What do The Gorbals restaurant and Mr. and Mrs. Monster have in common? Weirdly, a lot more than one would suspect. For the restaurant is in all pretence akin to the love child of The Monster and his wife. A Scottish/Jewish amalgamation, that’s The Monster’s marriage as well. A nice Jewish boy like The Monster marrying a Nice Scottish gal like Mrs. Monster. Or in the case of The Gorbals, bacon wrapped matzoh balls and latkes with smoked apple sauce.
Driving from Santa Monica to downtown wasn’t even the usual exercise in futility during rush hour given this was restaurant #20 in the final countdown to finishing the Zagat Guide. Neither Mrs. Monster falling asleep in the car due to jetlag nor the Prius one car ahead plastered with annoying bumper sticker aphorisms declaring the “occupant’s children future presidents” and a desire to save the entire pantheon of “endangered species” could quell The Monster’s good mood.
The restaurant itself is an anachronism much like LA itself. Hip space in shady hotel. Dark lighting, open kitchen, long communal table, cool music, tattooed clientele straight out of an ad for something annoying The Monster will probably decide he needs to buy and later regret. It’s the kind of place you rush into not out of excitement but fear for your life given the neighborhood. And then of course there is Ilan Hall, former Top Chef winner’s cuisine, which The Monster has to admit makes sense given he and Mrs. Monster have been together for over nine years. If Mr. and Mrs. Monster can make it, so to can The Gorbals!
The Menu is divided into the following sections…
No, The Monster doesn’t want Bahn mi poutine or Sonoma tongue with romesco or half cut pig’s head or roasted bone marrow with mushrooms, walnuts and malt vinegar (this dish’s express purpose is to give The Monster hives).
So Mr. and Mrs. Monster ordered the grilled squid, lemon, garlic, parsley; fish and chips (new to the menu as of the weekend); the whole chicken leg, shrimp butter, smokey beans; and sticky toffee pudding, ice cream and maldon salt.
The squid was decidedly fine enough, though lukewarm and perhaps needing to be a tad more crisp. The sauce was a nice accompaniment though not revelatory. The Latkes were a bit too overdone (though mercifully not greasy as they can be) but with the smoked applesauce were delicious. Crispy fries with well battered sea bass and a tartar that was too white (for The Monster) were a competent dish though not something that would make one come back. No ketchup or vinegar for the fries was a small disappointment. The whole chicken leg was well balanced, the beans pairing nicely with the chicken and its skin which was mildly addictive. And seeing a whole chicken leg reminds The Monster of being a kid and going to the Kosher supermarket with Mama Monster which didn’t make much sense given we didn’t keep kosher.
Desert was on its way to being suberb, though the pudding was a touch dry and the ice cream needed more flavor, but they paired well enough together.
There is a small wine and drink menu with enough nouveau ingredients and silly varietals to fulfill hipster buzz. The only other item listed under sweet was buying the kitchen a round of beers for $10. That is the kind of sentiment that might normally turn The Monster off but here seemed a perfect complement to the aesthetic.
Perhaps a bit fatalistic, but The Monster encourages everyone he knows to frequent The Gorbals. Because while the food was pretty good, it’s more important that its continued success be emblematic of that between The Monster and his wife.
Why go? Because Scottish/Jewish relations always need our help! Or because all the things The Monster doesn’t eat sound delicious to you.
Monster Rating: 3 ½/5 Monsters
501 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90013