CLOSED: Guu Izakaya North York (Toronto)

Vancouver Empire Guu continues to expand its central Canada presence, with the latest outpost opening in North York. Larger than its downtown sister, there’s greater opportunity for sitting in its 90-seat dining room and 60-seat patio. Reservations are available, making it the most customer friendly location. Even if there is a wait, plenty of bars in the area, so a pint at the Frog can easily keep you occupied.  

As part of their summer menu, Guu was offering tako karu ($10), a cold octopus carpaccio dressed with a refreshing yuzu ponzu (citrus soy) dressing. It’s light and flavourful and the thin jalapeno slices provide an extra bite for those who can handle the spice. Crunchy slivers of daikon is a great make shift salad for soaking up ample amounts of chili vinaigrette.  

Personally, I found it was a better alternative to the maguro tataki ($8.30), which is similarly dressed except uses seared albacore tuna sashimi than octopus. I find the garlic chips too overpowering, the jalapeno is a much better garnish, in my opinion.

The gindara ($12.80) was flavourful having been caramelized with a slightly smoky crust. The typical sweet and savoury miso glaze is eased with a citrus twist, but the fish could be cooked just a tad less to help retain more of the cod’s oily moisture.

For me, the takoyaki ($5.50) was forgettable; nothing to complain of but the soft deep fried octopus studded balls just didn’t stand out. The okonomiyaki ($7.50) is such a similar dish: also sporting a golden crust that’s doused in a tangy tonkatsu and horseradish-like karashi mayo. It even has pieces of diced squid mixed into it. What makes it better, for me, is the thicker batter that incorporates plenty of shredded cabbage, which gives it some textural contrast.

The ebi mayo ($8.80) is a popular appetizer in Japan, a simple dish of deep fried prawns drizzled with thinned mayonnaise. At Guu, the shrimp are plump and arrive freshly fried, with the mayo having a light spiciness to it. The batter is on the doughier side, so tends not to be as crisp.

To ensure you’re not hungry in an hour, some filling starches are a smart choice. The chewy thick noodles in the kimchi udon ($9.30) were slick and well-seasoned, but definitely required more kimchi. The yaki udon seemed popular amongst other guests and contains thinly sliced beef to make it more substantial.

A must-order dish for me at Guu is the kinoko bibimbap ($9.30). Something about the combination of sticky rice, plump mushrooms, cheese and the earthy seaweed teriyaki sauce is so delicious. Served in a sizzling stone bowl, the dish is aromatic. If you’re patient, it even develops a slightly caramelized crust on the bottom that makes the rice even more flavourful.

Guu’s matcha cheesecake ($6.50) has an Uncle Tetsu flare to it but the mixture is richer and creamier. The green tea powder gives the cake a great Japanese taste and aids in giving it flavour without relying solely on sweetness.

If you’re sitting at the bar by the open-concept kitchen, it’ll get HOT! Take it from me – wear layers so you can strip down if required. To help us cool off, we ordered a round of mojito. Both the lychee ($7.80) and ume (plum wine; $7.50) versions were revitalizing with the squeeze of lime and fresh mint.

Compared to the Church location experiences, North York’s service was much better. For one, despite ordering the majority of the items at the same time, the kitchen released the dishes in a timely procession allowing us enough time between dishes so we didn’t feel rushed. The servers checked in throughout the meal to ensure we were attended to and asked whether we were finished before collecting the cutlery.

One thing has not changed – the ear-piercing greetings from the entire team as people enter and leave. Alas, it’s likely become too synonymous with the restaurant that it’d be impossible to stop. The food on this visit was positive, if I can just score a table on the patio away from the screaming, that would make the experience complete. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4775 Yonge Street (Hullmark Centre)

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: