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Archive for November, 2009

Guu on Thurlow

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They even have their own drinks

Photo: Guu-izakaya.com

Summary: Guu is Guu’d. The Best Lunch in Vancouver.

  • Go here for: incredible japanese food with huge depth of flavour
  • Avoid: this place if you are short on time

Guu is a Vancouver institution that needs no introduction, at least around these parts. Guu has been around for decades and still has lineups every night. It should be noted that although Guu has 4 locations, each one is different and gets you a slightly different menu. Choose carefully. Today we are talking about Guu on Thurlow, otherwise known as Original Guu.

While all the Guus in town are pretty damn good, Guu on Thurlow offers one thing that the other Guus don’t: A fantastic and yummy lunch deal. Lunch at Guu on Thurlow can be had for under $10, which is fantastic for a Japanese restaurant in this city.

SO, the recommendations:

Nobu Matsuhisa calls mackerel the true test of a Japanese chef, because its flavour is dependent on the talent, not how expensive the fish was. This is incredibly ironic for a man who is infamous for serving super expensive endangered bluefin tuna at his restaurants.

Guu, on the other hand, serves up a delicious & simple Grilled Saba with Rice ($8). The skin of the fish is grilled to a beautiful crisp finish and delicate moist white meat with loads of depth and a pleasant earthy mackerel-ey finish. Guu balances the richness of the mackerel with traditional pickled mystery veg (it’s different each time), miso soup, and the requisite bowl of rice. This is as Japanese as you can get (they don’t actually eat sushi that much) and its delicious. Foodcog gets this everytime he goes to Guu.

Sitting at the bar is highly recommended, because then you can see the mastery and professionalism of Guu’s Japanese short order chefs. These chefs routinely cook up your order on woks fired by 4 foot high flames. Foodcog personally saw one of the chefs splash hot oil on himself and just laugh it off. These guys are tough and entertaining to watch. They’re so tough that when Chuck Norris comes in for dinner, he doesn’t order his food, they order him to eat.

They need to be that tough, because people complain.

Some people complain that Guu is overly short-staffed during lunch, and they also complain about the general amount of time it takes to have lunch, because they are so short staffed. These people are crazy, Foodcog respects the ability of four people (two cooks, two servers) to run a completely full 40 seat restaurant for two hours, and the huge profitability that can bring.

Foodcog doesn’t live in fear of the tyrannical whip of the evil clock, but his advice for those who do is simple. Even if you only have a 30 min lunch, as long as you work downtown, Guu is worth it and only 10 mins from most.

So here’s what to do if you don’t have time:

  1. Use the website link at the bottom to figure out what you want.
  2. Call this number and order it, they will tell you to come in 15 mins: 604-685-8817
  3. Walk/Run/Drive there as fast as you can.
  4. Get your food (and tip something!)
  5. Sit down on the sidewalk curb right outside and eat.
  6. 10 mins later, saunter back to the office, satisfied and sated.

There is nothing that tastes better or is more satisfying than eating a delicious lunch in front of the very same people waiting in line for that lunch! Be sure to make it seem as delicious as possible.

When going to Guu, Guu’s website suggests:

This is a short trip to Tokyo.
Don’t worry about things in your life.
Get drunk and have fun! Our friendly staffs will help you to forget everything!

Foodcog Agrees.

Links and Quality Blog Reviews:

Written by Foodcog

November 26th, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Stella’s On Cambie

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Photo Credit: Foodcog

Photo Credit: Foodcog

Summary: Beers on a patio! Loves Stella’s for what it is: an afternoon watering hole and nosh pit. If you stick with just that, you can’t go wrong.

  • Go here for: $6 20oz Beers, Corn Dogs (!)
  • Avoid: Anything on the menu that isn’t beer or tapas

Stella’s is A Real European Place.

Most North Americans think of Europe as an elegant, refined place with fashionable people who make deep philosophical pronouncements while sipping on Absinthe and nibbling delicious food.

Europeans

Real Europeans

Foodcog saw a very different Europe: most Europeans don’t try that hard and just love the simple pleasures in life: eating gobs of butter, drinking cases upon cases of cheap booze, and party pretty hard in the clubs. Europeans, Foodcog is convinced, wouldn’t want anything to do with fancy food like Ginger Leek Foam on a Crisp Deep Fried Oyster Cracker. This probably explains why McDonald’s is the fastest growing restaurant in France. The French love McDonald’s (as they should).

This is where Stella’s comes in.

Stella’s brings the classic European Cafe to Vancouver. The coffee here probably isn’t as good, but like most cafes in Europe, Stella’s is a wonderful watering hole for the traditional after-work drink. In Europe, the aperitif (which is what we’re talking about) is any kind of booze that one requires to forget the horrible European workday spent baking tiny little macarons or stamping barefoot on wine, or whatever it is that they do for a living over there. You usually get a little bit of food to munch on alongside the aperitif.

