Toronto the Guu’d: Vancouver’s popular izakaya chain lands on Church Street in December
“Patience is a virtue” is an axiom that Toronto fans of izakaya have been repeating to themselves since we first reported that Guu, the west coast’s popular Japanese restaurant, would be coming to town in 2009. Recently, we met up with Masaru Ogasawara, the chef at one of the Vancouver locations (Guu in Gastown), who gave us the lowdown on the opening date (early December), the cause of the delay (the municipal strike) and the location (398 Church Street, near Carlton).
Right away, he tells us that Guu’s new home will be in a strip mall close to the Ryerson campus. The middling Sushi Plaza restaurant that once occupied the space has been gutted, leaving barren walls and ceilings, and kitchen equipment shoved into one corner. The 76-seat Guu will fill the space with long communal tables—think Salad King, but with more wood than chrome—designed by Bennett Lo, veteran of Spring Rolls. Come summertime, 20 more seats will be added on a patio.
The opening will bring the current chef at Guu With Garlic (on Vancouver’s Robson Street) to man the open-air kitchen, with Ogasawara taking a managerial role. Instead of the bar atmosphere familiar to some of the chain’s B.C. patrons, expect a casual restaurant-style ambience and a menu of fusion dishes. But that’s just to start; Ogasawara promises that as Torontonians’ palates become more receptive to dishes like oden—a Japanese stew with an assortment of braised fish, tofu and vegetable products—Guu will bring in more traditional izakaya fare.
Ogasawara will be moving to the city next month to look over the last stages of the construction. He tells us there’s still much work ahead (the kitchen and front of house still need to be staffed), but he promises to keep us up to speed with the impending opening.