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Review: THE GORBALS

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The Gorbals has been on my list for some time...overall I liked it very much. Given the heavy nature of these meat based dishes and comparing it to my recent meal at Animal (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7197...), I think I appreciated this place slightly more...

Food: B+
Value: A-
Service: A (i had an excellent waiter - and looking around, the rest of staff seemed very happy to be there)...I was laughing to myself because when i walked in there was no immediate greeter and i was thinking of this past week's Top Chef Restaurant Wars. As you probably know, Ilan, the head chef was a former winner of the show. Who by the way answered the phone for my reservation earlier in day.
Total Price: $80 including tip
Would I go back?: Yep
Atmo: B+
Full Menu: http://thegorbals.squarespace.com/cur...

Now the restaurant design itself isn't the Four Seasons -- imagine more if your college had a "Restaurant club" and opened a student-serving restaurant in the basement of the student center. However, given the food has a eastern european flair -- this is the type of restaurant I could imagine walking into over there. It had a nice communal feeling inside.

Bacon-wrapped matzoh bals, mustard aioli $5 A-
I actually liked how this was executed. I almost didn't get the dish based on Yelp commenters -- but I figured what do they know?. And i was right because I was happy I got them - very moist inside with an almost chicken-soup quality seasoning. The bacon was crisp perfectly and the sauce was a horseradish aioli (not "musard" as listed on menu) that had a nice tartness to it. I would definitely order these again.

Potato Latkes, Smoked Applesauce $7 B-
I knew when we looked at the menu, the one thing my fiancee was going to want (and the one thing I didn't want to waste a dish on) was the Potato Latkes -- sure enough I was correct. I don't even like latkes as i find them a kind of boring way of eating potatoes. These were fine (grated potatoes) fried up with some scallions inside. It was served with a smoked apple sauce which was different.

Special: Pork Belly Sliders $12 B+
3 sliders in bread. The pork belly had a nice crispness to the outside - an element missing from most PB orders I have been getting lately. I am not going to lie, the pork belly cut was a bit fatty - as it always is -- and having to eat all three + knowing I was about to eat chicken skin and sweetbreads was a bit overwhelming. The sauce was similar to the mustard aioli served with the matzoh balls.

Lamb sweetbreads, peanuts, pickles $12 B+
I was about to get bone marrow but this caught my eye...I do enjoy some good sweetbreads. And i never had it from a lamb. Texture was the same as veal sweetbreads, maybe a tad smaller. The sweet accompaniments were perfect (i believe it was a marmalade and sliced pickles). Two comments however, given the sweetbreads creamy/spongy texture I would have liked the outside to been slightly more crunchy and I still can not figure out what the point was of the peanuts all over the plate.

Gribenes, lettuce, tomato (GLT) $8 A-
Given I am a big BLT fan + a big fried chicken fat fan = must get. I have to say it exceeded expectations as the chicken skin was different than I imagined...it was thin, sheet like and if you pick it up almost glass-like translucent. They must have stretched the skin before frying it up. The skin was everything you'd imagine it be. This would have been a "A" dish or higher, but the only thing I really don't understand is the decision to place the sandwich on un-toasted bread. I don't know about you but my BLTs come toasted so it was a bit of a shocker. If Ilan is reading this - I think some type of toasting is needed OR do the sandwich open faced to lose all that unnecessary bread. This is almost a winning dish.

Persian cucumbers, avocado, za'atar $7 B
My fiancee also ordered this for herself which I found to be pretty tasty. I never knew that za'atar was term used for mideastern spices including sesame seeds. It was good and I will make at homes. The skins of the cucumber were a bit tough, so I would consider peel that off.

Dessert: Sticky toffee pudding, ice cream, maldon salt $7 B- / C+
Unfortunately, their one desert choice didn't work for me. Sounds amazing right? I was hoping the pudding would have a more custardary type consistency to it - however it was more cake like. The topping of carmelized sugar was a bit burnt, and the ice cream was ok. For being the only dessert on the menu it could have been stronger and better executed.

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The Gorbals
501 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

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  1. I remember hearing about The Gorbals, but never bothered to put it on our list until the LA CicLAvia. The path had us ride right past the Alexandria Hotel with the big Gorbals flag waving on the outside. Then I hit me that this was a place we had to try next.

    I was expecting Animal lite and it was sort of like that. Super sparse decor, friendly staff, and nice music. To start, we opted for the flat filtered water and a couple of cocktails.