While some of us here in North America will pretentiously drink Pernod or Pastis as aperitifs, Foodcog prefers the traditional North American Aperitif: Beer. Belgian Beer is a wonderful thing, and Stella’s carries a huge selection of it, along with beer from the rest o the world as well. This is a place with an unbeatable formula: good beer, casual atmosphere, beer-related food.

SO, some recommendations:

Stella’s menu is based around little bits of snack food to go with the beer, although they do confuse people with some afterthoughts for lunch or dinner. You should not be coming for a nice dinner with a glass of wine. Stick with the Tapas menu.

The fries (frites, for the pretentious)($6) are crisp, golden, and delicious and come with a lovely mayo. The corn dogs ($10) are a truly elevated snack food that goes wonderful with beer. Where else in Vancouver can you get Corn Dogs in a restaurant? And the mussels are consistently good, tender and swimming in a savoury broth paired with the golden crisp fries mentioned earlier.

The beer list, of course, is one of the best in the city. The reserve beer list can be expensive, but if you stay off the reserve menu, the beers are very competitively priced. A bottle of Stella for $5.75 is on par with just about anywhere in this city, a large Sapporo for $7 is better than most restaurants, and a real 20oz pint of Kronenbourg for $6, well, that’s just giving it away.

Photo Credit: Stellasbeer.com

Photo Credit: Stellasbeer.com

The service can be spotty: servers are either friendly or nowhere to be seen. They are, however, real people and this is a very underappreciated bonus. Foodcog talked to servers on two different visits, and one was hung over – true industry style – and the other had started his shift with a whisky and proclaimed it the best day in his life. Foodcog appreciates servers who match the ambiance of the restaurant they work in.

Most importantly, Stella’s has an actual (heated) outdoor patio that Foodcog can drink beer on! What’s more satisfying than having a beer, some chips, and watching traffic go by on a long summer afternoon? Nothing!

Of course, what works in Europe doesn’t always work in Vancouver: Stella’s doesn’t get completely positive reviews on other sites. As of this writing, Stella’s has 3/5 stars on dinehere.ca and 74% on urbanspoon.com. The problem here is that people are going to a beer and tapas place looking for real food. If you are looking for a good meal, go somewhere else. Stella’s is about the beer and tapas, that’s what they advertise and that’s what, in Foodcog’s opinion, they deliver.

Note: The menu says Two Rivers’ De Koninck ale chorizo corn dogs. Foodcog is pretty sure this refers to Two Rivers, not two corn dogs.

Links & Quality Blog Reviews:


Stella’s on Cambie on Urbanspoon

Written by Foodcog

November 25th, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Vancouver Pizza Joints

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Foodcog has just learned that superstar celebrity chef Mario Batali has released a cookbook based on the menu of his venerable OTTO restaurant.

OTTO, for those who don’t know, is one of the few places it’s possible to get good olive oil flavoured gelato. Foodcog is hoping that Chef Batali provides complete instructions for making said delicious Olive Oil Gelato at home, along with instructions for baking good authentic pizza in home ovens that top out at 450c.

OTTO, additionally, happens to be what Foodcog thinks of as a nearly perfect modern North American pizza joint: casual, affordable, delicious, and preferably owned by a celebrity chef who has banned another celebrity chef from ever entering any of his restaurants.

This brings a ponder: Can one get a similar excellent sit-down pizza experience in Vancouver or does Foodcog have to hitchhike to NYC? Foodcog’s mental restaurant rolodex survey suggests:

  • Italian restaurant La Quercia rocks, but doesn’t serve pizza, and is too fancy.
  • Foodcog has never been to La Buca, but a look at the online menu says no pizza, and therefore, no reason to go, once again.
  • Cioppinos is widely heralded as a great Vancouver Italian Enoteca, but the current menu is pizza-less. Where’s the pizza, ‘Pino?
  • Italian Kitchen & Trattoria is a little too upscale for what we’re looking for here. Foodcog spent $40 for two at OTTO – Both Italian Kitchens would charge somewhere between double and triple, and the pizza still wouldn’t be as good.
  • Incendio is definitely casual, definitely pizza, but also definitely questionable. Although Foodcog enjoyed Incendio 3 years ago, Memories and palates can change. Foodcog will have to go to Incendio to find out.

This is a topic Foodcog will explore in the near future (as Foodcog is craving a good pizza). C’mon Vancouver, there’s definitely room for a comfy, trendy, down-home, casual Italian Pizzeria here. Maybe the next Gordon Ramsay Vancouver rumour can be a pizza joint. That would be fitting.  (Grub Street NYC)

Written by Foodcog

November 24th, 2009 at 9:50 am

Posted in Ponderings

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