A couple of years ago, some dude named Ilan Hall from Top Chef opened a restaurant in downtown LA called The Gorbals. The food scene of LA was pretty excited, and so was I, but downtown is a bitch to get to. So I waited. And waited. Until finally, a 30% off deal came to me from Blackboard Eats and I realized I had a golden opportunity to brave the nighttime downtown traffic.
I tried in vain to get a reservation, but despite being 2 years old, it was still impossible to get one at a good hour. In lieu of this, the girlfriend and I decided to take an adventure and risk a long line. Arriving around 6:30, we found no line and a good amount of empty tables, so we figured we were golden. And we sure were wrong. Apparently every table was reserved and would be until sometime past 9:00. This was absurd, but fortunately the bar had some seats and the full menu, so we made our way there and checked out the goods.
The signature dish, or at least the most well-known, of The Gorbals is the Bacon Wrapped Matzoh Balls. Yes, this is sacrilege on a plate, or what some might call a fusion of Ilan Hall’s Jewish and Celtic ancestry. We tried them out and found them to be an interesting dish. A matzoh ball out of soup has a strange texture and is not necessarily bad, but also not possibly as delicious as my mom makes them. They came in a creamy horseradish sauce that I would usually expect on gefilte fish, instead of matzoh, but it worked well enough. The bacon wrapping was a nice touch, but I felt like these were more of a tasty gimmick than a truly amazing dish.
But the next three items we ordered really were amazing. The first was Bone Marrow. This guy came with toast, walnuts and garlicky oyster mushrooms with malt vinegar. Unfortunately, The Gorbals has a no addition, subtraction or substitution policy, so the mushrooms remained, but my girlfriend was more than happy to eat them up. I love me some bone marrow and this was definitely a nice cut of bone. It wasn’t as jelly-ish as marrow can sometimes be and the texture worked really well with the toast.
The toast with the bone marrow, however, was not the only toast to be had this evening. We also ordered the Welsh Rarebit, a big slice of toast topped with beer cheese and a fried egg. Beer can be a pretty difficult thing to cook with, but whatever they used for this rarebit was awesome. It had a distinct beer-y taste that was probably from a heavy stout or porter, but didn’t have the nasty or skunked beer taste that can sometimes come from cooked beer. The egg could have been a bit runnier, but coupled with the beer cheese, it didn’t taste dried out at all.
Finally, there were the Chicken Croquettes. These fried little balls of awesome were served with a sambal honey mayo, which gave them a nice, sweet spiciness. As opposed to other croquettes I’ve consumed, these weren’t very oily and avoided tasting dry by having that sambal honey mayo.
Surprisingly, we were both full after those four dishes. I expected to be hungry for more, and certainly I was ready to try The Gorbals again, but my full stomach stopped me from ordering anymore. Surprisingly, when the bill came, even the pre-30% price was really quite reasonable. You don’t really expect that from a “Top Chef restaurant and it was pretty refreshing. The Gorbals is definitely worth visiting, but just be prepared to eat around some vegetables.