The Gorbals - A Quick Review
The Gorbals is one of those restaurants that we've been meaning to try for the longest time, but somehow never made it to, despite living just a few blocks away. However, the 30% discount from BlackboardEats was just the kick in the pants we needed to get us there, and get there we did, for dinner on Saturday.
Things got off to a rocky start when the hostess seated us at a table right next to her station and the front door. My husband very politely asked if we could instead sit at another two-top at the back of the room, and the hostess refused, saying that they like to use that table for parties of three (even though it was only set for two, the restaurant was half-empty, and no one was waiting for a table). Fortunately, our server (who was a total character right down to the tips of his waxed moustache, and a very good waiter) moved us immediately, and things improved significantly from there.
The restaurant, which is one big open room with the bar on the right side and another bar open to the kitchen at the back, was quite lovely in its spare way. I really liked the lighting, which was low but not dim, the black moldings on the walls, and the warm wood tones of the tables and chairs. In the middle of the room was a large community table which was being used for a birthday party for some very adorable bow-tie wearing hipsters. However, despite the location, the crowd that night was quite mixed in a nice way - there was a large family, some older couples, and other young couples and groups in addition to the birthday party. Also, even when the room filled up toward the latter half of our meal, we could comfortably hear each other speak - no mean feat these days!
We ordered the bacon-wrapped matzo balls, the latkes with smoked applesauce, the dill chips, the crispy broccoli, and the pork loin with summer squash. All were very tasty, although not mind-blowing. Our favorite dish was probably the broccoli, which was extremely flavorful and delicious, although also very heavy from the frying - it was excellent when it first arrived, but became somewhat oily as time went on. I was mistaken to have ordered both the latkes and the chips - it was too much potato for one meal - and of the two I preferred the chips, although the smoked applesauce that accompanied the latkes was very interesting. I really liked the matzo balls although my husband didn't as much - to me, the texture of the balls was surprisingly delicate (I've only had them before in soup, which makes them kind of sodden) and the flavors were well-balanced. I would have liked if there was something lighter available on the menu to offset all the richness - the only salad-like item features fried chicken skin, which isn't exactly light! The portions were all very generous for small plates - we could have easily had one or even two fewer dishes and still been satisfied.
We closed with the sticky toffee pudding, which was our favorite dish of the meal (and neither of us has a big sweet tooth). It was one of those outrageous desserts - huge flavor, sweet, salty, soft, sticky, yummy goodness. The pudding (which was a pudding in the British sense - a moist cake - not like Jello pudding) was smothered in the sticky toffee, and it was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which actually served to cut the richness and sweetness rather than increase it. Gorgeous. We would definitely be back for that alone!
The one thing that is problematic about the Gorbals is the location. Its entrance is at the back of the lobby of the Alexandria, which is an SRO. Although the lobby is quite nice-looking (unlike some of the other SROs in the neighborhood), it was filled with many obviously indigent people who were just sort of hanging out there. Living in DTLA, we're used to rubbing elbows with the homeless, but I felt uncomfortably like Marie Antoinette traipsing through that lobby to get to our meal, which probably cost as much as a month's rent in that place. I know, I know, the poverty exists whether or not we see it, and an expensive meal is no more or less ethical regardless of where it is eaten - but it did detract from the experience for me.
I'm surprised that there is so little discussion here about this restaurant - it seems very Chow-ish. Perhaps others have experienced the same intertia we did? Or just weren't blown away enough to post? If anyone else has tried it I'd be interested to hear your thoughts...
501 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
The lovely missus and I were there for the first time 2 months ago on downtown LA Art Walk night and had similar impressions. As we got there early (6-ish) before checking out more galleries, there were still plenty of tables available without a reservation. I really liked the space and the seating flexibility (small tables, communal table, kitchen bar, etc.) and was pleasantly surprised by the service... we were expecting Insufferable Hipster Attitude but everyone was exceptionally friendly, efficient and knowledgeable.
Probably because of the Art Walk, the lobby was busier and less foreboding than you described, but then again that may be the exception...
The bacon-wrapped matzoh balls were the only letdown for us; a bit too gummy and bland. Honestly, I think they work better as a punchline than as a dish. The fried broccoli was great, and the bone marrow & salad on toast (not sure if they offered that on your night?) was seriously the best I've had since Fergus Henderson's original. We also appreciated a small but eclectic list of wines available by the glass without an absurd mark-up.
We'll be back to try more dishes, and will probably aim for the same time slot - early on Art Walk night.