Guu SakaBar, the sequel to Church Street’s hugely successful Guu Izakaya, may have finally opened its doors in the Annex, but the waiting has just begun. Thankfully, it’ll be in an enclosed waiting area this time around. Many elements here are reminiscent of the Izakaya — this is a Guu, no question — but there’s a sizable selection of new menu items. We sampled some and had Natsuhiko Sugimoto, chef and general manager, break them down for us.
Pork belly has been making its presence known across town as of late. Here, slabs of it are marinated for 12 hours in a sauce of sake, honey, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. After being oven-cooked for an hour, the meat is sliced and garnished with green onions, sesame seeds and a drizzle of the aforementioned sauce. The results liquefy upon mouth entry. $6.
This dish comes served in a real scallop shell, but best not to eat the bed of salt it’s resting on, Sugimoto jokes, it’s just there so the shell stays put. Inside the shell is where the action is: scallops, pan-fried with soy sauce, margarine and a bonito-based dashi broth (the base for miso soup). Tucked underneath is a heaping of mushrooms pan-fried in the same stuff. Topping it off is a generous douse of garlic butter, replete with sea salt and parsley. After a quick bake in the oven, the creation is dusted off with panko bread crumbs. $7.20.
A skin-on filet of black cod is marinated for at least one day in miso sauce consisting of white miso, mirin (a sweet Japanese condiment), sake and sugar. After 10 minutes in the oven, it comes out moist and flaky, whereupon it’s drizzled with more miso sauce and garnished with yuzu rind. $9.80.
Yes, carbonara is just about everywhere in Toronto these days, and now it’s at Guu. The cream sauce starts with what you’d expect – whipping cream, Parmesan cheese, pepper – but it’s infused with kombu dashi, an umami-heavy broth made from kelp. Slightly firm udon noodles are tossed with pieces of pan-fried peameal bacon, sweet onions and dried seaweed. Right in the middle is a soft-cooked egg, so delicate it breaks with the slightest touch. “It’s so difficult to make it,” Sugimoto says of the egg, which is cooked for 13 minutes in water at 70 degrees Celcius. $8.30.
These deep fried Japanese kebabs are comprised of either ham, bacon, potato, mushroom, quail egg or lotus root (which, when chopped, looks kind of like Honeycomb cereal). Chefs take an item of choice and either boil it first, or just go ahead and coat it raw with panko batter, whereupon it’s deep fried. $7.80 for five.
There’s some messy indulgence to be found here, between two rice patties that evoke misguided weight-loss efforts. Thin slices of pork are pan-fried with soy sauce, honey, ginger and sake. Add in crunchy bits of cabbage and a slather of garlic mayonnaise and you’ve got yourself a burger. $5.80.
Guu SakaBar, 559 Bloor St. W., 647-343-1101