Guu Izakaya (Toronto)

After several visits to the Guu Sakabar location I decided to give the original Guu Izakaya on Church St. a try.

As soon as my friend and I walked in we were greeted by the entire staff shouting something in Japanese (presumably welcoming us into the restaurant). We went at 5:30PM on a Saturday aiming to avoid the rush, but the restaurant was already nearly full. We were seated at the last two available seats at a communal table.

Most of the tables were communal tables of about 8-12 and there were also several bar seats available. The restaurant had a repetitive beat as background music that fit the hectic and loud atmosphere. Despite the constant shouting (all in Japanese), the servers were very fast and responsive.

There is an authentic Japanese izakaya (family style) menu, so we ordered the Gomaae ($4), Salmon Tataki (7.80), Takoyaki ($5.50), and Kakimayo ($8.50) to share, and each got the Sake Tasting option ($14 for 3 shots). While conversation was made difficult by the loud atmosphere the food and drinks arrived within less than 10 minutes- surprisingly fast for how busy it was.

The Gomaae was a ball of spinach drenched in a sweet black sesame sauce. It made a good appetizer and satisfied my sweet tooth for the meal. The only thing this dish could benefit from is a greater portion size to make it better for sharing.

The Salmon Tataki was a slightly seared sashimi dish with about 5 small pieces. Despite the portion being a little small for the price the food quality was definitely there. The salmon was clearly good quality fish, and the garnish added to the flavour. Would highly recommend this dish for salmon and sushi lovers.

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The Takoyaki was battered balls filled with octopus, but the octopus was very lacking. The ball itself was a bit too mushy, but was saved by the excellent garnish and ponzu sauce. If there were more octopus in the takoyaki balls the dish would be significantly better. For once the portion was adequate.

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Finally, the Kakimayo was simply amazing. No complaints, even the portion size was good. It was a medley of bc oysters, mushrooms, spinach, and garlic mayo and topped with cheese. This dish was reminiscent of the Twice Baked Potato but with oysters instead. Brilliant creation and creamy taste with a good amount of mushrooms and oyster. There is no wonder this is known for being their signature dish.

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The sake selection was limited in variety and their best looking option (the Junmai) was unavailable. I was pleasantly surprised by the dry but sweet tasting Guu’d Sake- it was the best of the three I ordered. Meanwhile the Izumi was dry and less flavourful, and the Gekkeikan was dry and a bit bitter. My friend had the Plum Wine Sake which had a soft cherry taste.

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Overall it’s a great restaurant with a very loud atmosphere. Fun for larger groups and for people looking for an authentic Japanese Izakaya experience. I recommend ordering at least two (different) dishes per person and sharing to get a nice variety. High quality food with small portions for the price they charge.

4/5

If you want to try Guu Izakaya yourself:
398 Church St.
http://guu-izakaya.com/

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Twice Baked Potatoes

Almost anyone who has been to The Keg for a meal has either had or heard of their Twice Baked Potato- an excellent side to a steak dinner. After being taken there for my birthday dinner I was left with a great impression by the seemingly simple side. I initially dismissed the idea of making it, convincing myself that there was probably more to it- it couldn’t be so simple. It is.

I suggest making at least 4-6 (halves) at once so you can save it for later and have it as either a meal or part of a meal for a few days.

Here’s my recipe for making four halves:

Ingredients:
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, for seasoning
2 Large White Potatoes
2-3tbsp Sour Cream
150g Sliced Ham
Extra: Grated Cheese

1) Preheat the oven to 400ºF, poke four holes in each potato, and rub in a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt
2) Put the potatoes on a baking sheet in the oven for an hour (in the meantime, get some studying done! You don’t need to watch them bake!)
3) Take them out and let them cool for a few minutes, meanwhile chop up your ham into small pieces
4) Cut the potatoes in half and scoop most of the insides into a bowl. (Don’t cause the skin to get floppy!)
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5) Season with salt and pepper, then add the sour cream and chopped up ham. Mix it all together
6) Put the mix back into the potato skins (extra: top with some grated cheese)
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7) Put the potatoes back in the oven on broil (or 300ºF) for 5-8 minutes (or until top is brown)
8) Take them out and enjoy!
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Cheers,

FP

The Works (London, ON)

Upon entering into The Works my friend and I were quickly greeted and seated by the maitre’d. Our server was quick to come to the table and explain the menu to us, very friendly too. She also gave each of us a 16oz measuring cup full of water, and the salt and pepper shakers looked like light bulbs- both added to the friendly atmosphere of the restaurant.

When you open the menu you are met with an overwhelmingly large number of options that can only be narrowed down after a great deal of thinking and some random elimination. You start by picking the toppings from a list of about 40 options, then pick the type of patty you want (such as turkey, beef, and, for an extra charge, elk). You also have a choice of several sides, including a few premium options such as sweet potato fries. Finally, you choose what type of bun you want- between white and multi-grain.

I went with the Hunka Hunka burger ($14.53), cooked medium well, with an elk patty ($3.88 additional fee) and sweet potato fries ($1.76 additional fee). The food took around 15 minutes to arrive and the server came back briefly after we started to check on us.

