For the past three years, any time someone has asked me what restaurant is at the top of my list of places that I want to go to in Atlanta, the answer has consistently and unequivocally been Gunshow. Hands down. Easy. No contest.
After finally dining at Gunshow a few months ago, my solitary regret is that it took me so long to “get around to it”. I mean, everything about this restaurant intrigued me. I would absolutely gush when describing it to friends. I would assault them with lengthy monologues about the Head Chef/Owner Kevin Gillespie, or the dim sum inspired service style, prompting strange looks from my friends. (sorry guys)
I honestly don’t know what took me so long. Maybe I placed Gunshow upon a pedestal, and I didn’t think that it could possibly meet my lofty expectations, much less exceed them? Maybe I didn’t realize that I was continuing to deny myself not only one of the best meals, but also one of the best experiences of my life? Maybe, on some level, I did know that? I knew it, but I didn’t do anything about it for three years. That’s even more frustrating.
Gunshow is a restaurant that is at its best when it is experienced and shared with others. The dining room is one large room, with communal dining tables, a completely open kitchen, and an open bar (not THAT kind of open bar). It’s a space that begs to be filled with lively conversation, loud music, and delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. In fact, dining at Gunshow feels more like you’re sitting in the kitchen of the restaurant; it’s comfortably exhilarating.
After grabbing drinks at the bar, we were lucky enough to be seated at the kitchen bar which faces directly into the kitchen space. I was secretly hoping that the hostess would seat us there because it’s like having a front row seat to all of the action — I absolutely loved it! I distinctly remember sitting at that counter, watching the chefs working, and thinking to myself, ”These guys (and girls) are rock stars; and they’re putting on a show!” (The kitchen, at one point, sang along to “Don’t Stop Believing” with all the verve of college karaoke bar)
The kitchen at Gunshow is unlike the kitchen at any other restaurant because each chef works on their own individual dishes. I hesitate to say that they all work independently of each other, because they’re not independent of each other; there is still communication and shared space and shared ingredients just like any kitchen. But, at Gunshow, each chef is only responsible for two or three complete items on the menu rather than being responsible for portions of every item on the menu. This allows each chef the creative freedom to make whatever they want on any given night, which leads to innovative and phenomenal food.
About five minutes after being seated at the counter, the first appetizer was served.
We didn’t order it, but we did choose it. I know that doesn’t make any sense; allow me to explain.
At Gunshow, you don’t order off the menu. Rather, everything on the menu is brought to your table and then you decide if you want that dish or not (like a dim sum restaurant). The menu serves as more of a guide and a way to keep track of what will be coming to your table throughout the evening. (You can take the menu home as a memento) (I LOVE RESTAURANT MEMENTOS)
The chefs are also part of the waitstaff (talented multitasking chefs). There are still waiters that will take drink orders and make sure that you have everything you need, but it is the chefs that actually deliver the food. Each chef makes a few portions of one of their dishes, and once they’re ready, will then bring them around to the tables for anyone that wants some.
This is great because chefs are the perfect people to describe the food that they made for you (makes sense, right?). They know everything about the dish, from the ingredients to the inspiration, and they’re happy to tell you all about it.
This is also not great because it sucks, SUCKS, to look a chef in the eye and tell them that you don’t want to have the food that they have prepared for you. You feel like you’ve personally let them down, and you just want to assure them that you still think that they’re really are good at their job, but you’re just too full, and okay okay one more entree couldn’t hurt.
Speaking from experience, turning down food from Gunshow is much easier in theory than in practice. Everything that comes out of that kitchen looks stunning and delicious. When we were seated, we picked out about three of the dishes that we absolutely wanted to try, and for the rest of the items on the menu, we would decide when they came by the table. Cut to the end of the evening and our original three choices had ballooned to eight (3/4 of the entire menu, not including dessert, which of course we had). It was only for lack of stomach space that the last few dishes were regretfully denied.
