photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Gunsmoke review image



550 N El Centro Ave, Los Angeles
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The first thing to know about Gunsmoke is that it’s a restaurant defined by its location. This Japanese-American spot in Hollywood is literally on the Viacom Lot, just a few blocks from Netflix’s headquarters, and walking distance from Hollywood Center, Sunset Bronson, and other neighborhood studios. And while finding the restaurant’s ill-marked front door can be tricky and street parking in the area at night is an all-out war zone, anyone who thinks this place isn’t a slam dunk for industry folks and their corporate cards is lying to themselves. 

We don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment, either—dinner here is enjoyable whether you’re part of that crowd or not. 

The menu at Gunsmoke is small-ish—a great feature for anyone who’s ever had to order for their bosses—and features a multicultural style of Nikkei-inspired cooking, a reference to the chef’s upbringing as a second-generation Japanese American (the same chef, by the way, runs another seminal industry spot, Hinoki & The Bird). 

Gunsmoke review image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

In practice, that means dishes like tuna sashimi, fried quail, and a runny-egg-topped sisig, get reimagined with outside-the-box ingredients and presentations. The tuna sashimi is seasoned with dried bits of salty country ham and served with warm gnocco fritto, the fried quail is coated in szechuan spices with a tangy aji verde dipping sauce, and the sisig, made with chopped lamb, arrives in a sizzling skillet tossed with tobanjan, a spicy-savory bean paste. Save for a truly excellent warm cabbage salad coated in green goddess dressing, these might not be dishes you’ll still be thinking about the next day. However, they’re more than serviceable in the moment, and light years ahead of other industry spots that still throw a “fish” and a “pasta” on the menu and call it a day.

The space is airy and ultra-modern, with black and white tiled floors and thatched light fixtures—nothing groundbreaking, but a welcome breather from the stuffy steakhouses where your average CEO tends to gather. The bar area is intimate, but also buzzy. We could easily imagine meeting a coworker or friend here for their house martini with smoked vodka. There’s also a good-sized patio that, while predominantly filled with team dinners, could easily work for a pre-show dinner (the Palladium, Pantages, and The Fonda are all within walking distance). Gunsmoke is a restaurant that knows exactly what it is and puts an interesting and enjoyable spin on the much-maligned post-work industry spot. And yes, that’s a big compliment. 

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Food Rundown

Gunsmoke review image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Taro Chips

A simple, straightforward dish—we especially love the sharp bite of wasabi vinegar that coats on each chip. This is a good little dish to order quickly if people are hungry.

Gunsmoke review image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Local Tuna

Aside from being a great name for a campy drag queen, this is our favorite of the small plates. The sashimi is thick and fresh, with the tiny bits of ham on top that provide a nice salty pop. If you want to get really wild, cut open one of the puffy gnocco fritto that come on the side and stuff some tuna in there like it’s a sushi hot pocket.

Gunsmoke review image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Warm Cabbage Salad

This is the best dish at Gunsmoke, full stop. The cabbage is charred but not mushy, and the parmigiano reggiano gives a nice funk to each bite. The whole dish is tied together by the green goddess dressing so rich and decadent, it has its own entry in our company directory.

Gunsmoke review image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Squash Blossom Fritters

When this fried squash blossom dish arrives at the table, there’s a good chance it will elicit the most “oohs” and “ahhs” of the night. The actual taste, however, is a little underwhelming. Despite being topped with spiced vinegar and squggles of mint sauce, the fritter itself is underseasoned and gets mushier the deeper you cut into it.

Gunsmoke review image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Crispy Quail

With four sizeable pieces of fried quail, this is a very good dish to share. We wish the szechuan peppercorns came through a bit more on the skin, but the meat is tender and the accompanying aji verde dipping sauce will be fought over like Florence Pugh looking for new representation.

Gunsmoke review image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Lamb Sisig

Our favorite of the entrees, this dish arrives as a sizzling skillet with a side plate of lettuce and greens so that everyone can build their own wraps. The chopped lamb is mixed heavily with tobanjan, a spicy chili bean paste, giving the sisig a rich, pungent savoriness and a serious punch of heat. Keep your water glass handy.

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