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The Hunka Hunka burger had bacon, peanut butter, and banana slices and came on a regular sized elk patty. The toppings complimented each other and added a sweet kick to the burger. Aside from having peanut butter dripping down my fingers, it was very enjoyable. I would recommend however to get the elk patty cooked medium rare or medium, so as to bring out the flavour more. Otherwise, I suggest going with a beef patty, as most toppings were likely selected with a beef patty in mind.

The sweet potato fries came with chipotle mayo dipping sauce. The fries were fantastic- every one of them had the ideal amount of crispiness and the dipping sauce was creamy with a hint of spiciness (but not too much). I highly recommend upgrading this this side.

Overall the meal was very filling and well worth the money. The vast amount of topping choices makes me want to come back to try new combinations.

4.5/5

If you want to try it yourself it can be found at:
145 King St., London, ON
https://www.worksburger.com/

Zen Gardens in London, ON

I went here with a friend of mine and had the lunch combination with the Sweet and Sour Lappa (C71), which cost $10.50. The meal came in a bento box with purple rice, some type of tofu thing (at least I think it was tofu), a fruit salad, and of course the sweet and sour lappa.

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The two small pieces of “tofu thing” that looked like mini-chicken-nuggets had a spongy texture but tasted great with the dipping sauce provided. I actually wish the dish had come with more than just two of them.

The purple rice had a grainy seasoning which I thought took away from the flavour of the rice itself. In my experience purple rice tastes plenty good on its own and the two textures didn’t mix very well.

The fruit salad was adequate given what it was. The sour sauce didn’t go very well with the sweet tasting fruit. It was an interesting but for the most part unsuccessful attempt at incorporating fruit into a sweet and sour dish.

Finally, the lappa balls in the sweet and sour sauce were amazing. Apart from the two small “tofu-things”, this was the saving grace of the lunch combination. They tasted like a vegetarian take on small meatballs without trying to hard to create an artificial meat taste. This part of the dish was served on top of mushrooms, pineapple, and a few other fruits. Again, the only big flaw here was the portion being rather small. Should I return to this restaurant in the future I would most likely just get the sweet and sour lappa balls on their own, instead of as part of the lunch combination.

Overall the food was pretty good despite a few shortcomings, including the rather small portions. Additionally, the service was rather slow despite there only being a few tables occupied.

3.5/5.

If you want to try it yourself it can be found at:
344 Dundas Street, London, ON
http://www.zen-garden.ca/

Student Life

I find as a student you have two options:

1) Buying mostly microwave meals, pasta, and fast food.

Of course the downfall to this option is it’s pretty unhealthy. Microwave meals are great for exam time and when you just can’t be bothered to make food. Unfortunately with the way students have to study these days it is easy to get into the bad habit of never bothering at all.

2) Cooking your own food.

You will either love this option or hate it. But either way, there are some very fast cooking options that will hardly take away from your study time (or whatever else you choose to use your time for). To make matters better, you can make a few portions at a time and save it for later. Plus, what you’ve cooked will taste much better than a microwave meal! And once you’ve gotten into the swing of things you may very well come to find yourself enjoying cooking quite a lot.

Another thing students like  to do is go to the food court. A quick meal at the food court is usually around $5-8.

You can get an 11oz striploin for about $8, or a portion of salmon for about $3-4. Both take about 10 minutes total to prepare, are super easy to make, and taste absolutely amazing.

As long as you have noodles, soy sauce, and oil, you can stir fry. And stir frying costs about $2-4 per portion (depending on what you’re putting in it- be it veggies, chicken, beef, or other meats), is easy, and tastes great. All in all, it takes about 5-6 minutes to make. Stir frys are amazing for students. They can easily become your best friend.

Finally, it’s a good idea to get a simple cookbook for students, this is the one I use: http://www.amazon.ca/The-Ultimate-Student-Cookbook-Chicken/dp/1554076021

Cheers,

FP

Crispy Rainbow Trout

Today I made rainbow trout, and aside from my electric coil stove top taking about five minutes to reach the proper temperature, it took about SIX MINUTES total. Most of that was just waiting around for the fish to cook.

For this dish I used a recipe from one of Gordon Ramsay’s videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQuyOwNtAVM) and modified it for rainbow trout:

1) Score the fish along its length- by curling it with your fingers and letting the knife go down about halfway through
2) Season between scores with salt and olive oil (and rosemary if you want)
3) Coat a pan with olive oil and set it to a high heat, when the olive oil starts smoking add the fish to the pan skin side down
4) Sprinkle some salt onto the other side of the fish
5) DON’T TOUCH THE FISH and let it cook for 2-3mins (for salmon let cook for 4-5mins)
6) Flip the fish and tilt the pan so all the olive oil surrounds the fish on one side, let cook for 30 seconds.
7) Take the fish out of the pan and enjoy!

If you’re more of a visual learner it may be advantageous to watch the video for reference, but either way it should be fairly easy. Here’s what my fish looked like when it was ready to be put in the pan:

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And when it was ready to be taken out:

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If you want something extra, I found Tempura sauce went rather well with the fish. You can find this ingredient in the “Asian” section of most supermarkets.

I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it!

Cheers,

FP

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