Friday, December 18, 2009

Guu Japanese Izakaya - Aberdeen Restaurant

Restaurant: Guu Japanese Izakaya Restaurant - Aberdeen
Cuisine: Japanese/Izakaya/Fusion
Last dined: November 26, 09

Area: Multiple - Richmond (Yaletown/Downtown)
4151 Hazelbridge Way – Inside Aberdeen mall
Price Range: $10-20 (Closer to $20)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4.5
Service: 6 (The waitress I had was fantastic!)
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • Few locations in Vancouver
  • Japanese chefs/cook/staff
  • Specializes in creative Japanese izakaya/tapas
  • Features typical Japanese items and creative tapas
  • Special tapas change frequently
  • Seasonal menu
  • Fresh sheet available
  • The most reasonably priced Izakaya place in Vancouver
  • Sells out of popular items early (by 8pm)
  • Some imported sashimi
  • Busy at peak hours
  • Mon-Sun lunch 11:30am-2pm
  • Sun-Thurs. dinner 5pm-11pm
  • Fri-Sat. dinner 5pm-12am

**Recommendation: Deep-fried Japanese sweet potato and cheese croquette, seared beef tenderloin (Tataki Salad), beef tenderloin with mushrooms, grilled mackerel, Guu creation, All Stars: beef tongue (done 3 ways), pan-fried ahi-tuna steak (sold out when I got there),

I’ve been to Guu on several occasions and I’ve never been disappointed. It started off with one humble location and now it’s expanded to about 4 restaurants in Vancouver and the lower mainland. The next location is actually opening in Toronto. I’m quite surprised that the quality hasn’t changed because I worry when places go from independently owned to a “chain” or franchise.

I have a thing for Japanese izakaya so I’ve tried a decent amount in Vancouver. So far my top choices are Kingyo, Yuji’s and Hapa Izakaya – this is also “gourmet izakaya” so it is pricier than Guu. Therefore I won’t compare them too much. The quality and food at Guu is good and for the price you’re paying you are getting value and an experience – it’s always lively in there. More so in the downtown locations, but the Richmond location is nice and spacious. It ended up being around $60 without tax and tip for 2, but we ordered A LOT and over-eat as usual.

This review covers a lot of food – we made quite a dent in the menu and this was only between 2 people. Mind you we were full about half way through so it’s not that the portions were that small either. They were actually a decent size. We tried enough dishes that the good ones out-weight the not so good ones. We finished every last bite, which is always a good sign. The only negative part of this experience was the 3 of their most popular items: ahi tuna steak, seared beef sashimi & miso mayo black cod were sold out and it was only 8pm. It ended up

On the table:

