Since it's opening 18 days ago - there has been incessant buzz around the newest Japanese Isakaya to hit Toronto from it's Vancouver home. An isakaya is defined as a Japanese drinking establishment that usually serves small dishes - Japanese tapas and usually can be lively.
As friends warned us that wait times were long as it's a first come, first serve resto - my big sister and I thought that we would be smart and go right when the doors opened. Boy! We didn't expect that the restaurant would be packed at 6pm and we ended up waiting an hour, unfortunately we didn't realize that the restaurant opened at 5pm!! Check out my big sister's blog about our adventures here too at Lucky Penny.
As people walked in through the doors - the servers and wait staff would stop what they would do and without fail yell "Irasshaimase!"= 'welcome' in Japanese and when people leave, they would pipe up and call out "Domo Arigato Gozaimashita!!" - "thank you very much' adding to the already loud and lively environment at the resto. Even though we were stuck waiting - it was fun just watching them chant out and how people would react - waving, bowing, merely laughing at the salutations! We also noticed that the crowd that was at the restaurant was predominantly Asian.
When we finally got our table, we were starving and between the 2 of us - we ordered 11 dishes which we justified as each were very small. Here are the items that are definitely repeat visit orders for me:- the Japanese green onion pancake- it was thick and crispy and savoury all in one.
- the tatoyakis- which are deep fried octopus balls- they are little croquettes that are light and fluffy - just melt in your mouth tapas
- we tried 3 different preparations of tatakis or sashimis- the beef, hamachi and salmon- all of which were done very well and had different flavours to them.
- the miso black cod- the sauce was sticky and sweet with a subtle taste of chinese cooking wine.
- oysters - they were reminiscent of a savoury oyster rockefellers
Unfortunately the pork belly was a bit tough and the sashimi salad was disappointing. I ordered it thinking we needed more fish in our spread but it was unnecessary.
As for drinks- the beers and saki are very affordable and there was even a list of vodka soda varieties. When ordering one variety that needed fruit juice - the presentation was to bring the vodka in a glass and the fruit with a juicer where you would actually have to labour over your fresh juice which i thought was unique. The saki mojito was delicious though and complimented our food well.
We were told that there would be a 2 hour limit when we sat down and although all our food came in 20 minutes - we were hell bent on ensuring we spent every minute we could in the restaurant even through all the eager diners waiting and glaring. Promptly 1 hr and 45 mins into our meal - a server reminded us of our 2 hour limit and told us we had 15 minutes left to finish our drinks and settle up. This got both our backs up and we let the server know we had just ordered another dish - tempura bananas - which are amazing and she was very gracious and profusely apologized so we actually bought ourselves and additional 30 minutes by staggering out our orders.
I look forward to coming back when there is less of a line up and trying the remaining dishes, some of which I would never dream of in a Japanese restaurant such as a brie cheese dish and definitely more drinks!
Guu - 398 Church St. (at Gerrard St. E.)
Hours- Daily 5pm - 12:00am