Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nakkara on Beverly (Los Angeles, CA)

Nakkara on Beverly
7669 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Wed 04/28/2010, 07:00p-10:40p

Nakkara Exterior Nakkara Interior
Located in the space once occupied by Thai eatery Wild Orchid, Nakkara is a mere stone's throw away from such LA heavy hitters as Animal and Angelini Osteria. Like its predecessor, Nakkara is Thai at its core, but subscribes to a more fusion-y approach, with Chinese flourishes here and there, a style that the restaurant describes as "Thai inspired."

The story of Nakkara begins with Head Chef and Co-Owner Suthum "Kevin" Sukcharoen. Sukcharoen, a native of Thailand, underwent no formal culinary training; rather he learned the art of Thai cookery from his mother. Though he started out as a school teacher, the yearning to cook eventually took over, and the Chef began his culinary career working at various restaurants throughout Bangkok. He eventually emigrated to the US, settling in Los Angeles. From here, he started his first Thai eatery in the San Fernando Valley, and, to this day, Sukcharoen still lends his talents to Kinnara Thai, a well-regarded place in Van Nuys. After achieving some moderate success in the SFV, he sold the restaurant to a family member and set up shop on Beverly, partnering with Paul Burachati and husband-and-wife team Toon and Amy Vinyuwonge.

In fact, it was Toon who first contacted me to do a special tasting at Nakkara. From here, we organized a group dinner, inviting along Amy of The Roaming Belly, Christina of Food Je T'aime, Danny of Kung Food Panda, Diana of Diana Takes a Bite, and Felicia of The Food Ledger.

Nakkara Special Menu
Sukcharoen and his Sous Chef Supannee Noochoo created this custom 13-course meal for us, which included a couple off-menu items. Note that Nakkara doesn't have a liquor license, so it's a strictly BYOB affair. Corkage is nominally $5, but was waived for this dinner. Click for a larger version.

La Chouffe
Since this was a bring-your-own event, I stopped by my local BevMo right before the meal and grabbed a quartet of bottles that I thought might go well with the food. We began with beer, specifically La Chouffe [$9.99], a Belgian pale ale from producer Brasserie d'Achouffe. It's been one of my favorite brews ever since I tasted it for the first time at Leatherby's Cafe Rouge, and once again, it demonstrated its signature fruitiness backed by plenty of spice and herbal flair. Even the non-beer drinkers at the table appreciated this one!

Nakkara Mieng Kham Nakkara Mieng Kham
1: Nakkara Mieng Kham
Serving as a sort of amuse bouche, a miang kham is a type of traditional Thai street food from the northern reaches of the country. Nakkara's version utilizes toasted coconut, cashew nut, dried shrimp, diced lime, ginger, Thai chili, and red onion, all wrapped in a lettuce leaf. To this commixture, we added a thick sweet mieng sauce with tamarind, peanut, and roasted coconut. Eating this in one rather big bite, the flavors were sweet and nutty at first, but then, with more mastication came the sourness of the lime, countervailed with the saltiness of the shrimp and heat from the chili. A refreshingly complex start to the meal.

Spicy Filet Mignon Skewer
2: Spicy Filet Mignon Skewer
Looking at this course on the menu, I was afraid that the filet would turn out overly tough. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how tender the grilled beef was, and how well its flavors were augmented by the vegetal, subtly sweet relish of the bell peppers. The green curry sauce, meanwhile, added further depth to the dish, while leaving a lingering spice.

Garlic Lamb Chop
3: Garlic Lamb Chop
As I suspected that it would be, the lamb was a tad overcooked, but fortunately, it was still tender, flavorful (though not particularly "lamb-y"), and even a bit fatty. I appreciated the lightly charred exterior, which threw a bit of bitterness into the fray, as well as the zestiness imparted by the crispy garlic and slivers of pepper. The use of lime juice was a nice touch as well.

Chang, Singha
With the Chouffe dispensed with, Toon graciously brought out some complementary Thai beer--Singha and Chang--for us to enjoy.

Peking Duck Rolls
4: Peking Duck Rolls
Here we had Peking roast duck, carrots, bean sprouts, and heart of romaine, all rolled up nicely in a rice paper wrapper. Eating the rolls alone, I appreciated the true to form sapor of the Peking duck, but it was masked somewhat by the copious amount of accompanying vegetables. The application of the paired Hoisin-Sriracha dipping sauce added weight to the levity of the rolls, but I would've liked a bit less sugariness.