  • Pumpkin Croquette 2/6
    • Pumpkin paste croquette with a boiled egg inside $3.60
    • The pumpkin is actually the Japanese Kaboocha squash. It’s more or less a Japanese comfort food. It’s the size of s softball and it’s a pretty hearty appetizer.
    • They serve it with a dressing that tastes exactly like Thousand Island dressing mixed with maybe a little ketchup. I really wish they used a different sauce, like a Tonkatsu sauce. Thousand Island is so old fashioned and it made it to rich, creamy, and filling. It’s kind of neat that they use the dressing to write “Guu” though. Nicely presented.
    • I like this dish because I like pumpkin and I like hard-boiled egg, but it’s actually nothing special. They also pre-make a whole bunch of them and just heat it up upon order. So it’s not very crispy and it’s kind of room temperature.
  • **Deep-fried Japanese Sweet Potato & Cheese Croquette 4/6
    • 3 pieces for $5.80
    • I ended up ordering these croquettes as well because I wanted to see the difference and make a better recommendation. They should replace the pumpkin coquette, they were way better. They are pretty rich and filling though, so best shared with 3 people.
    • These were fresh and actually served hot. It had a crispy panko bread crumb batter and inside was the creamy soft mashed sweet potatoes. You couldn’t see or taste the cheese and I’m pretty sure they mixed it right into the potato so it blended and melted right in. The sauce was the same Thousand Island dressing, which again I wish they would change. However I liked it better with this dish than the pumpkin croquette.
  • **Seared beef tenderloin (Tataki Salad) with Garlic Ponzu sauce 4/6
    • It's served with garlic chips, daikon and sprouts $7.80
    • They gave lots of pieces of seared beef tenderloin. It was more rare beef than it was a salad. The salad was more of a garnish.
    • It was very lightly seared and almost rare, but I like rare, so I was happy. It wasn’t heavy on the spices and it really showcased the quality of the meat. The picture may not look good, but it tasted great! I think it would have been better if they cut thinner slices because it would have been able to better absorb and marinate in the garlic ponzu vinaigrette.
  • Tropical Roll 1.5/6
    • Cooked tuna, boiled chicken and cucumber wrapped with a paper thin omelet and served with mango chili sauce $3.80
    • I think this was the worst of everything we ordered. It didn’t taste bad, but it was just a poor job and it sounded so much better on the menu.
    • I couldn’t taste the chicken at all and I could barely taste the tuna. It was just a whole lot of rice and they used the rice to make the roll look bigger. I HATE when they do that. I hope their other rolls aren’t like this.
    • The chicken or tuna tasted like smoked salmon mousse, I couldn’t even tell what was what…I can’t even tell looking back at the picture…can you?
    • The mango chili sauce was made of mango puree - I’m not sure if it was fresh or not, but you definitely taste mango. That part was good.
  • **Beef tenderloin 6/6
    • Seared beef tenderloin with mixed mushrooms and garlic mushroom sauce $8.80
    • This is it! The 6/6. This was amazing. We ate it so fast. I think there was about 10 pieces of beef tenderloin. 10 pieces for $8.80? That’s insane. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare. The meat was so soft. I already thought the beef in the beef tataki salad was good…until I tried this…this one is goooood or “guu’d”.
    • It’s cooked with button and shiitake mushrooms and the gravy is the juice from these mushrooms, the meat, and some garlic and soy sauce. I wish the sauce was a bit more reduced, but it’s not a steakhouse so I didn’t care.
    • The beef tenderloin was so buttery, tender and juicy. It was just as good as any beef I’ve had a steakhouse. No joke.
  • **Guu Creation 4/6
    • Yellow tail, tuna and salmon belly sushi. 3 pieces. $6.80
    • They recommend you not to eat any with soy sauce or wasabi because they are each served with a specialty sauce already.
    • Yellow tail 4/6: This was a yellow fin hamachi. It was topped with minced garlic in a little vinaigrette and some sliced raw onions.
    • Tuna 3/6: Instead of tuna, we actually got chopped salmon sashimi. It was served on sushi rice and wrapped in a sheet of nori. It tasted almost like spicy tuna sushi, but better. It starts off sweet before it gets spicy. It was one of the better spicy marinades I’ve had. This one didn’t taste like it was only Tabasco, it was very well-rounded. They also had tiny slices of avocado to balance out the spiciness.
    • Salmon belly 5/6: This was the best of the 3. It was lightly seared salmon belly topped with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. It was so simple and so flavourful. It was smoky and hickory tasting served on sushi rice with a little wasabi underneath.
  • Chopped salmon & Avocado with Garlic Teriyaki Sauce 3.5/6
    • $6.80
    • This was basically salmon tartar marinated in garlic Teriyaki sauce with chives and a raw quail’s egg on top. There are also pine nuts in it – that was a great touch! It’s served with prawn chips.
    • It was like a Japanese version of ceviche – which is I guess “tartare”.
    • To eat: break the egg yolk and mix everything together until combined. Then you take a spoonful and fill the shrimp cracker cups. After mixing it, it becomes very creamy and a little slimy in texture from the raw egg and sashimi combo. The pine nuts helped to break up the mushy/slimy texture.
    • It was really big pieces of salmon and the quality of it wasn’t that good either. I found a couple chewy pieces and it was almost like chewing into tendons. I had a few pieces like that. I also wish they had something else besides prawn crackers to serve them with.
  • **Grilled Mackerel 5.5/6
    • With garlic ponzu $6.80
    • This was a huge fish and well worth the price. It’s pretty much half a mackerel served with garlic chips, sesame seeds and green onions.
    • It tasted more pan-fried than grilled to me and it had a great crispy skin. It was nutty with sesame seeds and tangy and salty from the ponzu vinaigrette. It was very fresh and juicy, a firm fish that tasted almost like salmon.
    • The garlic chips are always good and the waitress actually brought us an extra side of them without us asking for them. She just knows people like them.


