NYCReview

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Gugu Room review image
7.5

Gugu Room

$$$$

143 Orchard St, New York
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

Gugu Room bills itself as a Filipino-Japanese izakaya. Let’s break down that description.

While there are a handful of items on the menu that combine both cuisines, most dishes here are Filipino. And is this place an izakaya? It doesn’t really feel like one—but that’s how you should use it.

Just like somebody whose “music means everything” to them but is still going to law school, we feel like this place isn’t what it’s meant to be: a full-on bar. The space is dark and moody, and you'll see a DJ station under a neon "GR" sign in addition to a lounge area with a disco ball and a fun geometric print.

Instead of having your standard three-course meal (which isn’t even possible because they don’t serve desserts), we suggest you get some drinks alongside a bunch of small plates—which we much prefer to the entrées.

Gugu Room review image

photo credit: Michael Tulipan/MST Creative

There are a ton of bars where you can eat on the LES, but none offer the combination of creative cocktails and Filipino food found at Gugu Room. Start with their version of a margarita, infused with wasabi, then, work your way through the skewers, which are our favorite things to eat here. The best one is the slightly sweet longanisa, but the teriyaki-marinated ribeye is a close second. If you want one of their few fusion entrées, the bulalo with udon is satisfying, but we prefer the traditional Filipino dishes like the slightly funky kare-kare with fall-off-the-bone short rib.

The next time you want to get a little sloppy, bring a group of friends to this spot (but not too many because the space is pretty small). We’re not saying you won’t have a perfectly enjoyable evening if you do a full dinner here, but you’ll probably walk out thinking, “We should come for drinks and snacks next time.”

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Food Rundown

Gugu Room review image

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Longanisa

This longanisa is formed into spheres that are stabbed with a little wooden stick and grilled with a sweet glaze. The meat is juicy and has some subtle kick on the backend. We’d happily get three or four orders, but it’s more fun to try a bunch of different skewers.

Kamote Fries With Kosho Miso

A lot of sweet potato fries are dense and starchy, but these are light and fluffy. They also come with a nice sweet and tart yuzu kosho and miso dipping sauce.

Gugu Room review image

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Chicken Karaage

This lightly-battered and tender fried chicken comes with a ginger calamansi aioli. Like the kamote fries, this is a dish you see at a lot of places, but it's executed really well here.

Gugu Room review image

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Short Rib Kare-Kare

You’ll smell the shrimp paste as soon as this bowl gets to your table, but the flavor is only slightly funky. We love the huge slab of fatty short rib that comes in a pool of rich peanut sauce with some eggplants and bok choy.

Gugu Room review image

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Cod Katsu Sisig

If you’re a fan of mayo and fish, you’ll want his dish. Tons of calamansi aioli is drizzled on top of barely breaded cod with crunchy onions and potent red chilis (which you may want to get on the side, because they’ll make you sweat). The cod is a nice substitute for the more commonly-used milkfish. A side of garlic rice is a must.

Gugu Room review image

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Laing

Cooked with thick coconut milk and taro leaves, the laing is rich and creamy—but it's a little bland. We couldn’t detect any spice, salt, or bitterness from the taro leaves. Adding some salt on your own will make a world of difference.

Gugu Room review image

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Lengua Gyutan

Similar to the laing, this dish needs some salt—but we still like it. The pieces of tender beef tongue are huge, and you'll probably have some leftover creamy white mushroom sauce, which goes great with garlic rice.

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