Restaurant Reviews

Change Is Constant at Goro & Gun, Like It or Not

Maybe it's my bad for thinking soft-shell crab would survive the eight-minute drive from the ramen hot spot on Main to my office all the way down Milam. I'm a sucker for crab in any form, and the second I saw it on the menu, I had to have it, risky maneuver that it was. When I sat back down at my desk and began to poke around at the sandwich, I discovered the tempura batter on the soft-shell crab to be cold and mushy. The baguette-type bread was stiff and chewy and already a little soggy from the chowchow sauce. To be fair, I did eat the entire sandwich, but it was the pickled chowchow (and my hunger) that kept me going, not the limp tempura or the tough bread.

The summer soba noodle salad fared better during the drive and proved to be a cool, refreshing lunch on a hot summer day. The buckwheat noodles were firm but not, to borrow from the Italians, al dente, and I could have eaten an entire bowl of the ponzu pickled mushrooms that had been soaking in a "traditional chasoba sauce." (A quick Internet search of "chasoba sauce" revealed that "cha soba" is actually two words. The menu, it seems, doesn't always get the spelling of foreign words right.) Cha soba sauce ingredients vary from recipe to recipe, but this one was definitely heavy on the horse­radish, which I enjoyed. A tiny quail egg and sesame seeds topped off the dish and added elements of light protein and crunchiness, respectively. I really wished I had tackled the salad before the soft-shell crab. And I wondered if the much-talked-about ramen would have traveled better. That would have to wait for another trip.

Experiences like mine seem to have plagued Goro & Gun since its opening last March. The much-anticipated fusion joint with a focus on ramen has been raked over the coals by Yelpers and critics alike for what they consider to be inconsistent service and inauthentic ramen. Still other critics and diners tout the unusual menu and a few standout dishes while giving the restaurant a bit of a break because it's still somewhat new.

In the months since it opened, Goro & Gun has created a number of stellar recipes. Unfortunately, it has been so busy coming up with experimental new dishes on a weekly basis that the menu is constantly in flux. The result: Sometimes innovative dishes that maybe haven't quite made it past beta testing replace older dishes that people might hope to see on a return visit.

The soft-shell crab? Not on any menus posted online anymore, though I believe it's still a lunch offering. Swordfish poke wasn't on the menu I saw in the restaurant, but after seeing it on a menu on Goro & Gun's Twitter, I got a serious hankering for it. Consistency is something people look for from a restaurant, but it's missing from the menu at Goro & Gun.

When Joshua Martinez closed the Modular food truck to make way for Goro & Gun's brick-and-mortar restaurant, diners lamented the loss of ­cutting-edge Asian fusion cuisine. The truck churned out dishes like kimchi Gulf shrimp and grits or Copper River salmon collars glazed with soy and mirin. It was perhaps best known for its caveman-style bone marrow and lobster risotto, which make appearances on Goro & Gun's menu from time to time but aren't regular offerings. Martinez honed his craft as the general manager of Kata Robata before going the food-truck route with chef Lyle Bento (formerly of Feast) and finally settling in the historic Market Square district with Goro & Gun, which he co-owns with Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse.

The shotgun-style space on Main Street reflects Martinez's taste for the fun and funky; like his food, the crimson-walled spot is a fusion of ideas. There's some Asian-inspired art on the walls along with mounted horns and knickknacks and sconces rescued from the Houston Club. The bar is built up rather than out, and shelves of liquor bottles reach toward the ceiling like rows of shiny ­library books. A library ladder is actually built into the shelving, and bartenders often have to climb a few rungs to reach a bottle on an upper level. What appears to be a taxidermied African wildcat or bobcat lounges on a bar shelf while a lion watches over the space from a landing in the back.

The whole place feels like the den of someone's wacky uncle who spends his summers traveling the world and collecting "treasures" that generally confuse his family but make for eclectic interior decorating. I love it, and I feel it reflects the amalgamation of influences apparent in the cuisine, but I've heard other people ask about the curly gazelle horns and gold-framed artwork with a mix of distaste and bewilderment.

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Kaitlin Steinberg