Guu Izakaya

Posted on May 17, 2012

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And so I make another whimsical decision once again.  I made an impromptu call to my friend, Jojo, to have dinner with me at Guu Izakaya.  For months now I have planned this visit but never made it there.  This past Tuesday, all the stars in my foodie world aligned and I finally get there.  As I walked to the door, I seem to have chosen a night where there was not a long line.  I assumed the line was inside but when I walked in, I stopped dead in my tracks.  I hear a burst of Japanese greetings with the opening of the door and I was in a half-embarrassed/half-amused state.  The feeling was like being put on a spotlight with your hand sneaking in a cookie jar kind of moment.  One of the staff approached me and asked for where want to sit.  I had a choice whether to sit in a communal table, in the bar, in the patio or to a private table.  When I made my choice, she shouted once again and everyone behind the sushi bar responded in a Japanese affirmation to whatever she said.  I followed my server as I was lead to my table, shaking my head about all the attention.  Part of me loved the warmth and the vibe of the place.  Part of me want to blend with the wall to get out of the spotlight.  I guess it’s the photographer in me that always would prefer to be an observer than be the one who has the attention.  Ironic thing was that I am also a teacher and shouldn’t I be comfortable with so many eyes on me? Funny eh?

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As I wait for Jojo, I take a couple of minutes to take in the interiors of the restaurant.  The walls have so much texture but muted in color.  Some weathered wood were used to make a feature wall. Looking up, an array of lights line up the whole ceiling, giving it a sparkle that added to the whimsy of the interiors.   A long bar in one side, doubling as the center stage for the sushi chef as he preps his creations.  Piles of white dishes, clay pots and wooden platters lined up the bar.  Normally I would have minded the visual clutter but for some reason, the restaurant’s organized chaos appealed to me.  It complimented the energy of the place.  Casual but yet elegant.

Jojo was running late so it gave me some time to go over the menu.  Izakayas were meant as a social place where people can meet up for a drink and share food.  The menu was extensive, not the normal items you can find on a regular Japanese restaurant.  I mentally took note of several items that I found interesting.  I chose three dishes as the items were priced reasonably.  Looking around at other tables I see that there was enough to share.  The servings reminded me of Barcelona tapas.  Food designed to be easily eaten, no fuss, no mess.

What was total out-of-character of me was that I considered to try a saké sampler.  Priced at $11 dollars for three shooter-sized sakes, that seemed reasonable to me.  Devoid of any knowledge of drinking saké, I thought now would be a good time to learn when there were a lot of choices that I can note of the differences easily.  I thought I could share the experience with Jojo.

Jojo finally walked in and I had a déjà vu seeing the expression on his face.  So I guess I wasn’t being too self-conscious after all (*insert big mushy grin here…lol*).  He walked to me and asked me what they said and I told him that I have no idea.  He then turned to the server and asked.  The server prolly was used to the same questions by first-timers, explained patiently and pointed to the words in the menu.  What the staff shouts in unison as someone walks through the door was a welcome greeting, “Irassyai-mase!”  So I learned another word to add to my short list of Japanese words.

As Jojo got himself settled, I told him of my choices.  I had my eye on Kabocha Karokke (pumpkin croquette with boiled egg on inside), Takoyaki (deep-fried octopus balls with tonkatsu sauce and karashi mayo) and grilled Saba (grilled Saba Mackerel with dill. lemon & onion on a sizzling plate).  Jojo decided to throw  in orders of Ikapiri (deep-fried calamari with spicy ketchup and wasabi mayo) and Kaki Furai (deep-fried oyster with 3 kinds of sauce – tonkatsu, pink tartar, lemon&salt).  Just the idea of the selections we made whetted my appetite and the anticipation I felt was quite high.

It didn’t take long for our food to arrive.  One plate arrived after another, it was overwhelming to keep up.  All dishes were plated exceptionally beautiful.  I think it was for that reason that I love Japanese cuisine a lot.  Not only does my taste buds dance but what my eyes see was almost always part of the seduction. All five dishes were flavorful and nicely seasoned, agreeing to my Asian sensibilities.   If you ask me which one impressed me the best, I think it is a toss up between the Kabocha Korokke or the Grilled Saba.  I think I would attempt to copy the recipes for these two and cook it in my kitchen.  All servings were big enough in size to split for two people to give enough for three to four tastings.  Of the saké sampler, Jojo and I shared 6 kinds from the sampler menu.  We found that the one we both agree as most interesting was the Shogashu.  The notes of ginger made the saké memorable.

There were a lot of items in the menu that I would have wanted to try.  The price would not be a reason to limit yourself as each item were moderately priced.  I think I would have to come back to sample other dishes.  Maybe when I come back, I could surprise them by shouting “Irassyai-mase!” back as I walk in! :)
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