We’re in the process of pulling together our Summer OKC Dining Guide (soon, very soon) and realized that a few places that made the list can’t be broken down into a quick blurb. As such, we’re tentatively re-introducing our restaurant write-ups. Long-time fans might remember when that was our bread and butter back when we lived in DC. Up first, we want to talk about Gun Izakaya, a very special addition to the Oklahoma City food scene.
What makes it so special? The opening of Gun Izakaya has brought a completely new style of food to Oklahoma City. As much as I’ll always get excited about a new taco, pizza or burger place, I think there’s so much room in our city to expand our culinary horizons with new and different cuisines.
When Americans think of Japanese food, we likely envision hibachi grills and sushi. In the past couple years ramen, the umami-loaded comfort food of my dreams, has also found its prominence. But Japan’s food culture is so much more diverse than that. And it’s great to see an izakaya restaurant represented in OKC.
Izakaya is a casual pub-style restaurant focusing on after-work drinks and small plates. The team behind Gorō Ramen (one of our favorites in the winter guide) really homed in on those elements and have created a sexy and stylish interpretation of this Japanese mainstay. It’s also great that they chose to open in the Paseo Arts District, which has previously been pretty devoid of Asian food.
(Speaking of the Paseo, this little district in the urban core is blowing up right now. We’ve got a feature on Frida Southwest, an even newer Paseo eatery coming up soon.)
Gun Izakaya – Decoding the Menu
Gun’s menu, created by the talented Chef Jeff Chanchaleune, is divided into seven sections: chilled, snacks, yakitori, yakimono, soup/noodles and sweets. Let’s break that down a bit, starting with the yakitori.
Yakitori is a style of Japanese cooking where different cuts of chicken are roasted on skewers over an open charcoal flame. We tried two skewers – the tsukune (minced chicken meatballs) and the hatsu (chicken hearts).
The tsukune were nice and juicy with a lovely smokiness to each bite. I’ve only had chicken heart once before, churrasco-style in Brazil. And while I liked them enough then (I may have had a bit too much cachaca that night), this preparation didn’t do it for me. That said, if you’ve been thinking that there’s just not enough organ meat available in Oklahoma City, Gun has you covered.
For the less adventurous, there are also chicken thigh, chicken breast and chicken wing yakitori options as well. Don’t eat meat? Check out the yakimono selection for vegetarian skewers.
Next, let’s dive into the snacks. Ranging from a furikake pecan mix to a savory cabbage pancake with duck confit, this is where a lot of the menu’s magic happens. We truly wanted to order everything from this section, but after much deliberation settled on the Tokyo hot chicken and the tonkatsu sando.
The Tokyo hot chicken is delightfully crispy with a nice kick. The sesame-soy chili oil provides a great amount of flavor with the spice not being overpowering. That said, the heat certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.
If you’ve been looking to upgrade your drinking food game, let me introduce you to this here tonkatsu sando. This super traditional Japanese sandwich features panko-fried smoked pork sausage, a tangy “bulldog” sauce and roasted garlic aioli on house made milk bread. It’s that pillowy milk bread that will have you coming back for more, with the flavorful pork serving as a nice backdrop.
As for the other snacks, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about the cabbage pancake and the fried catfish, which I fully intend to sample on my next visit.
We tried two of the dumplings on offer – the eggplant dumplings and the pork and crab shumai.
The eggplant had a sweet yet earthy flavor profile that Tom and I both loved. The shumai was good too, but didn’t knock our socks off quite as much.
Dessert + Drinks
Lastly, dessert. Right now your only option is the Okinawan donuts, which are matcha donut holes with yuzu curd, macerated strawberries and white chocolate milk crumble.
Luckily, it’s a pretty good option. I’m not a huge dessert person, so I’ll probably opt for a Japanese whiskey to finish my meal the next time I’m at Gun. Speaking of booze, the cocktail and whiskey selection is pretty epic. They also have OKC’s only Toki highball machine, which creates a light and refreshing combination of whiskey and sparkling water over ice.
Mark my words: the Paseo is about to be THE go-to spot for drinking in OKC. I’ll be writing all about the best cocktail bars in the city in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
If you’re feeling bored with your usual dining establishments and want to taste another side of Japanese cuisine, make haste and get yourself to Gun Izakaya. Have a cocktail and a sando and thank me later.