It seems like I’ve been to a lot of Japanese izakayas lately.
A little while back (ok, so it was a few months ago), I headed over to Guu Otokomae in Gastown with a good girlfriend of mine, to take her out for her birthday dinner. I’ve been to a couple of others in the Guu chain, and I’ve heard that Otokomae was supposed to be one of the better ones (although I’d have to say that I also liked Guu Garden and Guu with Garlic a lot, too).
We arrived to a lively crowd of people and staff yelling Irashaimase! at around 7:30 in the evening on a weekday. We walked in and up the stairway to a table in the far left corner, next to the window. It was a fairly loud atmosphere, which is kind of what you expect in an izakaya, and it was actually perfect to be slightly tucked away so the two of us could still manage some good conversation and catch up time.
Since both my girlfriend and I are avid eaters, we took our time perusing both the daily specials and regular menu, and managed to order an ambitious 8 or 9 dishes, and still finish off with a couple of desserts. So here we go, on our marathon meal…
At the starting gate we had a few different appies, the first of which was the Spinach and Sesame ‘tapa.’ This was slightly heavy on the sesame side of things, but I really enjoyed the flavour of the sauce regardless.
Next up was the Spicy Agedashi Tofu, with a large sized serving of small, crispy and hot tidbits of protein in a light sauce. I love it when this dish is served with smaller pieces of tofu so that you can finish each one in a single mouthful and enjoy all aspects of it, all while trying not to burn your mouth. Note that it isn’t all that spicy, but for a small dash of it on the top, so this would be fine even for those a little afraid of anything too hot.
The Pickled Black Cod Sashimi was an interesting sounding choice on the specials menu, so of course we had to give it a shot. I’ve never had black cod served this way, and wanted to see if it would taste as good uncooked. It was definitely different to have a pickled version, and although it tasted good, I would still prefer to have it baked with a miso sauce over top. The pickled taste was quite discreet and the way the fish was served made it feel lighter than it normally does.
At this point, we were just getting started, and there were more rich dishes still on their way. The Drunken Mussels, served in a sake garlic sauce, were plump and cooked well and I really enjoyed them. The garlic was definitely quite strong, and this isn’t a good choice if you’re planning on kissing anyone later!
While the Ebi Mayo is quite a popular dish at Guu, I found that it was a bit heavy on the mayo. The sauce was good, but I think a little too overwhelming for the hot and crisp deep fried prawns. They were sinfully rich and still quite addictive though.
Finally, we had the Kimchi Bibimbap with egg and mixed veggies, all stirred up in a hot stone bowl at the table. This was really good – I loved the kimchi spiciness and we managed to finish it all off quite easily.
At this point, we couldn’t seem to make a single choice of a dessert to share, so instead we got two. I ordered the Stone Bowl Sweets, which was coconut ice cream served with custard sauce and slices of french baguette. It may sound like a bit of a strange combination, but it was so rich and delicious.
Last of all, we had the Black Sesame ice cream. This was also very creamy and good, but didn’t compare after having a few bites of the Stone Bowl option.
I really enjoy all the Guu restaurants I’ve been to in Vancouver, and would suggest that anyone who hasn’t tried one yet should go at least once. Be ready for some great food, drinks, and a fun and lively atmosphere.