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Guu @ Aberdeen

After 2 kids parties back-to-back, the last thing I wanted to do was cook. So I had made plans for us to meet up with my parents for some Guu Izakaya. There are 4 locations in the GVRD and I decided on the one at Aderdeen in Richmond. Wait, of all the locations I could've visited, I chose Richmond. Wendy (Eat `n About) must be right, Richmond is growing on me (or at least there is good food there). I guess my childhood fears which have followed me to adulthood may be somewhat subsiding. After all, I have survived going to Richmond all these years, it can't be all that bad? I don't recall being cut off this time around; but there was this person signalling right every time he turned right in the Aberdeen parking lot. Um... realistically, you can only turn right, otherwise you'll hit parked cars if you turned left. So let me get this straight, people do not signal when they cut you off; but signal in an enclosed parking lot when you have no other direction to go? Go figure.

Guu at Aberdeen is hidden away behind Northern Delicacy. If you weren't looking for it, you'd miss it. Of course when we entered the restaurant, the yelling (I mean greetings) erupted loudly. As with any Izakaya, the dining space is dark. An absolutely horrible environment to take pictures. Luckily, my built-in flash works pretty well; yet I have to get up close and personal with the food. Unlike the other Guu locations, the one in Richmond has sushi. I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing; however, it definitely blurs the line between Izakaya and a regular Japanese restaurant. I had no intentions of ordering sushi here since I could do that at any other Japanese restaurant. What I did order were the following: Beef Sashimi, Fried Prawns, BBQ Duck, Grilled Scallops, Gyu Shabu Salad, Marinated Beef Tongue, Misomayo Black Cod, Salmon Yukke, Takoyaki, Ton Toro, Unagi Cha and Yakiudon.

Arriving on a bed of daikon, the beef sashimi was impressively presented. The beef was seared perfectly with the centre exhibiting a wonderful red colour. The ginger tomato sauce was light and it didn't detract from the beef taste. However, some might find it bland. We also ordered the Fried Prawns, which were accompanied by a spicy mayo. Although the prawns were very crunchy, it seemed like they spent a bit too much time in the fryer. As you can see in the picture, they look a bit dark. On the other hand, the BBQ duck was perfectly prepared. The meat was tender and not overdone. It was also very delicately flavoured. I wasn't exactly sure what the sauce was; but my best guess is a light ponzu.

After trying Tenku Bakudanyaki last week, it made me long for takoyaki. They're not exactly the same; but they're similar. I actually prefer the smaller takoyaki because they are easier to eat. The fried octopus balls were very good. Lightly crisp on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. The sauce, which contains Worcester, added necessary flavour since the balls are delicate in flavour. Continuing on the bland theme, the grilled scallops were naturally sweet; yet other than that, they were bland. You could taste some garlic and of course the accompanying mushrooms; but that was about it. I suppose that there was a lack of caramelization, which is preferable when eating grilled or seared scallops.

Whenever it is available at an Izakaya, we always order salmon yukke. Despite this, I've never been a fan of the salmon yukke at Guu. For some reason, it seems a bit watery and bland. This time was no exception. However, the salmon was fresh and I do like the crunchy shrimp chips as a eating vessel. By now, you might be thinking that everything was bland. Well, the ton toro (pork cheeks) were not bland; in fact it was bathed in a sweet miso sauce. Yet, the highlight of this dish was the texture of the meat. It was "seong" which means the meat was the opposite of mushy. There is no proper term for this in English; however, I think the closest description for this would be crunchy (in a cold-water shrimp kind of way). Another flavourful dish was the marinated grilled beef tongue. I wasn't exactly sure what it was marinated in exactly; but it definitely was soy-based. In addition to being flavourful, the tongue was tender without being too soft.

Continuing on the flavourful theme, the black cod was quite tasty with a good balance of saltiness and sweetness. The miso mayo dressing baked on top of the piece of fish not only flavoured the fish, it helped keep it moist. Too bad it was a bit overcooked; thus it was not as flaky as it should be. We ordered the yakiudon (not pictured) mainly for the kiddies; but there was more than enough for everyone else to try. I did try it and it was pretty good. Accompanying the udon was quite a bit of beef, mushrooms and scallions. Although the udon was not bland, it was delicately flavoured, being mostly on the sweeter side. One dish that was relatively boring was the gyu shabu salad. It is boiled beef on a bed of greens with a sesame dressing. Aesthetically, it was ugly and the taste was predictably bland. There needed to be more dressing, or the beef need to be boiled in a more flavourful broth. To revert back to the bland theme, the unagi cha was the blandest of all. To be fair, it was probably the flavour profile of the dish. It was essentially ungai on rice bathed in tea. It reminded me of pouring Chinese clear soup into a bowl of rice. It's pleasant to eat; but flavourful it's not. I'm sure someone will like it; it's all personal preference.

Personal preference or not, the one thing that seemed consistent was the blandness of most of the food. Maybe I like things more salty and rich or maybe it was indeed bland. Compared to other Izakayas, including the Guu on Thurlow, the Guu at Aberdeen seems to be inferior. With that being said, I still enjoyed my meal. For what it's worth, Guu is reasonably-priced and their food is generally pretty good. The service was very good, probably because it wasn't too busy. We had servers check on us at regular intervals, helping us removed finished and dirty plates. It may not be as good as the other Guu locations; but it's certainly not horrible. It can still hold its own in Richmond.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Relatively spacious
- Good service

The Bad:
- A bit too delicate in taste
- Sushi? Izakaya or not?

Guu in Aberdeen
#2790 - 4151 Hazelbridge Way
Richmond, B.C.
604-295-6612
www.guu-izakaya.com

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