I'd been to Top Chef Season 2 winner, Ilan Hall's, The Gorbals in downtown Los Angeles twice before.
When I got the Blackboard Eats coupon for 30% off, I attempted to convince A. to try it again. See, the first time we had only sampled the much-talked-about matzoh balls wrapped in bacon(not so great) and the gribenes, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. So the second time was our only real meal.
I distinctly remembered A. liking it, as did I. He claims that I had a bit of a buzz going from the cocktail I was drinking and that my festive mood had colored my judgement. I of course didn't believe him for a second.
So crossing A. off of my list of whom to dine with at The Gorbals, I immediately turned to my sister, Mo. We easily got a 9:30 reservation for the next Saturday night.
I'd just like to mention right now, that it drives me up the wall when A. is right. And the killer is that he so often is. And just as a quick aside, he orders perfectly 90% of the time. The rascal!
Of course I had a blast with Mo, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with the food at The Gorbals.
Not a lot jumped out at me from the funny little menu. I know Ilan Hall prides himself on being somewhat cutting edge, but it goes back to what A. says about the place. There isn't much you want to eat.
Four pig dishes. We ordered two of those. The cow dish was tongue confit. There was a curried goat poutine and the bird dishes on offer were cornish game hen, and the gribenes sandwich. I love gribenes, but when we sampled it last time it was laden with mayonnaise.
The herbivore dishes were the most enticing. We selected three of those, including chips & dill, grilled romaine with anchovy butter and croutons, and broccoli with soy and chiles.
Sorry my pictures are a little dim. But look at the plating of the romaine! It looks like it was just dumped on the plate.
While some effort was certainly taken with the interior of the restaurant, the same cannot really be said for the visual appeal of the food itself.
I'm a fan of grilled romaine, and I intend to make some variation of it at home soon. While this dish was tasty with a nice char and good anchovy flavor, there was way too much butter or dressing on it. The leaves were sodden with the stuff -- a little too rich and oily.
Surprisingly the chips and dill are a favorite of Jonathan Gold's. I found them to be pretty ordinary, thickish-cut fries with very little dill present and an unreal amount of salt dusted on top. Not at all the type of chips that keep you reaching back into the bowl for more. The acidic aioli that came along side helped a little.
I fondly remembered the broccoli with soy and chiles, and I was pleased again. I love Hall's heavy hand with vinegar in this dish. We enjoyed it so much we ordered a second round, which unfortunately was a mistake.
The second batch was either not drained or it sat in the deep-fryer for far too long, because it was downright soggy with oil. The amount of vinegar used had been cut back dramatically. It was almost a completely different dish. Weird to have such inconsistency in one evening.
The meal was rounded out with porcine offerings. We shared the pork belly with baked beans and the pork spare-rib tips.
We were excited when the belly came, because what doesn't taste better with an egg on top? But sadly the pork and the beans were very flat and one-dimensional. A bit of sweetness or a kick of vinegar would have helped immensely. It wasn't until the last bite that I tasted a green onion. I sure wish there had been more of those to perk things up.
Mo liked the spare-rib tips, and she's right, the pure pork flavor was good. I, however, felt that there should have been more to it then simply roasting the tips in the oven. There just wasn't anything distinguishing them from any pork dish one of us could throw together -- no intriguing sauce or accompaniment -- just pork on plate.
I will say this. Our waiter was dynamite, very helpful and a real charmer. The space is lovely(once you traverse the dingy hotel lobby), especially the communal table and the warm lighting. The late hours are certainly handy. And it is funny to see Ilan Hall parading around in his short-sleeve chef's coat. But in the end, I just can't say that I'll be rushing back to The Gorbals.
501 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013