Just Opened: Guu Izakaya slings Japanese beer and comfort food on Church Street

Just Opened: Guu Izakaya slings Japanese beer and comfort food on Church Street

Get inside: Guu's interior mixes comfort and modernity (Photo by Renée Suen)

The year 2009 was an offal one in Toronto. The success of The Black Hoof, Buca and Local Kitchen showed that are many adventurous diners left in this city. December’s most anticipated opening shares that adventurous spirit. Tonight, doors officially open at Guu Izakaya, the first Toronto location of Vancouver’s intensely popular Japanese watering hole. Will the diners that embraced the offal trend take to Guu’s fusion of Japanese flavours?

The izakaya concept basically boils down to a Japanese version of a pub. Guu is casual and affordable, loud and infused with energy—staffers shout out greetings and orders. Expect a crowd of Ryerson campus dwellers, office workers and Vancouver expats. The charcoal-grey storefront and heavy wooden doors block out the garish strip mall surroundings, sealing in the sake bar, open kitchen and four long communal tables. Come summer, there will be patio seating on its northern exposure. Vintage signs and posters imported from Japan add colour and character.

Chopped salmon natto yukke, a “seven friends” mixture wrapped with nori seaweed (Photo by Renée Suen)

For drinks, Guu offers competitively priced beers (Sapporo on tap from $4 a mug) and an extensive selection of sakes, shochu (Japanese vodka), chu-high (Japanese vodka sodas), ume-shu (plum wine) and original cocktails featuring Japanese soft drinks. Chef Natsuhiko Sugimoto, who comes to Toronto from the original Vancouver Guus, prepares an array of hot and cold bar food; such favourites as edamame ($3) and karaage ($5.80) are listed alongside non-standards like kakimayo (oysters grilled with spinach, garlic mayo and cheese, $6.80), gyu tangue (grilled beef tongue, $6.30) and chopped salmon natto yukke ($8.30). Although yakitori finds no place on the seafood- and mayo-laden menu, palates will be stimulated by such hearty fare as oden (slow-cooked hot pot, $1.50 a piece; six for $7.50), udon noodles ($6.80–$7.80) and bi bim bap rice bowls with kimchee and pork ($8.50).

Guu Izakaya, 398 Church St. (at Gerrard St. E.), 416-977-0999, guu-izakaya.com.