Despite rumours last week that the opening of Guu Sakabar (a.k.a. Guu 2) would be delayed due to the lack of a liquor licence, we’re happy to report that Toronto’s second Guu location opened this weekend. (Sakabar was originally set to open a couple weeks back, but was delayed due to a broken water tank). After almost a year of renovations, owner James Hyun-Soo Kim and Sakabar manager Natsuhiko Sugimoto, an eight-year veteran of Guu in Vancouver, are both eager to begin serving the Annex clientele.
Inside, the restaurant that was once a Burger King has been completely redesigned by Bennett Lo of Dialogue 38 (Guu Izakaya, Spring Rolls). The low-key exterior and main entrance of the Sakabar feature slate, barnwood and tiny boxed windows, just like the Church Street location. Inside, bare Edison light bulbs hang from the ceiling in the main dining room over six large wooden communal tables, complete with bench seating. Bar seating is also available for those who don’t mind the famous yelled greetings that the kitchen staff offer to patrons as they enter and exit. Unlike the original Guu, Sakabar also features a zashiki room, with a raised pine floor and tatami mats imported from Japan. The tables are lowered into the floor, providing ample space for your legs. Guests are required to remove their shoes and are offered a pair of indoor slippers.
Also setting itself apart from its sister restaurant, Sakabar is helmed by Japanese chef Ippei Iwata, who offers new dishes like the kushiage, Japanese-style deep-fried kebabs that come in seven variations—ham, bacon, quail egg, lotus root, potato, onion and mushroom ($1.90 each, $7.80 for five choices). A handful of new udon styles are available, including the unlikely carbonara udon, featuring bacon, onion and a half-boiled egg ($8.30). Another new dish straight out of Japan is the rice burger: a pair of rice patties sandwiching ginger pork, cabbage and garlic mayo ($5.80). To finish things off, the menu includes more extensive dessert selections, including sake tiramisù ($5).
In true Izakaya fashion, the drinks menu is extensive, including a house Gekkeikan sake ($5 small, $8.50 large), as well as a more extensive classic sake menu by the glass ($9.50–$10) or bottle (from $22 for 375 mL). Other offerings include shochu, Guu original vodka soda, cocktails (like a sake mojito), plum wine and Sapporo on tap. Beers like Asahi, Kirin and even Mill Street Tankhouse Ale are also available.
The thing we love the most about Sakabar? There’s now an indoor corridor at the entrance so you don’t have to wait in the rain, sleet or snow for a table at Guu. And, in case you’re wondering, “Yes, there’s still a no reservation policy,” says Natsu, adding cheekily, “for now.”
Guu Sakabar, 559 Bloor St. W. (east of Bathurst St.), 647-343-1101, guu-izakaya.com
8 thoughts on “Introducing: Guu Sakabar, the new Annex location of Vancouver’s wildly popular Izakaya chain”
Check it out, now we don’t have to wait outside anymore, lol.
well hallelujah to that! can’t wait to check it out. the rice-as-bun burger is getting a little stale but what the hey, they seem to do things with some form of magic so I’ll try it!
went there last night, love the zashiki room, (never a big fans of the communal tables)… Food were good, as usual, carbonara udon really worths a try… Operation needs a bit of fine-tuning, “Maria-san” was a great help though… Overall not bad at all, considering only the first few days of operation at this second location in T-dot… Eh, btw, thanks for having dinner with me, CC !!
Is there nothing else going on in this city worth talking about? This was in last week’s Weekly Dish and I got it again today. There must be something else worth mentioning.
Great article about a great restaurant with a very unique approach to hospitality. This restaurant rocks.
So glad this restaurant has come to my neighborhood. It’s something the students AND residents can embrace. Not too expensive… but not a wings joint either.
Hope more would-be restauranteurs take note!
I have a good view of the back of the new Guu from my office and have, for days now, watched the kitchen staff take open containers of food (raw fish on a tray, beans in a tupperware container, soup in an uncovered pot) from what I assume to be the basement into the back of the restaurant. Um, that’s really gross. They’re using the alleyway –a disgusting and highly-trafficked alleyway– to move fresh uncooked, uncovered foodstuffs. That’s gotta be against all kinds of health regulations.
I, for one, will NOT be eating there any time soon!
I’ve been and I loved it. And Sally – glad you won’t be eating there soon – more room for us!
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