If cart-less dim sum has taught us anything, it's that paper menus that you mark up yourself mean good things. Going to a Japanese restaurant and being one of only two non-Japanese people: also an excellent harbinger. There is little question when you arrive at Yakitori Gunso that you will like it. And you are right.
Get ready for a dinner rich with charcoal smoke and fluffy rice. Kushiyaki, the umbrella term for food grilled on skewers, forms the center of Gunso's menu, but it is far from the only option. There are onigiri, rice balls filled with a choice of salmon or pickled plum. Curry rice, curry udon, karaage and baked mochi cheese gratin are choices for those who need a little extra to fill up.
If you're smart, you optimize your meal of skewers with the Texas Set, a combo of sweet-soy-and-mayo-dressed cabbage salad, miso soup and a heaping bowl of white rice. Perhaps you also order takoyaki, a Japanese street food staple of crispy batter balls filled with chewy chunks of octopus. For a true bar experience, the drink list offers hot or cold sake, Japanese beer and ume wine.
But the skewers are unquestionably the main event. They arrive little-by-little, as they're ready. It's not immediate, as they're carefully cooked over charcoal, arriving swathed in smoke and juicy inside. The best of the bunch are petite meatballs topped with spicy cod roe. On their own, they burst with flavor. The briny heat of the fish eggs is the cherry on top. At $3.95, the beef outside skirt is the most expensive skewer, but well worth it, with its medium-rare center, crispy exterior and topping of peppery yuzu. Even the chicken hearts, too often tough, with a taste of iron, are tender and savory.
It takes a good number of the petite skewers to fill up, which is where the sides and starters come in. But the truth is, you won't mind ordering as many as you need when the variety and flavor are both so rich.