    Cocktails - $10ea, pretty good but don't remember the ingredients...
    1. The Desparate Housewife - Lemon, Orange something, Brown Sugar, Vodka. The drink startles with a sharp hit of vodka and mellows a bit with a sugary lemon finish.
    2. Charlize The Rum - Mint, Sugar, Rum, Lemon(?). Hahahah, get it The Rum - Theron? Ok, I didn't get it when I read it, but anyways... More mint than lemon, so not so mojito-like. Good minty sweetness with a distinct rum backing.

    >Bacon Wrapped Matzoh Balls - the matzoh was a bit drier than expected, but an interesting paring. Worth trying if your curious.
    >Broccoli with soy and chili - the broccoli had a bit of brown goodness from roasting and dressed with what seemed like a flashing of oil, soy, and a dried red chili. Silvers of green onion were sprinkled on top. Good, would recommend and order again.
    >Bahn Mi Poutine - The Chips and Dill with a"banh mi topping" of pork, cheese, pickles, carrot, sirahcha, cilantro, jalapenos. Not loaded down with gravy, but worth trying if it is on the menu.
    > Octopus, frisee, bacon - a nice little salad composed of fried octopus, muscles, squid, frisee, and bacon. We were looking forward to trying the octopus and gizzard dish, but was still satisfied with this alternate preparation of eight legged goodness.
    >Burger with Fried Egg - a nice thick patty cooked to a medium to medium rare and topped with a sunny side up egg. Good to split two or four ways if you want to try more stuff. It was recommended over the Welsh Rarebit.
    > Sticky Toffee Pudding - a mini cupcake of sticky toffee pudding accompanied by a chocolate with white chocolate chip ice cream. Not rich and wet like the English Pudding Company's version, but we find all cupcakes kind of dry to begin with. Good ice cream, good toffee sauce, meh on the pudding.

    We're looking forward to going back to try the roasted half pig's head and the other proteins on the menu. The prices are good for the quality of food served. Parking on the street is free after 6pm if you can find it or ~$4 at the lot a block up. We enjoyed our meal at The Gorbals with the focused yet disparate menu and would rate it slightly higher than the similarly conceived Lazy Ox Canteen as far as value goes. Animal and Lazy Ox are in nicer neighborhoods, have better decor, and larger choices for food and drink. The Gorbals may be lite on some of those items, but isn't lite on arousing the palate.

    -mpken

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    Lazy Ox Canteen
    241 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

    The Gorbals
    501 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

    1. "Dessert: Sticky toffee pudding"
      "Unfortunately, their one desert choice didn't work for me. Sounds amazing right? I was hoping the pudding would have a more custardary type consistency to it - however it was more cake like."

      Uhm, This is a traditional English dish. In the Queens English pudding=dessert. Its a date cake soaked with toffee sauce making rich and moist. Not Pudding as in Bill Cosby. Sigh..

      1 Reply
      1. re: AAQjr

        first of all I wasn't expecting Bill Cosby pudding...I was expecting to eat what you correctly describe as "cake soaked with toffee sauce making it rich and moist"

        second of all it was neither "soaked" nor "moist" - maybe "rich"

      2. This was just you and your fiancee? Did you leave full, satisfied or hungry?

        1. Was that $80 for one or two? Liquor included? And, do you think that someone on a gluten-free diet could do ok there? I would like to go with my husband (and I think that bacon covered matzah balls are perfectly emblematic of our Catholic/Jewish marriage) but worry that the aforesaid matzah balls and the rest of the good stuff wouldn't be available to him.

          3 Replies
          1. re: coffeebrownies

            The $80 was total for 2 of us -- I can't remember if we had drinks -- probably not (or maybe - she had one glass of wine)

            I actually left VERY full - which is rare for me in these small plate type places.

            I would recommend Gorbals or The Lazy Ox -- past review here:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7037...

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            The Gorbals
            501 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

            1. re: coffeebrownies

              i am sorry coffeebrownies I don't know much about Gluten free foods...

              1. re: coffeebrownies

                @coffeebrownies, current menu is here:
                http://thegorbals.squarespace.com/cur...

                my primary concern would be that the menu is very heavy on fried items, all of which i'm sure are fried in the same gluten-contaminated oil. so even if something is fried but not breaded, it's still not GF. and the other items contain things like soy sauce (not GF) and croutons...i think it would require VERY careful ordering with substitutions and extremely limited options.

                just my two cents as someone who is GF, soy-free, and very well practiced at eyeballing the manageability of menus for those of us on restricted diets!