There’s one major problem with living in London: Japanese food is expensive. Even “cheap” Japanese food (I’m not just talking sushi like Vicky mentioned in her Dinings review). When I went to the soft launch for an Izakaya with Bella, she was floored at how expensive the food is as an Izakaya in Japan is what a pub is like here: A place to get cheap drinks and eats and hang out. They seem to want to upscale everything in London (or maybe it’s just the prices) so when we were sitting in the nice weather drinking fairly mediocre locally brewed Canadian beer overlooking the water in Vancouver and Teresa mentioned getting Japanese food, we were definitely on board. We did hit a bit of a snag in that there seemed there were too many places to get Japanese food in Vancouver. Too many places. And way too many of them didn’t take bookings. But we did find Kitanoya Guu and even though both Becky and Andrew said they didn’t really care for it when they went, we were too bitten by the Japanese bug to not give it a try. (I’m pretty sure we didn’t even have a booking, that’s how bitten we were, as everyone knows I don’t like to queue.)
We arrived and it was packed, but luckily a table for three just opened up so we managed to snag it right away. Hooray for not having to queue. Then came the search for what to eat and drink. Unfortunately they seemed to be out of every sake that we wanted. It was a bit ridiculous actually, so finally we got the sake on the special menu and went with it. We also decided to order a lot of food. Because we like to try everything and there were three of us. Teresa really wanted the chicken karaage, the octopus balls and the wasabi marinated octopus, but the rest was left up to us I think. We ordered some sashimi and some marinated salmon roe. There was some smoked monkfish liver and sea urchin. We also ordered grilled beef tongue.
Of the food, I think all the raw/marinated fish dishes were the best. The wasabi and octopus was really amazing and was served with some seaweed to wrap it up with. It had just the right amount of heat. The salmon roe was also really interesting, and each one definitely and a different flavor than the others. The sashimi was amazing. Some of the best I’ve had in awhile (thanks London), so we were really keen to get more of that. The monkfish liver was great, I’d never had it smoked before, and that added a nice flavor to balance out the richness of the liver. And of course sea urchin is always fantastic. The octopus balls were tasty, but the octopus inside was a bit chewy. The kaarage was crisp, but slightly fatty and greasy. It did keep it very moist though. The only real downer was the beef tongue as it was chewy and tough and really unpleasant to eat. The taste was great, but the cooking really needed work.
Now it was time to order another round of food, this time we tried the rest of the sashimi, the pork belly and the mussels. We also had major food envy from a table next to us so Teresa asked what they had, and I can’t even remember now, but it was definitely chopped salmon sashimi (but it was nothing like the menu said as it came with a raw egg!)
The rest of the sashimi was basically the winner for us as well. (Maybe we HAVE been living in London too long.) The mussels were nice and plump and in a great broth. The pork belly was also a major let down. I guess we learned you don’t order cooked meat from here. The chopped sashimi with the egg was also delicious and fun to eat with the prawn crackers. We then decided we needed more sashimi. I think my husband would have sat there eating sashimi all night if he could (we would have definitely gotten kicked out). We went for our two favorites, the scallops and the sweet shrimp.
After our last round of sashimi, we were nicely reminded we only had the table for two hours. I think we had about half an hour left, but it was definitely a hint it was getting close to leaving time as there was a massive amount of people waiting. It was a bit unfair given we had just eaten a ton of food and drank about 1.5 L of sake (because we had to order more sake each round too, right?) I think we were just giddy on decently priced and delicious Japanese food, and we didn’t want to go. But we did. And then we got ice cream. As you do. Since my time in Vancouver was brief, I can’t say whether this was the best Izakaya in the area, but it was definitely good enough for us!
Kitanoya Guu Original Thurlow
838 Thurlow Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6E 1W2