Big Surprise!
5: Big Surprise!
The fancifully-named "Big Surprise!" was arguably the biggest hit of the night. One of Sukcharoen's signatures dishes, we had here a steamed mixture of shrimp, crab, and squid, drenched in coconut milk and a red curry paste. I loved how the savor of each seafood element was clear and distinct, and how the initial sweetness of the coconut led to the delicate spiciness of the curry, all under the overarching tang of basil.


NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige
Time for some bubbly! The Mumm Napa Brut Prestige [$18.99] fit the bill nicely, sort of a prototypical California sparkler: sweet but not overly so, with a nice toasty backdrop for depth.

Shrimp Tom Yum
6a: Shrimp Tom Yum
We were given a choice of soups. The first was this tom yum goong, the heart of which was a heady broth of herbs, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, fresh lime, and chili. I enjoyed its classic, contrasting sour and spicy flavors, which played nicely with the relative mildness of the shrimp and the slight earthiness of the mushrooms.

Chicken Tom Kha
6b: Chicken Tom Kha
Next was the tom kha gai, a chicken and coconut milk hot and sour soup with herbs, galangal, lemon grass, and chili. Since the two soups do share several common ingredients, the hot, tangy smack of the tom yum was present here as well, where it was joined by the sweet backbone of the coconut milk. We were torn on which soup we preferred, but I'd have to go with the tom kha for its great interplay of coconut and herbal flavors.

Green Papaya Salad
7: Green Papaya Salad
This was som tam, a spicy salad made from shredded unripened green papaya, cherry tomato, green beans, and chili-lime dressing. I appreciated the crisp, crunchy, juicy consistency of the papaya and its subtle sweet succulence, augmented by the tomatoes and green beans, while the use of chili and lime gave things a lively, piquant counterpoint and a great lingering spice.

2008 Dr. Loosen 'L' Riesling
Riesling is oft recommended to pair with Thai food, so here we have the 2008 Dr. Loosen "L" Riesling [$12.99], a lovely, light, bright wine with quintessential flavors of stone fruit and citrus intermixed with a delicate minerality.


Soft Shell Crab Panaeng
8: Soft Shell Crab Panaeng
The first of our "main courses" was a deep-fried soft shell crab dressed with crispy basil leaves and a panaeng curry paste. I enjoyed the delicate spice of the panaeng, accented by basil, and how it countered the crab's natural sweetness. However, I wished that the crustacean's inherent flavor was emphasized more--it seemed a little lost.

Crying Tiger
9: Crying Tiger
Also known as suea rong hai, this is a Northeastern Thai dish of grilled marinated rib-eye steak, served with a dried chili pepper sauce (nam chim chaeo) and crudités. I quite liked its tender, pleasingly rare consistency, as well as the great tanginess imparted by its zesty marinade. A table favorite.

Surf & Turf Fried Rice
10: Surf & Turf Fried Rice
Thai-style ginger fried rice (khao pad) was kicked up a notch with the inclusion of grilled filet mignon and shrimp. The beef was actually remarkably tender and flavorful, and the shrimp was nicely supple too, demonstrating plenty of its signature sweet brine. The rice itself, meanwhile, proved to be quite pleasant as well, with just a touch of gingery astringency.


911 Catfish
11: 911 Catfish
Next up was deep-fried catfish, accompanied by young peppercorn, krachai (a ginger-like root), red chili paste, and more of that ubiquitous basil. I'm generally not huge on catfish, but I did admire the tender, flavorful filets, accented by the powerful application of peppercorn and basil. The peppercorns were actually quite sharply pungent, so I had to be careful not to overuse them.

2008 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages
Beaujolais is a red white that drinks like a white--sort of the perfect summer wine for quaffing--so I thought that it might be a good fit here. I chose the 2008 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages [$13.99], a lovely, fruity wine with just enough tannic complexity to make things interesting.

Seafood Pad Thai
12: Seafood Pad Thai
Finally, we were presented with pad thai, perhaps the most famous dish to have come out of Thailand (but which, ironically, is not truly Thai in origin). A plethora of seafood--crab, shrimp, mussel, scallop, squid--was added to this prototypical Thai dish, making for a luxurious eating experience indeed. I appreciated how the briny essence of the seafood was preserved here (though unfortunately, the mussels were clearly overcooked), and how it played with the fortunately not-too-sweet noodles.

