My first exposure to Kitanoya Guu with Otonomae, or just Guu as it's often called, was in April of 2004 with some friends. My one friend had enthusiastically been raving about Guu for so long, it was about time I experienced it myself.
Sushi is the most popular food in Vancouver and it's available in hundreds of restaurants around the city, but it's not served at Guu. Don't let this prevent you from coming though.
Guu specializes in izakaya food; various dishes of small portions that are popularly eaten while drinking in Japan. Izakaya food is not so common in Vancouver at the moment, but those in the know say it's the new cuisine trend just ready to explode. I personally feel that the food at Guu is far superior than a lot of Japanese restaurants in town. The food here seems more inventive, tasty, affordable and offers a new experience in Japanese cuisine in North America.
There are 3 Kitanoya Guu restaurants in Vancouver, but this review covers Kitanoya Guu with Otokomae in the historic Gastown neighbourhood. The service here is fast and friendly. As soon as you walk in, every staff member belts out a cheerful greeting. When you order your food, the waiters and waitresses yell the orders to the chef below and the chef repeats it to confirm this... all in Japanese, of course. This makes for a very lively atmosphere!
When to go...
I personally find the restaurant ideal for socializing with a group of friends. The environment is modern, colourful and exciting. While dining with friends, we all order various dishes and share them among eachother. We would then normally share a pitcher of sangria, or we'd share some botles of sake and turn our dining experiences into a party! All of my experiences at Kitanoya Guu have been really fun and memorable.
Favorite Dish: Think of izakaya-style food as "Japanese tapas" - little dishes that are cheap but delicious. Izakaya does not include sushi. Here are some of my favourites at Guu. All prices are in Canadian dollars:
Kari-Kari Okonomi Yaki - Deep-Fried Japanese Cabbage Pancake Served with "Tonkatsu" & Mayo Sauce ($5.60)
Marinated 'Maguro' & Avocado - Fresh Tuna & Avocado with Mango Sauce & Sour cream Sauce ($6.50)
Baked Oyster with Mentaiko & Mayonnaise - Baked Oyster with Spicy Cod roe, Mayonnaise Sauce topped with Cheese ($4.00)
p.s. Check out their cocktail list. I rarely throw around the word "exotic" but I haven't seen cocktails like these elsewhere in the city. Froofy, girly, even futuristic perhaps, but you can't deny it - they're so flavourful and unique that even the guys lap them up as much as the girls! My personal favourite is the perfumatic cocktail made of lychee juice, raspberry jelly and Japanese vodka. Yes, it tastes as good as it sounds!
If you like Japanese food that is not like the typical internationalized Japanese food, then come to Guu.
This bar and restaurant offers many unique dishes and a great atmosphere. Whenever you walk in or out or order something, all the waitresses and chefs shout greetings to you or pass the order along.
You can either sit at a cozy and friendly bar area where you can watch the 3 chefs work their magic and talk to the other folks. Or, there are about 8-10 cozy tables in a front room and a couple in a back room.
They serve beer, sake, and some mixed drinks (juice with Japanese "vodka"). If you are with some friends, you can order many small dishes for Canadian $2- 6 each (most are CAD $3-4) and share. In some ways, these small, cute, unique, tasty dishes remind me of a Japanese version of dimsum, except that they cook it fresh rather than bring it around on a cart.
They have a regular permanent menu and then a "special" menu of the day in both Japanese and English. Please try it! You'll love it regardless of your food tastes... even if you don't like Japanese food.
Favorite Dish: Here are some of my favorites:
- Grilled black cod
- Baked oyster covered with mayonaisse-based sauce
- Jelly fish and shark fin dish
- Pumpkin / meat dish