Guu Garden (我殿)
Guu Garden is by far our favourite izakaya out of all we have tried in Vancouver and the best, in our opinion out of all the Guus. A lot of people like Guu Garlic the best, but for dates and for a more romantic atmosphere where you can talk, Guu Garden is your bet. It is a bit bigger than the other Guus with a more polite atmosphere. Don’t us wrong – the traditional usual yelling of the welcomes and orders from the staff is still here at Guu Garden. It is just toned down a little bit relative to the other Guus, possibly due to its size. Also, we find that this Guu does reservations the easiest as well, even if it is last minute, and if you’d like to do large groups, this one can probably accommodate it the best. Another plus: you avoid Robson Street which is a nightmare to find parking. This Guu is a little harder to find but it is upstairs beside the RBC on the corner of Hornby and Nelson. It is a restaurant that is dimly and more romantically lit than the other Guus with windows surrounding the whole restaurant. The most romantic of all the Guus and izakaya places we have been to, relatively speaking.
We have definitely become regulars here at Guu Garden, and in fact, according to one sushi chef, trouble makers because we are starting to order things off menu. As with all Guus, there is a set menu here with daily specials that are written on a plain piece of paper. We highly recommend trying a few things from their daily special menu because they almost always offer one or two gems. Despite being here so many times, there is always something new for us to try and we end up loving it and this is where ordering off the menu starts to come in. We don’t normally order a lot of sashimi/sushi here though. They are good/fresh, but we believe there are other places that specialize in this more and do it better (there is one exception). In terms of service, it is always done with a smile and extremely respectful. They are very patient and will always check on things for you – the only downside is their English is not top-notch so making reservations or asking for something out of the ordinary requires a little more time than usual.
The Guy Score:
Spendable Time: The least busy/noisy of the Guu. Can spend ~2 hours there if parking allows!
Price Range: $20-$25 per person
Comments: My absolute favourite Guu with excellent izakaya. It is just an ideal spot for a date given their atmosphere and slightly larger size out of all the izakayas. Hence, they don’t really kick you out or hurry you to finish because of a huge line waiting for your seat. It is also a tad brighter and the windows surrounding the whole restaurant helps. Service wise, there is always a smile, respect and care despite not being 100% fluent in English. Food rarely disappoints and at times, offers up a lot of unique flavours/surprises from their daily menu. Definitely one my favourite restaurants with a relaxing atmosphere and great food.
For this lovely evening, we had a few of our staples (and this list of staples is growing…we didn’t even order some of the things we usually do like the Salt Bristled Pork in that really tasty broth). In fact, one of our staples, the Kabocha Karokke (boiled egg inside a deep-fried pumpkin ball dressed in aurora sauce, with is like kind of like a thousand-island dressing but not as thick and a bit sweeter) was gone, sad face!! But regardless, their food is still excellent. Looking back, we just realized how much carbohydrates was in this meal (two whole dishes!) but trust us, we usually order more tapas.
Ga-den Salad – $7.80
prawn and avocado salad served in a wasabi dressing
Guy Food Score: 9/10
Recommended to Order: Yes!
Guy Comments: One of the best salads I have ever had, with the one at Village Sushi Bar (reviewed earlier) being a close second. This wasabi dressing is not overly powerful (unlike the one at Zakkushi), a bit more acidic and is just right! The prawns and avocado really work well with the dressing and the salad is fresh (i.e. not one of those packaged ones from Costco). The lettuce was crispy and dry and fresh. The avocado was at a nice ripe level in which they are just starting to become a little mushy (in a good way) and seemed to be prepared/stirred together in the dressing before putting on the salad. In the picture, this is hidden below the prawns. Combined with the lettuce and the chips, the contrast in texture in the salad is wonderful! Recommended!
Oyster Shooter - $2.50
fresh shucked oyster in miso and tomato caesar served in a shot glass
Guy Food Score: N/A
Recommended to Order: N/A
Guy Comments: I am not a big fan of oysters, but my girlfriend is, so you’d need to see and wait for her review/score. I have had it before once and oysters is fresh and goes down easy – definitely not slimy or old. It is hard to taste the miso to be honest and the tomato caesar is quite sour and reminds me of a more sour and thinner version of a cocktail sauce with a strong oyster and citrus flavour (likely lemon). The mitsuba herb at the top is a nice touch. Fresh oyster but I don’t think everyone would be a big fan of their sauce, but I like it.
Gyu Tongue Chazuke – $6.50
beef tongue steak on rice topped with green onion, dried seaweed, and served with kanto-daki soup on the side
Guy Food Score: 9/10
Recommended to Order: Yes!
Guy Comments: This dish used to be a lot smaller and the broth to come in a little teapot – this has been fixed. There is now a lot more rice (but not an overwhelming amount) with quite a bit of tongue! The tongue is not tough but a bit chewy (interesting and good texture) and cooked to a nice medium. Unlike meat, the beef tongue is rather smooth with a peppery flavour and something that resembles a thin and light teriyaki sauce brushed on top of the tongue before sliced – very delicious! The broth reminds me of the base of a savoury miso soup and comes hot. I can literally drink it as is. Highly suggest to pour the soup in and stir the rice before eating quickly (don’t let it sit too long or everything will be soggy). I don’t think it needs wasabi either. Great!
Soupless Pork Ramen – $8.50
soupless ramen with chashu pork (Japanese roasted pork) with nori, overeasy egg and green onions
Guy Food Score: 9.5/10
Recommended to Order: Please do!!
Guy Comments: Don’t let the picture fool you! Even though it is soupless, below all this is a sauce that is like a combination of miso, grounded peanuts (as in it is incorporated into the sauce, it is not like there are chunks or that crunchy texture or anything) and soya-sauce. It reminds me a little of a non-spicy version of dam dam noodles with a strong Japanese influence. You stir the whole dish together before eating to incorporate all the ingredients. Absolutely sensational dish! The ramen, without the broth, will not turn all soggy and remains nice and chewy. With the sauce and richness of the egg, the noodles are wonderful! The chashu clearly tasted roasted and was very moist – the best thing was that each piece had just a little layer of fat to give it that extra richness and flavour. I really wish we had more pork here though but for less than $10, you can’t expect too much. A huge surprise for this is not one of our staples but I am sure it has become one!
Chopped Tuna Cone – $3.50/ea
Off menu: Chopped toro cone with Japanese brown rice, sesame, kaiware, and shiso leaf.
Guy Food Score: 10/10
Recommended to Order: YES!
Guy Comments: I will give this 100/10 if I can – my favourite thing of all time! I love this so much that I considered not writing about this and keeping it a secret…but alas, the secret is out. Now, this time, the cone was done by their other sushi chef but this one is still spectacular (the one we had normally was working inside tonight…but he came out to instruct the current one how to do it tonight apparently. And because we love it so much, we are named troublemakers of Guu Garden and the chef knows who we are now…great. My girlfriend’s fault really hehe). Normally, the cone will also have a bit of the yellow ginger in the cone which gives the cone a bit of extra crunch and kick. However, the fresh toro (not super buttery, but it has a strong, savoury fish taste here), with the sesame and kaiware and most importantly, the mintiness of the shiso leaves make this just a deadly, delicious combination. The brown sushi rice is a good choice because it is a bit more grainy and less acidic than normal sushi rice and really helps spread the flavour around in your mouth in my opinion. Super hard to describe how awesome it is – words does not do this justice. JUST TRY IT! Actually, on second thought, don’t…or else they’ll run out when we go!!
Guu Garden Information:
M101-888 Nelson Street (They are upstairs on the corner of Nelson and Hornby beside the RBC)