Gamba’s is a relatively new Japanese and French restaurant, located in the heart of Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. Because its located next to a bar and across the street from a park, Gamba’s gets a lot of foot traffic. But once you set foot into Gamba’s warm setting, there’s a sense of intimacy.

The atmosphere is enhanced because the Mongolian owner, Gamba Puntsag, who is also the main cook from time to time, steps out of the kitchen to personally greet restaurant patrons. Jon LaPierre, a regular, says he loves that about the place. “Gamba will come out and see how you are doing. He really cares…I like that and the ridiculously cheap happy hour.”

During Happy Hours, sushi rolls are about a dollar or so, and drinks such as beer and sake cost $4 or less. Some of the other items, such as the 15-item sampler, which normally runs about $25, are half-off. The meals are sizeable and not just because you get more rice or sides added. You’ll definitely get more fish than rice on your sushi and more meat than sides such as potatoes or fries on other items.

Owner and chef Gamba Puntsag. Photo credit: My Tam Nguyen.
Owner and chef Gamba Puntsag. Photo credit: My Tam Nguyen.

In addition to having an inexpensive and plentiful Happy Hour, Gamba’s has a long Happy Hour, running from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and all day Saturdays.

Currently, construction on Bell Street, which lies just north of Gamba’s, has cut

visibility of the restaurant, open for less than a year. According to Puntsag, the construction truck is left just outside his door even though his street isn’t being worked on.

LaPierre says he and his girlfriend, Ines Tjandra, first decided to try the Japanese eatery when they were across the street at the park and saw the sign outside for $1

sushi. “That was months ago and now we’re regulars – we come at least once or twice a week.”

LaPierre and Tjandra say the restaurant vibe allows them to get to know other patrons and try different sushi. Tjandra says the first time they ate at Gamba’s, a customer offered them a bit of her meal, the Dynamite roll.

A Gamba sampler dish. Photo credit: Chris Paredes.
A Gamba sampler dish. Photo credit: Chris Paredes.

“I get it all the time… everytime we come, there’s always someone offering someone else the last bit of their meal and people get to try new things that way.”

The wooden floors and dark colors inside Gamba’s are offset by the colorful pictures on the wall. It’s easy to forget you are in downtown Seattle. While Puntsag prepares the food, you can watch TV on a big screen on one of the walls or enjoy an intimate conversation with [calming] music playing in the background. The presentation of the food is artful and intentional like the inside of the restaurant itself.

Even the menus are easy on the eyes. LaPierre says the menu is different from that of other places. “It doesn’t have everything. We went to this other restaurant where they had a menu as thick as a book…it was overwhelming.”

Puntsag will also make other items, upon request.

“Having too many items can make it difficult to choose…(and) I don’t want to

have the same menu as everyone else,” says Puntsag.

Gamba is located on 2230 3rd Ave. Seattle, WA 98121. Aside from dining in, Gamba’s also delivers and caters.

To contact Chris Paredes, e-mail [email protected]

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