Monday, February 15, 2010

such n00bs...

and why i could never move away from toronto.

this was saturday night's dinner. pretty effin' tasty. the creamed spinach was soooo good, the steak a little under but very delicious (we took a 1lb steak and cut it in half) and i did champignons à la D grande, which is basically butter-sautéed mushrooms flambéed with cognac (big D's favorite preparation). sided with a baked potato with chive-dill sour cream, it's starchy insides well lubricated with pats of salted butter. for dessert i made us chocolate soufflés, although i'm starting to realize that i'm not the biggest chocolate soufflé fan, even when they're served kind of under the way i like them. they're just never chocolate-y or dense or richenough.

we watched "the hurt locker." despite the hyperbolic text on the movie poster, i wouldn't call it a "near-perfect movie" - it's an extremely VISCERAL film, which actually makes it an apt comparison piece to "avatar" - purely experiential - not really a thinker piece. it's a tight, lean little number guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat - you're completely immersed in the world that bigelow constructs. so if you're looking for something that builds tension and plunges you into a heart-pounding, death-defying, immersive sensory experience, i would take "the hurt locker" over the hyper-constructed, credulity-stretching environment of "avatar" any day. while the thrills in both might be cheap and manipulative, "avatar" wears its artifice on its sleeve. also, kathryn bigelow is an ass-kickingly good director. think about it - her female contemporaries are making stuff like "it's complicated" (aka mom-porn) and she's making these small, gut-punchingly good action flicks. and she's a stone fox, too!

we came home from the show at the rivoli and polished off an entire LARGE pizza nova meat lover's pizza, which made us feel disgusting and created a very logy start to our sunday. we were supposed to have corned beef hash for breakkie but i kiboshed that in favour of bran muffins as a way of apologizing to my innards for the hefty hit they took on saturday night.

so we roused ourselves enough on a lazy, slackery feeling long weekend sunday to do some mild house sprucing - i touched up paint that had been stripped by leaving painter's tape on the wall for too long, the dotytron worked on painting the doors and then we decided to finally act on a long-incubated plan to go visit a T&T grocery store. CAN YOU BELIEVE I'VE NEVER BEEN TO T&T?!??!!!? it's REDONKULOUS.

alls i gotta say is: wow. i'm never going to chinatown again. why would i want to when you have stuff like hamberger cake with REAL lettuce?!? T&T is AMAZING! it's a gleaming, clean, giant hall dedicated to all things asian (mostly chinese). you can buy ready-made dim sum, chinese bakery goods (INCLUDING MILK TARTS!), there's a whole hot pot aisle, every noodle, tonnes of fresh pork, beef, chicken and a well-stocked seafood counter with pacific oysters, mussels, and fresh tilapia a plenty. so much fun! we wandered the aisles in wonder.

alls i also gotta say is: i love going on staycation adventures with the dotytron. he was SUPER-pumped and giddy to check out T&T - i love that this constitutes our big city adventuring. going to a chinese grocery store. we basically went in our pjs, thinking it was going to be a quick mission.

the original plan, based on my intimate understandings of the dining habits of the general public, was that we were going to go for our valentine's day meal on monday, at guu izakaya. we were going to ask our buddy L to join us. knowing that sunday was valentine's day and that on a regular day, the lineups at guu can take more than an hour (an hour minimum if you're a party of two, more if you have 3 or more in your group), i called on friday to make sure they were open on monday and our plan was to show up promptly at 5pm so that we would get seated in the first rush and then not have to wait in line. BUT (so stupid), as we were leaving T&T, we decided that we had enough time to go to the bay, pick up something for the dotytron and then show up at guu by like, 5:30pm. we'd be fine, right? (so stupid). we even STOPPED halfway between our parking spot and the bay, at like, 4:50, and debated whether we should go straight to guu and be there for 5pm, or whether we should risk it and go to the bay. and then i went against MY OWN KNOWLEDGE OF PEOPLE'S DINING HABITS and said, "no, we'll be fine, no one ever wants to eat before 6pm" (so stupid). WHY WAS I SO STUPID?!?

so of course we get there at 5:20pm and are faced with this. we kept inching forward up the line as they called couple after couple into the table. then, when we were 2nd in line behind a nice, older couple, the host told us that the restaurant was completely full and that we were looking at a minimum 1 hour wait. what they do is they take down your name, the number in your party, and as people leave, they bring more people in. you can run the risk of leaving and going someplace for a drink, but you can't leave your phone number, so what they do is they keep going down the list and when you come back, you're put back at the top again. there's also a 2 hour maximum seating time on any table, so conceivably, if everyone had sat for the maximum time, we wouldn't have gotten in until 7pm.

we opted to stay. we waited about 45 minutes or so, outside. it wasn't that bad. although what was annoying was that we KNEW this was going to happen, planned around it, and then stupidly decided to go through with it anyway. on valentine's day. at a hot new restaurant. thinking we could squeeze in a quick errand. like total n00bs.

the space inside is beautiful. all dark stone (slate?), and thick communal tables and benches made of rough-hewn wood. we got to sit at the bar (yay!) which is the best place to sit in this restaurant. the bar chairs are made out of solid blocks of wood, heavy and cumbersome to move around but surprisingly comfortable. holy crap, this is the FUNNEST restaurant i've eaten in in a loooooong time. so. much. fun. so delicious. so gently priced! nothing on the menu is over $10. because it's izakaya (like japanese tapas) it's all food that's conducive to whetting your whistle with their extensive sake and japanese vodka selection (the dotytron also got a GIANT sapporo). ALL the staff are japanese and japanese-speaking - this ain't your bloor street sushi, folks - and they greet your raucously when you finally get a seat. everyone's shouting and screaming (kind of like a japenese lick's) and it's a rollicking good time.

