Guu (Japanese Izakaya Restaurant) – Richmond

Restaurant: Guu 
Cuisine: Japanese/Izakaya/Tapas/Sushi/Sashimi
Last visited: August 7, 2012
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address:  #2790-4151 Hazelbridge Way (Inside Aberdeen Centre)
Transit: Aberdeen Station Northbound
Price Range: $20-30

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 3.5 (based on this location)
Service: 3.5
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Since 2007
  • Japanese Izakaya
  • Japanese chefs/staff
  • Focus on sashimi
  • Fresh sheet
  • Daily specials
  • Lively atmosphere
  • Family friendly
  • Reasonably priced
  • Sake/beer
  • Guu with Garlic
  • Guu on Thurlow
  • Guu With Otokomae
  • Lunch Mon – Fri 11:30 – 2:30 Sat, Sun, Holiday 11:30 – 3:30
  • Dinner Sun – Thu 5pm – 10:30pm Fri, Sat 5pm – 10:30pm

**Recommendations: 3 Kinds of Beef Tongue, Boiled Squid and Japanese Cucumber, Deep Fried Chicken Knees

“Guu Richmond offers the best raw fish and authentic Izakaya otsumami since 2007. The raw fish selection includes fish that has been imported from Japan. This Guu is suitable for hard-core fish lovers. For beginners and vegetarians? Of course there are standard sushi list and vegetable sushi for you.” – from Guu website.

Guu has 5 locations in downtown, but each one has a different concept and daily menu. There is also a standard menu that is shared across all 6 locations with some popular mainstays, but the fresh sheets are usually interesting to explore. The daily fresh sheets will cater to the tastes of the area, but each one has a unique charm that still keeps consistent with their brand.

It’s been a long time since I have visited this Guu. I’ve been to this location only a couple times and I had one hit experience when it first opened and then one miss late last year. I feel like out of all the Guu locations, this one gets the toughest love from diners. Many prefer the downtown locations, as do I, and it’s perhaps due to consistency and ambiance.

I admit, with the Guu restaurants the atmosphere makes up for big points. That’s what it is known for although it does not rely on the high spirited staff and lively atmosphere to make up for the food. Generally, the food at all the Guu’s are quite good and I’ve never really had a bad experience.

This location is tucked away in Aberdeen Centre which is a Chinese mall. The crowd it attracts is more family oriented and it feels more like a standard restaurant than a funky and hip Japanese Izakaya place. It’s still very casual, but it just doesn’t have that semi-drunken energetic ambiance like the downtown ones do. That also explains why it has a limited sake menu; I doubt it contributes to much of their sales here. However I could still see and hear the staff efforts to be up beat throughout the night and they were trying, but unfortunately nobody seemed to be biting. Overall the service was still friendly and attentive, although it might have helped that I was sitting at the bar.

At this location the sushi and sashimi is the highlight, but unfortunately I didn’t remember until the end. The sushi and sashimi menus should have given it away, but the tapas are what I tried. I’ve tried the sushi here before though and I recall it being okay, but it is not the place I would come to if I was craving sushi in Richmond. I associate Guu with izakaya so I would come here for izakaya and tapas before sushi.

I actually enjoyed this experience at Guu, although I found the food almost a bit more catered to Chinese tastes than Japanese. Considering the area and clientele I understand, but it is not my favourite Guu although it was still Guu’d. Ha!

On the table:

