Nearly three years after the well-received Filipino restaurant Tsismis opened on the Lower East Side, a new concept billed as “New York’s first Filipino-Japanese izakaya” will take over the same address.
Gugu Room is slated to open on Wednesday, May 18, with chef Aris Tuazon (Ugly Kitchen) and chef Markee Manaloto (Kissaki) at the helm.
To start, the lengthy, sharable opening menu includes agedashi tofu, chicken karaage, and balut, which is accompanied by a menu note and a general bit of good advice that reads, “don’t knock it till you try it,” regarding the 18-day fertilized duck egg. Crispy gyoza tacos are filled with rock shrimp, kanikama, tuna, or a choice of pork or chicken sisig. And the kushiyaki section includes pierced proteins like spicy teriyaki grilled chicken, ribeye and five pork varieties.
Entrees deep fry pork belly, knuckle and taro, add breaded cod to a larger sisig and combine udon, short rib and bone marrow. Kare-kare is available with short rib or tofu headlining the peanut-based stew and Bicol Express and a zag re-dubbed the Gugu take with pork bagnet are both among the entrees, both promising heat.
The drink menu is also abundant, numbering dozens of Japanese and American whiskeys from the full bar, plus sake, shochu, beer and wine by the glass or $50 bottle. Cocktails like the yuzu gimlet (gin, orange liqueur, St. Germain, yuzu juice), wasabi mar-gari-ta (blanco tequila, Cointreau, calamansi honey, lime, wasabi, pickled ginger, smoked salt rim) and the langka & lemongrass with lemon juice also make Gugu Room's bar a promising destination on its own.
That copper-topped bar is the only remaining design element from Tsismis, according to a representative for Gugu Room. Now, burgundy banquettes line one similarly-hued wall affixed with mirrors reflecting the shelves of pretty, backlit bottles across the room, a cozy lounge area with a tufted leather sofa is up front and dimly warm lights create a moodier tableau.
Gugu Room is located 143 Orchard Street and will be open for dinner Tuesday-Thursday from 5pm-10pm with drinks until 11, Friday-Saturday from 5pm-11pm with drinks until 1am, and Sunday from 1pm-9pm.