the cooks are also insanely hot. so effin' attractive. you're informed about your 2 hour seating limit and that your server will take your last order in an hour and a half. don't try messing with this system with your western sense of entitlement because you will fail (or get into a giant fight like this guy). seriously, that guy ("david" in the list of reviews) was an idiot. 2 hours is MORE than enough time to eat. it's also encouraging when 95% of the clientele are asian people, because as we all know, asian people know how to eat with a near unmatched vigor, enthusiasm, and adventurism that's seldom seen amongst our pale-faced brothers.

so, let's get down to business. the menu is divided into sections based on type of preparation: apps, salads, cold, fried, braised, grilled, udon/rice, and sweets, supplemented with a list of specials.

we talked over our choices for like, a half hour before ordering (the place is busy, and it's not like your 2 hours starts when you place the's more like when your drink order is taken. again: SMARTEN UP! think strategically! not guu's fault if you dither and waste time!)

hotate (scallop) carpaccio with wasabi mayo. these scallops are shipped in from hokkaido. i know you're not going to believe me...but this obscene waste of fossil fuels is totally worth it.

braised pork belly with egg. there are some people in the world who don't like biting into a hunk of warm, molten pig fat and feeling the unctuous flood of porcine lard coat your tongue and mouth in a bath of pure, primordial, liquid sunshine. those people don't enjoy life and i feel sorry for them.

yellowtail sashimi with belly meat. WHY IS BELLY MEAT OF EVERY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD (FISH, FOUL, VERTEBRATE, INVERTEBRATE) THE BEST IN THE WORLD?!??? this was a special, flown in from b.c.

this is saba (spanish mackerel) deep fried and served with a house-made tartar sauce.

this was a special dish. tongue in a japanese style curry with udon noodles. i don't know about you, but i LOVE fat, slippery, chewy-textured udon noodles and when they're sauced in a rich, creamy, malaysian-influenced curry sauce with tender hunks of tongue - well, the very thought of this is bringing tears to my eyes right now.

deep fried brie cheese with mango and blueberry sauce. it's deep fried cheese - you do the math.

grilled oysters with mushrooms, spinach, mayonnaise, and cheese (aka japanese oysters rockefeller). SO GOOD. the giant pacific oysters are all cut up and the mushrooms add a umami savoriness and the the oysters and the mushrooms take on the flavour of each other and mimic the others' texture - the whole thing is really harmonized well.

b.c. uni (aka dirt custard). uni is an acquired taste. the dotytron didn't think he liked it. i KNOW i love it. but he tried it again last night and came around. having it shipped from b.c. totally helps. it depends on how well you like things with an earthy funk to them (like lobster tomalley). it's like tomalley custard.

salmon natto yukke (salmon with seven friends). salmon sashimi chunks with natto (fermented soybeans - we were warned that they taste very strong, both by the chef preparing the dish and our server when we ordered it), garlic chips, scallions, wonton crisps, shibazuke, takuan, and a raw egg yolk. it's mixed table side by your server and then you roll it up in nori and eat it. really good. the natto wasn't that strong at all, especially once everything was mixed up. we were a little scared by all the warnings but it's just that fishy, fermented taste.

okonomiyaki, a deep-fried japanese pancake (containing egg, flour, cabbage, grated yam?) served with tonkatsu sauce and mayonnaise (I LOVE KEWPIE MAYONNAISE!) and bonito flakes moving seductively on top.

i love almond milk like few things on earth (when i was the pastry chef at sen5es, i was developing a warm almond-milk/nut soup served with a shot of cognac and some fried fritters as a winter dessert item). so we ordered the almond tofu, which is gelatinized almond milk served in a little clay cup, fragrant with the sweet perfume of almonds. delicious!

so...we paid $111 for all this. that includes a GIANT sapporo, a small sapporo, and a japanese vodka for the dotytron. tax included (we tipped in cash). THAT'S AMAZING. we could basically go back and not repeat what we ordered and still get a whole new meal of awesomeness. seriously. SO BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it's also FUN! fun in a way that pizzeria libretto and fine dining and even the black hoof aren't fun. this is fun fun fun food and a fun fun fun dining experience. the variety of flavours, textures, temperatures is incredible. people who i know are going to love this: BWONG, L, MY ENTIRE FAMILY. i can't wait to take my mum for her birthday.

at one point, midway through our meal, i looked over at the dotytron and met his eyes and smiled and he looked at me and laughed and said, "you look so happy. you look drunk. you're food drunk. this is your booze." and i totally was. so happy. so sated. so intensely in love with my surroundings and my current state. that's why i could never move away from toronto. i could never live in a place like peterborough, or brockville...where there's like, ONE chinese grocery store or ONE sushi place and you can't get ramen and kushiyaki and izakaya and charcuterie and hakka and northern indian and southern indian and malaysian, thai, vietnamese, northern chinese and southern chinese. i couldn't do least not now.

speaking of which, i actually hit that izakaya place on front like, 6 years ago with buns and the dotytron and my friend Tpat visiting from vancouver...that place was ABYSMAL compared to guu.

today is a day of laid back house chores and quilting in preparation of returning to work a demain.



dr. rei said...

wow! that food looks amazing! great pics and review little budz. i can definitely picture you going buck with joy at a place like that....hahah...

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