Sake

  • This is brewed in Oregon (US), but with Japanese teachings and techniques.
  • It was easy to palate, apple-like in the initial flavor with a mineral after taste.
Pickled Cauliflower & Broccoli – 2/6 (Okay)
  • This was a quick pickled appetizer chef prepared upon request.
  • It was a cooked pickled salad, but the cauliflower, carrots and broccoli were overcooked and quite mushy.
  • It was lightly dressed in vinegar with a bit of heat and it reminded me of Giardiniera (Italian pickles).
  • They seemed sauteed with vinegar instead of actually being pickled and they were served between room temperature and warm.
**Squid & Japanese Cucumber4/6 (Very good)
  • Spicy sauce marinated boiled squid and Japanese cucumber $4.80
  • This was the daily gomaae.
  • Gomaae is a Japanese side dish prepared with sesame dressing.
  • We often see Spinach Gomaae, but there are all types of gomaae.
  • Japanese cucumbers are firmer, have more of a crunch, milder flavour and thinner skins than English cucumbers.
  • If you don’t like raw English cucumbers you might like these better. I like both, but prefer the Japanese ones when eaten raw.
  • It was a very refreshing and flavourful salad and I liked the contrast of very crunchy raw cucumbers and semi chewy squid.
  • The squid wasn’t chewy, but tender, but compared to the cucumber it had a chew.
  • It was well marinated in a sweetened soy sauce with perhaps ponzu (citrus soy sauce) for acidity, sesame oil, chili oil and Japanese chili pepper seasoning (Nanami Togarashi) for spice and heat.
  • It was a mildly spicy dish and it wasn’t the classic creamy gomaae dressing made with ground sesame seeds, but more like a sesame oil based vinaigrette.
**Deep Fried Chicken Knees – 4/6 (Very good)
  • $4.80
  • If you’ve never had a chicken knee these might be 1/6. The texture isn’t catered to traditional North American tastes.
  • These can be considered Chinese “chicken nuggets” or crunchy calamari.
  • It’s originally a Chinese dish and nothing goes to waste especially in Chinese culture and cuisine.
  • The “chicken knee” is the joint or bone connecting the chicken leg and thigh.
  • It’s a soft and edible bone and it tastes like semi-crunchy cartilage.
  • There is a bit of a chew, but they aren’t very chewy and still tender.
  • The texture is acquired, but the flavour is quite neutral.
  • These were very light and crispy and coated with just a dusting of flour before being deep fried.
  • The batter was barely there and they were simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  • I actually enjoyed their flavour and although I’m not crazy about chicken knees, I’ll eat them if someone orders them.
  • I prefer the Taiwanese version better which uses potato starch, but these were still very good if you like chicken knees.
**3 Kinds of Beef Tongue – 5/6 (Excellent)
  • Grilled, Boiled, Minced $9.50
  • This was my favourite dish of the night. I like beef tongue, so this isn’t new for me.
  • If you’ve never had beef tongue it just tastes like very tender and soft beef. Sometimes it can taste like brisket if it’s braised.
  • The skin of the tongue is always removed so there are no bumps or “taste buds” and it’s smooth in texture.
  • It doesn’t have an offensive flavour, gaminess, or even different flavour from the rest of the cow.
  • It’s naturally a very fatty cut of meat, but it’s not gelatinous or chewy and you can’t even see the fat. It’s not like a prime rib and there is no visible fat.
  • If eating tongue freaks you out, get over it. Get that inner adventrous foodie out! You’re really missing out on one of the best parts of the cow.
  • I’ve been there, and I know it can be a mental thing, but once you learn to embrace it you’ll always want to order it.
  • Have someone introduce it to you without knowing and I bet you anything you would mistake it for some other common part of the cow.
Grilled Beef Tongue – 5.5/6 (Excellent!)
  • This was easily my favourite of the 3. The other 2 were good, but I could have just had a plate of this, although I appreciated the variety.
  • It was braised and then grilled so it was melt in your mouth tender and required very little chewing.
  • I liked that it was sliced quite thick rather than super thin slices.
  • This is how I prefer grilled tongue to be served. It should be tongue and not carpaccio.
  • It was nice and oily with natural flavour and lightly marinated with soy without being too salty.
  • I loved the slightly crispy sear on the outside, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more crispy with smoky charred flavour.
  • I’ve ordered beef tongue at Guu with Garlic before (see here) and although good, I found it slightly Westernized and this thick cut style was better.
  • Again, it’s not gamey and there are no bumpy taste buds, and if you’ve never tried tongue then here is a start!
Ground Beef Tongue – 5/6 (Excellent)
  • I could have sandwiched this in a mini brioche bun or even better between crispy sushi rice cakes. Actually I’ll take the latter.
  • Anything with a runny fried egg on it makes me happy, so this was no different.
  • It was a mini grilled ground beef tongue patty and it was made from all tongue although you couldn’t tell. It tasted just like ground beef.
  • It was almost like an Asian style meatball or meatloaf and it was tender and moist with a slight gingery and garlic flavour.
  • The meat was marinated in soy sauce and I was expecting a shredded brisket-like beef tongue patty, but it was definitely more like a ground beef patty.
  • It was drizzled with a sweet and salty terriyaki like sauce and it was well flavoured.
