Los Angeles chef Brandon Kida has been celebrated for his Japanese restaurant, Hinoki & the Bird, his casual dumpling spot, Go Go Gyoza, and his fried chicken concept, Go Go Bird. At his latest restaurant, Hollywood’s Gunsmoke, Kida embraces his Japanese heritage along with his American upbringing, full-on.
“I wanted to open a restaurant that spoke to my Japanese American upbringing,” Kida, who grew up in LA’s Koreatown, a diverse, working-class neighborhood, says. “Everyone expects sushi and noodles, but in reality, my Japanese American experience revolves around many different ethnic palate profiles.”
Take, for instance, Gunsmoke’s local tuna and country ham dish. Kida grew up eating country ham and wanted it to be in the spotlight at Gunsmoke. His dish is a tangy, smoky creation of delicate slices of smoked ham on tuna sashimi, finished with olive oil and sea salt. “This plate brings together Japanese sashimi-style crudo paired with a quintessential American ingredient,” Kida says.
Kida is part of a growing group of LA chefs showcasing Nikkei cuisine, the foods of the Japanese diaspora in the U.S. (as opposed to Japanese Peruvian food, which goes by the same name). At Ryla, chef Ray Hayashi remixes a classic caesar salad with white miso dressing served alongside warm, pillowy Hokkaido milk bread. Chef Chris Ono’s crunchy, batter-fried California roll at Santa Barbara’s Hansei features fresh Dungeness crab from the California coast.
Kida takes it a step further by championing what’s been dubbed chaos cooking, a hard-to-pin-down categorization of food influenced by multicultural backgrounds. At Gunsmoke, he includes dishes from his cooks’ diverse backgrounds. “The menu embodies the Nikkei spirit, showcasing how second generations, not just Japanese, interpret cuisine from their unique heritage,” Kida says.
Other dishes that highlight this spirit include taro chips served with a fragrant wasabi vinegar and white fish crudo topped with scallion oil. Larger plates include California rockfish with spicy sambal chile paste, and crispy quail with aji verde, a Peruvian sauce featuring cilantro and Sichuan peppercorns. The shiitake mushrooms served like French snails in a pool of garlicky, umami-packed butter, with a crusty baguette to sop it all up, are a house favorite. Dessert options include honeydew granita served with semi-frozen melon and a pavlova topped with lime zest.
“Nikkei dishes are a reflection of personal experiences,” Kida says. “Growing up in Los Angeles, the flavor profiles are deeply inspirational and complex. Being able to tell the story of my family, friends, and colleagues through cuisine is extremely gratifying.”
Gunsmoke’s cocktail menu, created by Rhino Williams of Hollywood hotspot Lost Property Bar, mirrors the themes in the food selection. The Gunsmoke martini, one of the most popular drinks here, features house-cured olives that create a lasting savory, umami sip.
The Kyoto ice tea, a twist on the Long Island iced tea, combines gin, rum, vodka, tequila, triple sec, and a housemade cantaloupe soda.
Gunsmoke sits on the ground floor of a luxury apartment tower and seats 140. The spacious restaurant features soaring ceilings, crimson leather seats, and checkerboard wood tables. A glass wall with large doors on one side of the restaurant leads to a lush patio with potted trees and succulents. “It’s easy to forget it’s in the heart of Hollywood,” Kida says.
Gunsmoke is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6 pm to 9 pm.