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Izakaya help

Six years ago, my husband and I went to Guu with Garlic on our honeymoon. While we really enjoyed the food, I would say that we felt a little... well... neglected. We sat at the bar, and ordered a few things right away and had planned on continually ordering as needed. The Japanese lady, and I assumed her daughter, sitting next to us seemed to never actually order but food kept appearing in front of them and they were done eating maybe their 7 dishes before we even had any food. It probably took us about 45 minutes to get our 3 dishes. So, we left after we ate feeling a little uncomfortable, a little unwanted, and hungry! This summer, we're coming back with my parents and I would like for them to have the izakaya experience, however, I'm a little hesitant to go back to Guu with Garlic even though that gets recommended the most. So, can you A.) provide me with tips on ordering or otherwise at Guu with Garlic or B.) provide me with an izakaya alternative that you think stacks up to the food at Guu with Garlic, because we did really love the food and I can't quite get the whole crab out of my head?! (I looked at the Kingyo menu, and it just doesn't excite me as much, unless there are items that are off-menu?) Thanks for your help!

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  1. Perhaps the woman beside you when you went was staff or was a guest of the restaurant? Or, perhaps you ordered dishes that were from a different part of the menu from her and that particular cook was slammed? Just trying to think why something like that would happen. I haven't had those issues at any of the Guu locations though. You should be more than fine trying it out again, but there are a few more locations of Guu now. My current favorite is Kobachi, as it is their test kitchen. Lots of little snacks and a couple of new menus every day. The manager has described it as being more Japanese than their other restaurants. A few board regulars aren't so keen on Kobachi though, especially for tourists due to its experimental kitchen. Perhaps Guu Garden would be up your alley? It's less hectic than Garlic but I've had some great meals there and the room is rather nice.

    Beyond the Guu empire, Kingyo and their sister izakaya, Suika, are terrific. Kingyo is on Denman, but Suika is across False Creek on West Broadway. Their menu posted online is just their regular menu. Last time I went there were two menus of specials on top of the regular menu.

    1. That is weird. Usually i get pretty decent service at Guu. I would suggest that you could always try a different guu.
      Guu Aberdeen is probably more comfortable seating if your parents are a bit older. Parking is easy as it is part of the mall.
      Guu Garden.. i haven't gone but heard their patio is quite nice
      Guu Gastown. Its upstairs, larger than guu garlic and i think overall nicer
      Guu thurlow... its small and cramp but i like this one the best.... LOL.. strange..
      Guu Robson.. you can always try again.

      Other great restaurants for your fam to try out.
      Hapa Kitts
      Hapa Robson
      Gyoza King (this is my default place...)
      Zakkusi is more of a robata restaurant but still pretty good.

      GOOOOOOOOOOD LUCK :D
      I personall think your fam would enjoy Hapa.. its a bit more upscale and great for hosting dinners.

      1. I like Guu Garlic's menu the most but I understand your hesitation to return, as the service can be a bit hit and miss, and it can be very loud. We got fantastic service when we went to Guu Garden, though the food was a notch below Guu Garlic's. It is a nice setting too, prolly the nicest of the Guus (haven't been to the Richmond one though). I think Suika is just okay and I work across the street from it. I actually like it best for lunch having been several times now. Hapa on Robson is a nice room if rather dark but the food there has never excited me. I feel like Kingyo would be a good place to go with parentals, a bit more impressive, but then it depends what your mum and dad like. If you're venturing out of downtown, consider the Zakkushi at Main and 25th, asking for a table in the big north side room. This is a nice spot for a little celebration. Their sake flights are rather nice as well.

        3 Replies
        1. re: grayelf

          They're fun parentals, not very old in the grand scheme of things. :-) They are pretty much up for anything- they better be as I've planned every activity and meal! They like their beers too!

          1. re: Katie Nell

            My dad loved Guu with Garlic when we took him. He also likes Zakkushi on 4th but mum doesn't so there you go. Zakkushi on 4th is my favourite izakaya in town but I don't go in the summer because their HVAC is non-existent.

            I never order beer at the izakayas for some reason but obviously that is a focus. I like the fruit cocktaily things they have in the summer at the Guus and the sake is always fun in the winter. Zakkushi usually has plum wine on the rocks on offer which is another good summer choice.

            1. re: Katie Nell

              En passant there is a Groupon for Hapa Robson that is available for another day or so if that interests and good till October.

