During the Olympics, Jenkins and I were able to meet up with Mildred and Stuart one evening for dinner. We weren’t really sure where we should go but we knew we wanted to get away from the throngs of people and we also didn’t want to wait in line. Mildred suggested the new Guu Garden and since I didn’t even know another Guu had opened, I readily agreed.
Despite it being a busy Olympic weekend, the restaurant itself was quite empty, unlike most other Guus. We suspected this was because it was tucked away on the second floor of Nelson Square and partially obstructed by the construction taking place there.
Mildred and Stuart had been here before and they told us that the specialty at Guu Garden was oden so we decided to sample some of their oden offerings. One thing they did point out that was a bit odd was that you would assume most of the oden items were cooking in the same pot of broth as that is the way it is traditionally made, but for Guu Garden brings each item separately in its own serving dish and also at random times throughout the meal. We were never able to figure out why this was the case.
The oden offered at Guu Garden can come in two different types of broth so we decided to sample items with both broths. First up was a free range egg in the miso oden. The egg was perfectly boiled and complemented by the slightly sweet miso broth. There was also a dollop of Japanese mustard if you wanted to give the egg a bit of a kick.
Next came some mochi tofu bags in the more soy-based kanto-daki broth. The mochi tofu bags were pretty interesting to eat because as soon as you bit into the tofu, the liquid mochi poured right out. The flavour was very mild so we added some of the mustard.
One of the daily specials was the mini squid with a pocket of yuzu jelly in the middle. This was pretty interesting to eat because the mini squid were quite fresh tasting and once you bite into the middle, there’s a burst of citrusy yuzu. We all quite enjoyed this dish and was glad Mildred recommended we try it.
The green bean fries came next. There was a little too much batter for my liking but I enjoyed the salty green bean fries with a little dollop of mayo. There was some lemon in the mayo which contrasted nicely with the saltiness of the fries.
The ebi mayo was also a bit over-battered for my liking but Jenkins pointed out that it was nice for them to drizzle the spicy sauce and mayo on the side so you could choose to add as much of it as you like. Jenkins doesn’t really like it when there is too much mayo in this dish so that worked out well for him. I felt that overall, this dish did not stand out much when compared to the ebi mayo at other places, such as Hapa Izakaya.
Some of our other oden items started coming to our table again and the first of them was the miso mountain potato. Rather than coming in a bowl of broth like our other oden, this one came on a plate and was drizzled in some of the broth that appeared to be reduced down. The mountain potato tasted more like a yam than a potato but not as sweet. This dish was quite tasty and the mountain potato soaked up a lot of the tasty miso broth.
With izakaya places such as Guu, it can be hard to fill up on all the mini dishes in a cost effective manner so we also ordered some filler dishes. First came the kimchi cod roe udon, which is one of our favourite udon dishes. The udon was cooked perfectly and retained its chewy consistency and the crunch of the kimchi and udon contrasted nicely with the noodles.
The BBQ eel nuku sushi had a lot of eel flavour and came in a cute little bamboo steamer. My only complaint for this dish was that it was a bit smaller than we were expecting. The eel came in the bottom of the steamer so you had to mix it with the rice and you also had the option of adding some seaweed and sesame seeds if you’d like.
The last of our oden dishes finally made an appearance towards the end of our meal. The tomato in the miso oden broth was full of flavour absorbed from the broth and cooked just right so it retained its shape despite being thoroughly cooked through. I think this would have gone really well with a bowl of steamed rice.
I don’t remember the name of our last dish but it was another udon dish with thinly sliced beef with a simple sesame sauce. The flavours were quite mild even with the beef and I preferred the kimchi cod roe udon more than this beef version.
Overall, I liked how the oden-focused menu at Guu Garden was different from the other Guus. It also seemed to be quieter and more low-key than the boisterous environment of the other Guu restaurants. Although the oden items are fairly reasonable price-wise (generally $1.50-4), you do need to eat a lot in order to fill up and this can run your bill up quite quickly. Especially if you are a Guu fan, this may be a place you may want to check out.
101-888 Nelson Street, Vancouver