Japadog and Guu
Vancouver is to Japanese restaurants as Portland/Seattle is to coffee shops. Which is to say, there is a fuckton of Japanese food here. We sort of knew this; I mean, we knew we couldn’t afford to spend as much time in Japan this fall that we feel the flight warrants, and we heard that Vancouver has the largest Japanese population outside Japan. So we did the math, and it turns out to be true. Lucky us! And only an hour flight from home.
Let me tell you about Japadog. You might remember Japadog from such No Reservations episodes as Tony in the Pacific Northwest. We weren’t actually intending to come here. In fact, it wasn’t until we were in line that we remembered that Bourdain had been here. So, apparently, had Ice Cube. Ten times. No, starfucking wasn’t our impetus, it was the smell of kurobuta pork served up as the Misomayo (hot dog slathered in a mix of miso and kupie mayo, with radish sprouts on top) and Oroshi (hot dog with daikon relish and scallions). I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try the Okonomi (pickled cabbage, sweet sauce and mayo with nori shreds), but there’s always tomorrow.
Kurobuta is called the “kobe beef of pork”, and the dog tasted like a really good weisswurst. The toppings were fresh and not really out of left field – pickled crucifers, onions and sweet/salty condiments are all familiar tastes with a hot dog, but this was somehow still quite Japanese. We were lucky to stumble upon this cart (there is a shocking dearth of street food here), and are a steal at only a couple bucks each.
899 Burrard St
Guu Izakaya (the O – distinguished from its three other locations) was one of those places that look so great from the outside that you make an audible cooing noise and can’t wait to come back when it’s open. We did come back later, and after being greeted with enthusiastic screams of “Irrashaimase!” we were seated at the bar.
An all-Japanese staff, mostly Japanese clientele (the English-speakers next to us returned to Mandarin when the waitress left) and the din of knives, grill and wok really reinforced that we were in the right place. Typical of an izakaya, the menu consisted of small plates: a verdant pea shoot salad with slivers of red and yellow bell pepper, pine nuts and soy vinaigrette; grilled squid legs (the tips of the tentacles were charred-crispy) with sriracha mayo; ethereal tako yaki, perfect tender nuggets of octopus within steamy soft dumplings with golden brown exterior and the house udon (suggested when I asked for their mebutsu) – earthy/smoky from the grill, with chunks of beef and scallion. Many glasses of the house sake were consumed, and we stumbled back to our hotel three hours later with wide smiles. I literally have not had such a bliss-inducing dining experience since Honjin in Tokyo.
I, tragically, forgot my camera and didn’t remember until we were done eating that I could just use my phone. Scott pulled his out and snapped a few shots of the smiling chefs. But we’ll go back again before we leave – it’s worth a repeat. Maybe we’ll even be brave enough to try the beef liver sashimi.