and experience that side.
After taking some time to take off our shoes, we placed them in wooden box-racks. Tables, floors, the entire room was all a lighter, perhaps birch, wood - smooth and polished. The seating was one of those new crosses between traditional and modern, where you are sitting on the floor surface, but it is really a bench, as there is plenty of space for your feet to hang down. There were thin round pillows to sit on. This entire experience made me feel a bit like a kid, it was fun. What enhanced my feeling was the menu.
The menu is a grid of colourful squares. Different tones are for the different sections of food. Each small square has the dish (in english and japanese), description and price - very efficient. A separate paper menu leaflet tucked inside has their sakes. We quickly agreed to try 500mL of their Bamboo Sake.
The waitress came and kneeled down to talk to us. It almost seemed like we were kids making friends. She was kind of loud and made a lot of strange sounds when talking, backed up by hand gestures and expressions that had Japan written all over. Regardless, she had a light attitude and a big smile. We asked about their "fun" menu section which had 3 free items. She said they are cheers. Our friend asked for two of those. She agreed. Ok, now food! The dishes are all small, kind of tapas-like, and so we took a bunch to share.
We took Edamame, each couple took a salad to share. We went for the Guy Shadu Salad. Cheri wanted their Salmon Tataki, I wanted their Saba. As a table to also took Brie Cheese, Spicy Negitoro and Karaage.
silky mouthfeel, elegant, full-bodied
Soon after our Sake made its way in a real authentic Bamboo bottle - a thick stick cut at a 45 degree angle and covered with only hole on one side - very elegant. The sake itself was not too special. It was served cold, as most high-end sakes are. It was light, lightly fruity and citrusy.
Our dishes came in a very random order.. starting with the Spicy Negitoro, Brie and Karaage. Followed by the Salmon Tataki and the salads and finally the Saba.
Spicy Negitoro was great - a small bowl of spicy chopped tuna and scallion with a side of sea-weed leaves to wrap it in. The Brie and Karaage came in bite-size balls, great fingerfoods. Fried, but not greasy. The deepfied brie had a light, unique mango-berry sauce spilled on top. The Karaage was deep fried, soy sauce marinated chicken with a slap of garlic mayo and greens. The Salmon Tataki was tender, raw and fresh topped with wasabi mayo, garlic chips and scallion. It was all covered in a citrusy sauce (ponzo). All these little dishes were great. We probably should have ordered a dish per two people. Next, the salads were substantial. Our Gyu Shabu was thickly sliced beef on peppers and greens with sesame dressing and garlic crisps. It was great. And as we started eating it, the edamame appetizer made it's way. Better late, then never! A generous bowl with chunky salt - the usual.
We asked for a dessert menu. 3 of us decided to order and share - cheesecake, pudding and tiramisu. They took no time. The sake flavoured tiramisu was really not something I'd order again.. too much of sake aroma for me. Their pudding was a cream burl, nothing special. Finally their green-tea cheesecake was not at all cheese-tasing. It was very sweet,
rich, deep and lasting
I should have checked out the washrooms while sitting there, as they give you wooden flip-flops to slip on, when you go there. Very authentic. However we were all so occupied with the foods, we forgot until the end after we put our shoes back on. We made out way downstairs, with separate room washrooms - about 6 of them, very well stocked up and very well matched with the rest of the interior.
Overall.. a very natural Merlot with many intricacies