There was a measured, but constant stream of food being served from the kitchen by various chefs at all times. Rarely did we not have a dish in front of us to eat, and a few times we had multiple. It was never overwhelming, and it was always delicious.
I would highly recommend splitting everything at Gunshow, not because the portion sizes are huge (they’re appropriately sized, actually), but because that is the best way to try almost everything on the menu without filling up too quickly. Plus, it also helps with keeping the cost of the meal (which can skyrocket if you’re not careful) down a bit.
I won’t go into detail about every single thing that we ate, because everything was fantastic and I would end up either repeating myself or running out of descriptive words worthy of the food at Gunshow (also because, this was months ago and I don’t remember everything as perfectly as I did immediately after). However, I will call out a few favorites.
(This is very difficult. It’s like picking your favorite dishes from a restaurant where you liked everything.)
The Japanese Curry Udon Noodles were very interesting; good interesting. I’m not a huge fan of curry, but I do like udon (I do like this kind of Curry though). Much to my surprise and enjoyment, the Indian and Japanese flavors worked very well together. I kept going back for a little more of this dish, which was fine because it was our largest entree of the evening.
The Pan Seared Salmon was excellent. The skin was crispy, the salmon was cooked through perfectly and practically melted when you took a bite, and creamed turnips are always a winner in my book. There wasn’t anything outlandish or crazy about this entree, but it was executed to absolute perfection. Sometimes precision and technique are the most impressive.
The Sweet Potato Bisque. Oh, that Sweet Potato Bisque. It was so smooth and velvety. But then you add the sweetness from the toasted marshmallow and the texture from the pepitas and the sweet potato chips and it is on a whole other level. It’s sweet potato casserole, but soup! If pressed to pick a favorite, this would be it. It’s unique and different, while remaining familiar. Beautiful.
The Sweet Potato Bisque was also my favorite dish to watch being made without any context. First, the chef would pipe down a white substance. Then she would briefly torch them, at which point you look down to the menu to figure out which dish would possibly need a torch. Next, the pepitas and the rest of the garnish. Right before she finishes the dish by pouring in its namesake, you realize that IT’S THE SWEET POTATO BISQUE! I don’t know about you, but I got irrationally excited about that. It’s the little things.
Lastly, I need to talk about dessert. Dessert and drinks are the only things on the menu that are not automatically brought around to every table. When the waiter was going over the three dessert options, I was not convinced that we would be getting dessert at all. We had already had sweet potato during dinner (so, nix the Sweet Potato Custard), I wasn’t in love with the Milk Chocolate Mousse with financier, coffee, lavender, and almond (I believe you should be in love with a dessert to order it), but most importantly, Banana Pudding is a BIG deal in my family, and where I come from, “warm” banana pudding is fighting words.
Needless to say, the waiter eased our reservations and we ordered the only item on the menu that had stayed on the menu since Gunshow opened it’s kitchen, the Warm Old Fashioned Banana Pudding.
I love ranking things almost as much as I love banana pudding and the Warm Old Fashioned Banana Pudding from Gunshow is in my top 4. The “warm” part of the banana pudding is in reference to the torched merengue on top of the pudding, otherwise, it’s just like the banana puddings that you’re used to, but better. After ending the meal with this banana pudding, it’s clear how it managed to be the solitary mainstay on a menu that changes daily: it’s a great banana pudding. Simple as that.
I said it towards the beginning of this post, but it bears repeating; dining at Gunshow was one of the best experiences of my life. Every single thing about it surpassed my 3-year-old expectations (and trust me, I can blow expectations waaaaaay out of proportion). Don’t make the same mistake that I did by putting off dining at Gunshow, because you’ll be kicking yourself saying, “I should have listened to that random blogger person that I read that one time” after you do.
Gunshow has moved on from the top of my “Places I Want to Go to” list to solidly at the top of “Places You HAVE to Go to” list. It should make itself comfortable, because it won’t be going anywhere for a long, long time.
Now, I just have to figure out what takes the newly vacated space atop the “Places to Go to” list…