Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gorbals - Los Angeles, CA (Downtown)

Wanda and I met up for dinner last month and she had suggested that we try Scottish tapas. Scottish tapas? I've never heard of such a thing, but it sounded weird enough, so of course I said yes.

The Gorbals' chef and owner is Ilan Hall, the winner of Season Two of Top Chef. I didn't watch that season, but I had high expectations and maybe that was my mistake going into this. The Gorbals is in the old Alexandria Hotel in downtown LA. The only thing that hints of a restaurant here is a chalkboard sign outside and a small black sign above the doorway inside. It's quite an interesting set up.

Inside is a small cozy space filled with wooden tables and an open kitchen. Despite being open for now almost 6 months, the place still felt really bare to me and even barer, when there are empty tables and chairs nearby. Maybe it was a slow night, we were there on a weeknight after all, but I hope they are a bit livelier on the weekends.

The menu is composed of small, savory plates that reflect Hall's Scottish and Jewish upbringing. We ordered a couple dishes to share. We got the Crispy Broccoli with soy, chilies & vinegar ($7). I could probably venture a guess that this is not a Scottish or Jewish dish, but it was still pretty good. It was flash fried, causing the broccoli florets to almost crumble in your mouth. It's a sure fire way to get anyone to like eating broccoli, but I must warn you, eat this fast, because if you let it sit, all you end up tasting later on is the oil.

This is the Gribenes, Lettuce and Tomato (GLT) sandwich ($7). Chef Hall uses gribenes - crisp chicken skin - as a replacement for bacon in this classic sandwich. It's one of those dishes that is nice in theory, but you soon realize that there's a reason why the B in BLT stuck and not the G. There was an odd poultry smell to it that just wasn't that pleasant and the skin wasn't quite crispy enough and not as satisfying as eating into a thick slice of crisp bacon. The gribenes doesn't quite hold its own here.

The potato latkes ($7), on the other hand, were a classic done well. They came out crispy and warm with a delicious homemade apple sauce.

The bacon-wrapped matzo balls ($5) were highly recommended by the waitress. They came stacked high with a weird pink sauce on the bottom, which was supposed to be horseradish mayonnaise. Why it's pink, I have no idea. I could barely taste the horseradish in this. There is no way this can be kosher, but it was still quite tasty. But frankly, you can wrap anything around bacon and it'll taste good, no?

For dessert, we shared the sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and maldon salt ($7). The ice cream was a tangy yogurt that paired well with the sweet and salty aspects of the toffee pudding.

Overall, I didn't love it like I had hoped and perhaps we ordered wrong, but everything ended up being fried and a bit too greasy. Nothing really stuck out as particularly memorable either. Jonathan Gold, however, recently declared The Gorbals' Dill Fries as one of 99 Things to Eat in L.A Before You Die. I didn't see dill fries on the menu for dinner, so maybe they only serve it for lunch. Perhaps the fries alone are worth a revisit.

The Gorbals
501 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

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