  • Guu’d Sundae 4/6
    • Scoop of black sesame ice cream, scoop of green tea ice cream, cornflakes, whipped cream, and 2 chocolate Pocky sticks $5.50
    • It’s a pretty big sundae and I enjoyed it as simple as it was. It’s such an easy concept you could easily put together at home. It was almost like eating deep-fried ice cream with the cornflakes in there.

    • If you like all these ingredients you’ll like this sundae. For me, I’m just ok on black sesame ice cream. I’ll eat it, but wouldn’t order it if there’s something else. In this case the black sesame ice cream actually had black sesame seeds in it. I’ve never seen it like this before because usually it’s finely ground black sesame seeds. I actually didn’t mind this one…I wonder who their ice cream supplier is.

Guu in Aberdeen on Urbanspoon


  1. That pumpkin croquette reminds me of a scotch egg, hehehehehe. Come to think about it, the shrimp cracker sounds like a really good idea for such chopped dish. Can't think if crostini or other forms of toasted bread will have worked the same way, given they are crunchier that these crackers.

    I have been to Guu in Gastown and, for the most part, it is good, specially with something to drink. That brings the question: what you had for drinks? :)

  2. Yeah the prawn crackers were ok, but I just wanted something else....I just felt like it was a bit "childish" for lack of better word...

    AND I actually didn't drink...I prefer dessert to alcohol. :D

  3. Hope you're doing swell :) Love your blog. You're such a go-getter! I heard the Guu in Aberdeen sucks the most of all Guu's. I want to dine with you. You're not afraid of ordering anything and everything!

  4. Aw thanks!! So are you! I would love to catch up and dine with you too. Just let me know when you're free and we'll hit the town. Direct msg me on Twitter.

    I've heard people say that Guu Aberdeen isn't as good, but based on my last visit there I had good food and excellent service. I like how spacious it is too.

    The positive is that it's not as busy as the ones in downtown (well still busy, but I was there at 8pm) so they're probably not as rushed as the other locations. I didn't feel like they were shoving out food. Besides the pumpkin croquette, everything was made upon order and fresh. I do like the Guu on Robson though...although it's too crowded especially on weekends and I can't sit and savour my food.

  5. I'm gald to hear that you have a good experience. I went there when it first opened and it definitely was not as good as the downtown ones. But the past few years, I find that the downtown ones are not as good either. Like you said, Yuji's and Kingyo are definitely top picks. I love Dan on Broadway also

  6. Yeah I'm nervous when independents start becoming chains because the quality of food usually goes down.

    I have yet to try Dan on Broadway, and actually thank you for introducing me to it because I've never heard of it! Can't wait to write a review for that one. Seems like we have similar taste if you like Kingyo and Yuji's as well!

  7. I went to Guu in Gastown earlier today and it was good! The salmon belly sashimi is quite good with the daikon and garlic chips. You must try the banana tempura dessert with coconut ice cream, it's one of my favourites. I prefer it to the Malaysian fried bananas because it's less oily. That sundae looks good though! and I'll have to try those potato and cheese croquettes next time. I usually don't mind the pumpkin one because of the egg inside haha. Great review though!

  8. WHAT?!?! ok they DID NOT advertise a deep fried banana when I went!!! Sounds awesome!

    btw yeah I don't know what it is with Asian ppl and eggs!!?!? I LOVE THEM...put them on everything! Try a fried egg on mac n'cheese...break the egg yolk into it..omg...learned that from my friend..who's asian :)