Friday, July 23, 2010

Guilo Guilo - Paris

Giving Food Blogging a Bad Name
My girlfriend lived in Tokyo for spell, where she learned enough Japanese to get herself in trouble. One step into tiny Guilo Guilo and she was all "sumimasen" and "oishi-des", bowing and smiling. Showoff! There's no menu, just an eight-course degustation and each course is described by the chef or one of his helpers as it's laid in front of you. Thanks to Dodo, our explanation came in Japanese. So the evening went something like this, me: "what he say it is?" her: "I dunno, fish or something." I tried eavesdropping nearby but I couldn't decipher the thickly Japanese-accented French either. So I don't know what half of it was but I can tell you this, most of it was good.

Above is a salad of roasted pork chunks topped with a pumpkin sauce and mushrooms. I ate it up, flower and all. The sushi below came with an amazing onion/mango glaze that we both loved.
But before I get rolling into food photos which I cannot properly describe, let me spend a few moments on the scene. This is a cozy place that sits eighteen around a small open kitchen. The handful of people who sit in backroom miss the show - watching the food being made and the characters who make it. Like a blind person who develops their other senses, I spent a lot of time watching the chef and his team knowing full well I'd never be able to describe the ingredients of the meal. I made names for them all. Chef is the bald one, Pretty Girl is on the left and Noodles in in the middle. Chef is a true showman, I loved watching him work. For more on him and a real food blogger write-up, go here.

Four-Eyes kept a running tally of the bills and also hand-shaped the sushi rice, a skill the Dodo was impressed with. Not shown is Radar, a tall Japanese woman whose large ears fanned out perpendicular to the rest of her, no matter which way she stood. I felt like she could home in on the slightest whisper. I didn't get a good picture of Mr. Nervous either, the soup and meat man who seemed least comfortable describing the dishes.
I'm not mean-spirited, I liked this crew, they delivered. The names are terms of endearment. Each one took turns doing just about everything, including the Chef who, when he wasn't wielding his knife, would pick up a recently washed plate, dry it carefully and place it in the cupboard overhead. One of my favorite earlier dishes had a chunk of fried fish (in the back) that was excellent. Not sure what the rest of it was but we're guessing that at least one piece was eel with banana.

I watched Noodles a lot because he worked directly in front of us. When he pulled out three small packages of dried noodles, he counted everyone in the place and did a kind of finger-mime calculation on the table, eyes closed, dividing people by bags or bags by people, trying to get it exactly right. These are the little things I love about the Japanese - the precision, the pride. He only rinsed the noodles in hot water for an eye-blink and then cold-rinsed them to halt their cooking. They paired nicely with some grilled eel and greens. I enjoyed this a lot.

Mr. Nervous offered up a mussel soup that failed to impress, though it grew on me as I slurped from the bowl. I made sure not to look around as I did so, not sure the protocol allowed it.

He made up for it with this dish of fried okra and bonito (I say) or eggplant (she says.) We couldn't agree on many of the ingredients, each of swearing we heard something in Japanese or French that we half-understood.

We did agree on the least impressive dish of the night: some kind of crab roll swimming in a cold pool of what I think was seaweed.
But don't worry, this was one of the best things of the night: pan-fried foie gras sushi. Tender, juicy, fatty, delicious. Sorry for the crappy photo, I was in a hurry to eat mine before my greedier half took advantage.
Finally a dessert course. As I've often said, Japanese desserts should simply be outlawed. They are never to my taste: bland, boring. These were no exception. On the left: tooth-shaped vanilla ice-creams with chocolate crowns. Middle: a cube of iced oolong tea. Right: a sort of red bean jelly cube with a small cracker-dagger. So, at the end of the day, we didn't agree completely. I liked it a lot, she loved it. I felt the 50 Euro per person price tag was a bit steep but she felt it was the steal of a century. We both agreed we'd like to go back, though, for another round of different dishes. During the meal she was texting her girlfriends in Singapore asking them when they are thinking of coming to Paris.....
18th Arondissement

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  1. For me, it was all good except for the crab thingy. The onion mango mayo with the whatever sushi was totally memorable or in my words... orgasmic. The fois gras sushi was too but as it was served at the end, I was too full to fully appreciate it.

    This should be a once a month reward spot to give yourself a pat on the back for the month of hard work.

  2. @Dodo - yes, monthly would be a good idea if I actually worked hard. Lazy-boy in the house!!!