  • This tongue was well disguised so it’s a great warm-up if you’ve never tried tongue.
Boiled Salted Beef Tongue – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
  • This was visually the least appetizing, but it’s a very typical way to serve it in many Asian cultures.
  • Boiled food never looks that good, but the boiled salted beef tongue still tasted great.
  • The tongue wasn’t too salty and it was tender and moist and almost as tender as soft tofu or corned beef.
  • It came with a side of ponzu vinaigrette for dipping. It’s a citrusy sauce with a subtle licorice hint that is barely noticeable.
  • The lemon and acidic dipping sauce cuts the richness of the oily tongue.
Oden3/6 (Good)
  • Radish, Egg, Yam Cake with sweet miso $5.50
  • I’m really not too keen on oden, but it’s traditional Japanese comfort food served in the Winter and a well made one can be excellent.
  • Usually oden is served in a soup bowl with broth (dashi stock made with kelp/soy/miso or fish) and Japanese hot mustard on the edge of the bowl.
  • The ingredients are usually assorted fish cakes, but these three (radish, egg, and yam cake) can also be found in oden.
  • You can ask for it in a broth, but this was their plated modern version of oden.
  • The original oden was actually boiled tofu dipped in miso, but it’s not what people would call oden nowadays.
  • The red miso paste is very pungent, quite salty and slightly sweet. It has an umami/savoury flavour to it.
  • I usually prefer white miso paste to red, but this was still good.
  • The radish was tender and had absorbed flavours of a Japanese seafood stock (dashi) so it actually did have flavour without the sauce.
  • It was likely an aromatic ingredient to make the stock.
  • The hard boiled egg was overcooked with a thin grey ring around the yolk.
  • This too was stewing in stock for quite some time though because the egg white part was brown and had absorbed flavours of the stock.
  • I liked the flavour, but just wished it wasn’t overcooked.
  • Allowing the egg to marinade in cool stock over night would have been better.
  • The “Yam Cake” was konnyaku which I’ve never really liked.
  • Konnyaku is a health food with high dietary fiber and it’s made from a Konnyaku potato.
  • It tastes like bland buckwheat jello to me, but much stiffer and more like gelatin.
Vinegar Marinated Mackerel with Seafood – 4/6 (Very good)
  • $4.80
  • It was a pretty nice mackerel and after ordering this I wished I ordered more sashimi. It was a good sign.
  • Mackerel is a very fishy fish so it’s a bit acquired, but I love anchovies and sardines, so mackerel is no stranger and milder compared to those.
  • This was almost like a sashimi salad and underneath was a bed of fresh kelp dressed in ponzu (?) Japanese citrus-soy vinaigrette.
  • The mackerel was sashimi like in texture, cut well, and not pickled so much that it was like ceviche.
  • When mackerel is very pickled it can become dry and very flaky, but this was still moist, creamy and fresh.
  • The mackerel was thinly sliced with a pickled flavour that was not sharp or sour and it didn’t overwhelm the natural flavour of the fish.
Baked Eggplant Topped with Meat Sauce – 3/6 (Good)
  • $6.80
  • This tasted very Chinese to me and it was basically Chinese or Japanese style Eggplant Parmigiana.
  • This was almost the same sauce they would make for Spaghetti Bolognese at Hong Kong style cafes which serve Chinese style Western food.
  • It was minced pork marinated with soy sauce and sauteed with carrots, onions, tomatoes and tomato paste.
  • It was slightly sweet from maybe a bit of added sugar and topped with a generous amount of standard mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
  • Soy sauce and cheese may sound odd, but it’s not. Just think of a cheese smokie dipped in a bit of soy before being grilled. Similar idea.
  • The eggplant was huge and I wish it was cut up in rounds or thin strips and layered like a lasagne.
  • It was half the size of an eggplant and I wish they had used Japanese eggplant instead too.
  • The eggplant was tender, but I wanted more sauce because there was so much eggplant.
  • This was good if you don’t relate it to Eggplant Parmigiana standards and it was Asian style “spaghetti sauce” which does exist in Chinese culture.
  • There was nothing really Japanese about this, but it was still enjoyable.
  • It’s kind of greasy comfort food and a bit nostalgic because it’s how most traditional Asian parents would make spaghetti sauce.
Grilled Steak (Tuesday Special) – 3/6 (Good)
  • Pan fried diced cut rare beef tenderloin steak with garlic and onion sauce Regular: $10.50 On Tuesdays: $8.50
  • If you’re very specific on your beef and only like premium quality beef than you might not appreciate this.
  • If you don’t mind decently quality beef, then this is still good.
  • It comes out on a sizzling hot cast iron plate and you want to eat them quickly or remove them from the heat before they get well done.
  • The steak isn’t premium, but for $8-10 I didn’t expect it, and it was fine for the price.
  • It was marinated in a tangy and sweet teriyaki like garlic and onion glaze and topped with green onions and deep fried garlic chips.
  • There were some bean sprouts underneath and the concept and flavour is likely somthing you have had before in Asian cuisine (be Japanese or Chinese).
  • It was just grilled steak bites and it was something you could do at home, but it was still good for what it was.
  • It was better than teriyaki beef with the pieces of tenderloin steak, but the idea and flavours were comparable.

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