Tag Archives: Japanese

My Friend Guu

Guu Izakaya - room

Recently, we visited Guu Izakaya restaurant in Toronto.

It opened a while ago, and I’d walk by and wonder what it was. To be honest, I could not for the life of me read the name on the sign (it’s in a handwritten font, so pretty hard to read). I didn’t know what an Izakaya was, either, until some girl friends that had been to Japan explained it to me.

Izakaya is kind of like a Japanese pub, where you eat small plates (kind of like mezze or tapas) and drink.

This place is pretty popular, with a line out the door most nights. On the night that we went, the line wasn’t too bad so we decided to try it out.

They yell stuff at you when you walk in the door. I have no idea what they’re saying, but they say it with a smile so I think it’s something nice.

Guu Izakaya - Food Collage

From top left: Gindara (black cod), Ikamaru (grilled squid), seafood ceviche, Maguro Tataki (seared tuna), Salmon Natto Yukke (salmon sashimi with seven friends), Kakimayo (grilled oysters with spinach, mayo and cheese).

There were many many fun sounding dishes, so we picked some, ordered beer and enjoyed ourselves. Our favourite ones are pictured above.

I finally had the opportunity to try Shochu (Japanese vodka). The one I chose was made from sweet potato, and had a really earthy flavour – not unlike a cross between vodka and scotch. My subsequent trial of Shochu was completely different, but that’s a different tale…

I don’t recommend getting the trio of coloured, flavoured sake shots. It was cute, but a little too gimmicky. I should have known better.

Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves. The energy in the room is incredible, and the food was really tasty. We tried to go back, but there was a 2-hour wait… hm, better luck next time!

Guu Izakaya - beer

Enjoying my drink. Good to see they passed inspection.

From the Spice Drawer: Nanami Togarashi


Today’s featured item from the spice drawer is a Japanese spice blend that may or may not be called ‘Nanami Togarashi’. This name doesn’t appear anywhere on this bottle, and similar blends from other brands have different names (another one I saw was called ‘Shichimi Togarashi‘, seems to have the same ingredients. Hm. Wait – Google to the rescue here.) Nanami Togarashi is generally made up of chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, japanese pepper (sansho – tastes almost lemon balmy), seaweed, etc.

This stuff is amazing, and I’m totally addicted to it.

In Japanese restaurants, they usually offer this to sprinkle on your soup. Once I discovered it, I started to put it on everything even remotely Japanese inspired. My favourite use is on stir fried udon noodles. As it is primarily made of chili pepper, it does add a bit of heat, so be careful when adding it to dishes. The inclusion of citrus and the almost citrusy tasting Sansho pepper give it a nice tang.

Nanami Togarashi isn’t available in most grocery stores, and can commonly be found in Japanese supermarkets and some pan-Asian supermarkets. I used to only be able to find the tiny bottles of it, and had even asked one of the grocers about whether I could order bigger bottles. At the time, it seemed that you couldn’t get it in any other size. On my most recent trip to Sanko, my favourite Japanese grocery store here in Toronto, I was pleased* to find not only a larger bottle, but also a large bag of Nanami Togarashi. I bought one of each.

Next time you see one of these cute little red bottles, give it a try!



*pleased = almost peed myself, I was so happy about the silly spices