After winning on reality show Top Chef a few years back, Ilan Hall opened up a well-reviewed restaurant in Los Angeles’ edgy downtown. The Gorbals takes its name from the old Jewish neighbourhood in Glasgow where Hall’s father came from. He describes the cuisine as “tasty, oddball food.” The menu includes such items as bacon-wrapped matzoh balls and octopus-tofu sandwiches.
Although I generally wasn’t a fan of the L.A. sprawl, downtown is a different world – it’s worth visiting the city if only for the interesting revitalization of beautiful old buildings taking place in the art deco streets around The Gorbals. The restaurant is curiously located down a long hallway on the ground floor of an apartment building. There’s a speakeasy feel to the location.
The dark, muted, and attractive decor behind the door comes as a pleasant surprise. I sat at the counter next to the open kitchen.
What really drew me here was the Bánh mì Poutine. Vietnamese food is my favourite cuisine, and Bánh mì are tasty sandwiches typically filled with marinated pork, cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro, and peppers, among other ingredients. This dish ditches the bun and adds a flavorful asian gravy, cheese and fries. I’m generally not a fan of fusion cooking, but this sounded intriguing.
Fries: These thin fries are some of the crispiest I’ve ever come across. On their own, they would probably taste overdone, but they work well with the other ingredients, providing a good crunch. They are nicely seasoned and quite flavourful. 26/30
Gravy: The gravy is a tasty mix of tingly hot, sweet caramel, aniseed spice and soy saltiness. It is perhaps a little thin, but otherwise goes well with the other ingredients. 45/50
Cheese: This cheese is a little too melted, but with a nice rubbery bite that recalls fresh squeaky poutine cheese. Despite its melted consistency, it is definitely squeakier than any other poutine cheese I’ve had in the US. There’s a sufficient amount as well, but more couldn’t hurt. 14/20
Other: The added ingredients are great: pickled cucumber juliennes, cilantro leaves, and some delicious carnitas-style shredded pork. I’m not sure about the sliced peppers on top, but they’re easy to push aside. +5
Verdict: It’s quite a departure from classic poutine but it works.
Price:Expensive. $15 plus tax and tip, but worth it for the experience.
Opening hours:6:00PM to MIDNIGHT, until 2:00AM on Thursday-Saturday.
Location: 501, S. Spring st. Los Angeles, California.