Monday, August 26, 2013

Gunshow - A New Concept that Doesn't Feel So New

I stopped into Gunshow over the weekend. For those that don't know, Gunshow is Kevin Gillespie's latest fine dining meets dim sum concept in Glenwood Park. The environment is extremely loud, cavernous and feels exactly like a pop-up, not a full-fledged restaurant. The food was good, service friendly and helpful, but in short, the only part of the equation that felt fine dining was the price.

Getting a reservation at Gunshow seemed difficult. They only had 9:30 slots open on Friday and Saturday. However, we were able to walk in at 8 PM and get a table for two with no problem.

Small plates - I love the concept. Getting to try many items that can show a kitchen's range and ability is always ideal. I'm not going to tell you how Gunshow operates (you can read that on every review of the place so far), but if you want to try the whole menu somewhere, Gunshow is a great place (so long as you brought your billfold). We ate a majority of the menu and really, that's not too difficult - the servings are small.

The reason for the dim sum/cart concept, as explained by Gillespie, is to keep things completely fresh from the kitchen. Nothing is supposedly precooked like many restaurants must do - parboiled rice for risotto was the example given in an early interview. I thought to myself, "OK that makes some sense." And I thought that until the first dish, Cuban chicken with black beans and rice, was delivered to our table - cold.

Now, that Cuban chicken was mighty tasty. Well cooked, well seasoned and nice cumin flavored rice. However, there were no twists. It was a very straight-forward rendition of Cuban food. And the serving was a single chicken thigh over just enough rice and beans to provide a pedestal for a chicken thigh. Price - $14. This is about a $5 serving at any Cuban restaurant in the city and there just wasn't anything special about the dish that warranted the price. Even if you consider the fact that everything at Gunshow is local, you just can't hit that price point. And the chicken was cold.

Then came what Gunshow calls "Assorted Savory, Spicy, Crispy and Crunchy Snacks. This was delivered in two forms. 1. Some cubed melon with duck pastrami (smart combo) and 2. a Hopping John type of fritter. The Hopping John fritter was completely comforting and delicious. It was approximately the size of a golf ball. Price - $5. That's flat out criminal anyway you look at it. If there were three balls on the plate, maybe they should be able to charge $5. OK, I'll stop harping on the price now.

A "Closed on Sunday" chicken sandwich was a take on the Chick-fil-a sandwich. Again, delicious with a pillowy soft sweet roll bun (they called it a biscuit?), but extremely simple and straightforward.

Smoked Lamb Leg with Pea Ragout

There were three savory dishes that standout in my mind as excellent. A smoked lamb leg with field peas. The lamb was exceptionally tender, flavorful and the field pea ragout cut through the unctuous lamb with acidic precision.
Country Breakfast
The country breakfast consisted of grits with chicken and bacon gravy, some pickled tomatoes and a poached egg on top. This combination is delicious but the yolk of the egg was gelatinized and overcooked, not runny. Again, not exactly fine dining execution.

Lastly, a wild mushroom tart was obnoxiously delicious. The entire top portion, which included figs and cheese, had a sweet and sour finishes that cut through the fatty cheese and butter crust much like the lamb dish.

If you didn't notice by now, vegetables are extremely underrepresented at Gunshow. The color green is often used as a garnish, not an accompaniment. Plan on a meat-centric meal.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Dessert we had a peanut butter and chocolate dish that was simple and kind of a throwaway. The sticky toffee pudding, however was phenomenal. They used fig instead of dates to cut the fat again (seeing a theme yet?) and it was finished with some bacon and Morreli's Salted Caramel ice cream. I know that bacon and salted caramel are buzzwords and easy sells, but the dish would have probably been better with plain, ol' vanilla.

Did I like the food at Gunshow? Absolutely. Did I enjoy the experience? Yup. Am I being hyper critical? Yessir. But the bottom line is both the pricing and execution need serious tweaking. A $50 meal should not only be delicious and close to perfect, it should also be moderately filling. I applaud Gillespie's concept - local food prepared as freshly as possible and sold to you by cooks, not servers. I also love trying new items and the option of an ever-changing menu. Ultimately, Gunshow comes off as a pop-up, not a destination fine-dining restaurant.  I know the ingredients are expensive and the preparation is time consuming, but the overall experience at Gunshow doesn't equal the cost.

Gunshow on Urbanspoon

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