              We did a mini-crawl last night -- Guu with Garlic and Zakkushi on Denman -- and I must say I enjoyed Zakkushi more, both for the ambiance and the food. Spent exactly the same at both, which was funny, $20 bucks a head with one person not imbibing. I don't think I'd ever been to either on a Friday before, and I just found Guu to be a bit too loud. We got seats at the corner of the bar at Zakkushi which was ideal as there was a little breeze from the door and we could talk easily across the corner. The bar benches open so you can stash your personal effects underneath you too which is handy. Neither of these places would be comfortable on a hotter evening (yesterday was quite cool and rainy) as they don't have AC -- Guu does have some outside tables, however.

          2. Well, I think we're going to do food trucks instead! My dad mentioned this weekend that that was the one thing he regretted that they didn't do in Portland when they were there. So, I think we will hit up some of the food trucks for dinner and then head to one of the Richmond night markets, though I still don't know which one! :-) Thanks for the help! Will report back on all of our meals when we get back!

            8 Replies
            1. re: Katie Nell

              Then this thread will be of assistance if you haven't already checked it out: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/794556

              Personally, I think we do a much better job of izakaya here but then again we've been at it for longer. Someone said to me on the weekend that the food trucks haven't been active long enough to winnow out the keepers and I tend to agree. Having said that the only food truck I've really enjoyed is gone, so maybe that theory is hooey too :-).

              I would certainly modulate your expectations if you're comparing to Portland's scene. They have way more trucks, are uniformly far cheaper, have been doing it successfully for years and have the full support of both the community and the civic government. They even have seating areas and alcohol available at some of the food cart pods, neither of which you'll find here.

              Best of luck, looking forward to your report.

              1. re: Katie Nell

                The food trucks are OK, but I'd only eat them for lunch personally. I don't even think they are usually open late enough for dinner.

                If you are going to the night market, may as well save your appetite, the only reason to go there is to eat really.

                1. re: J_Bone

                  Really good point about the carts closing early, totally spaced on that. I'd be sure to check twitter before going to any after 5, and I've heard tell that some run out of dishes well before their proposed closing times. I also would want to have fasted a bit before hitting the night market(s) to make the trip worthwhile :-).

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Now, see, I thought from the other thread that you guys were saying that the food wasn't that great at the night market(s)! ;-) We were thinking an early dinner at one of the food carts and then snacking at the market(s). I mean, how can I tell the man no when he said that is his one major regret?!

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      The food isn't great at the night markets (or at least at the "old" one). But it's also not great at the food carts. It's just that the night market is kind of a fun experience because of the crowds, smoke, smells, crazy stuff they sell etc. The food carts are still coming into their own (I hope) and are currently overpriced, inconsistent, unreliable and not terrific. Hence the cautions on both the night markets and the carts. PLUS the carts are not open at night at all, so won't work for dinner. You could take dad for lunch I suppose, just be sure to manage his expectations, as the cart scene is nothing like Portland's, what with the foregoing caveats and the fact that most carts are relatively far apart compared to Pdx (no pods here).

                      1. re: grayelf

                        If you're coming to town anytime between this weekend and Sept 2, the Waldorf is hosting 10 or so food trucks every Sunday from noon to 6pm. You'd at least get more of a PDX pod experience in the sense that they'd all be in one parking lot.

                        1. re: clutterer

                          Excellent tip about the food carts on Sundays at the Waldord.

                          As for the night market, granted I haven't been for a few years, but quibbling about whether the food is top notch or not (it definitely isn't- it's street food) is beside the point. As grayelf points out, it's the whole experience, the fun of looking from stall to stall picking out the food that looks good, getting a ridiculously big bubble tea that you know is terrible for you but somehow hits the spot. The food isn't even that cheap but be prepared to pay $20-30/person and you will have a chance to fill up and hopefully have some fun :)

                  2. re: J_Bone

                    Okay, I guess I was looking at Vij's Twitter feed that said they were open for dinner some of the days and Kaboom Box's hours say Tues. thru Sat. until 6:30, but maybe that's not a regular thing. We already have lunches slated for Go Fish, Dim Sum, and Edible Canada Bistro, and then one of our days, the boys will be fishing. Argh... decisions, decisions!! ;-) Might just have to graze our way through a few places for a lunch!