Mango & Sweet Sticky Rice
13: Mango & Sweet Sticky Rice
Khao niao mamuang, a quintessential summer dessert, is a dish of coconut-cooked sticky rice served with mango. I loved the rich, ripe, sugary mango slices, and their interaction with the warm, tempering rice. Easily the best version of the dessert that I've had.

Group Photo with Kevin Sukcharoen
The requisite group photo: Kevin, Amy, Danny, Chef Kevin Sukcharoen, Christina, Diana, Felicia.

Some have complained that Nakkara's food is over-Americanized, over-gentrified even. Indeed, there are real Chinese influences, and even some Cal-cuisine flair, but the dishes, for the most part, don't forget their Thai roots, with some of the courses being straight up textbook Thai. At the end of the day, the cooking is smart, clean, clear, focused, and most importantly, quite tasty. Can't go to Jitlada all the time, right?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

LudoBites at Gram & Papas (Los Angeles, CA)

LudoBites at Gram & Papas
227 E 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Fri 04/24/2010, 08:45p-12:00a

LudoBites at Gram & Papas Exterior
Spring is finally here, and you know what that means right? Another rousing round of LudoBites is upon us. After two iterations at Breadbar and another at Royal/T, Ludo's popular, populist pop-up has made its way to Downtown lunchery Gram and Papas.

Yes, LudoBites 4.0 began on April 8th. And yes, it's about time that I wrote about it. Shouldn't I have been here opening night? Or better yet, at FoodDigger's pre-opening night TastEvent? Oui, and oui. I was invited to the FD event, but had to decline as I was up in Napa that evening, having dinner at Meadowood (so don't feel too bad for me!). Then, I was supposed to go the following Wednesday, but guess what? That's right, more travel, this time to the East Coast. And so here we are--I finally made it out to LB a full two weeks after its debut. By this point, pretty much every one of Ludo's creations has been scrutinized to death already, so bear with me. At least I've secured my ressie for the last night, right?

LudoBites at Gram & Papas Interior
Ludo paraphernalia (including the Chef's own artwork) dots the walls of Gram and Papas, a lowly sandwich shop by day, but a buzzing hub of gastronomic activity when the Sun goes down. A note to the "food paparazzi:" try to sit at the seats across from the kitchen; the overhead lights make things much easier on you. Over where we were seated, exposures where in the 1/10s, f2.0 range at ISO1600; uneven candlelight didn't help things, either.

LudoBites at Gram & Papas Menu
Ludo's menu, as we all know, is in constant flux, so by the time you read this, I'm sure that it'll be somewhat different. Interestingly, we asked Krissy what her favorite dishes were, and she responded with the Foie Gras Pina Colada, Ham Soup, and Squid Carbonara--I didn't have the foie, but she's spot on with the last two. Click for a larger version.

NV Duval-Leroy Champagne Design Paris
Unlike LudoBites 3.0, which sported a short wine list courtesy of DomaineLA, LB@GP is a strictly BYOB affair (there is, however, a "virtual wine list"). We failed to realize this, and thus were left scrambling at the last moment, on the lookout for booze. Fortunately, Jason's Wine & Spirits was just down the street, so we ended up picking up a LeRoy Neiman-designed, silk-screened bottle of the apple-tinged Duval-Leroy Champagne "Design Paris" (I do love the bubbles).

Burgundy Escargots, Garlic Flan, Green Jus, Violet Flowers
Burgundy Escargots, Garlic Flan, Green Jus, Violet Flowers [$13.00]
Escargot to start...what could be more French? Eating the dish at first, I could taste the buttery, garlicky flavors of a classic escargots bourguignonne preparation. However, the Chef gives us a little twist by way of the parsley imbued "green jus," which adds a hint of levity into the mix. Very good, with a fantastic, supple yet "crunchy" texture on the snails as well. Easily some of the best escargot I've had in recent memory.

White Asparagus Velouté, Mozzarella Mousse, Fennel, Candied Olive, Salmon Roe
White Asparagus Velouté, Mozzarella Mousse, Fennel, Candied Olive, Salmon Roe [$14.00]
Here, the initial, green attack of asparagus savor led to the saccharine sweetness of the candied olive, augmented with a prick of brine courtesy of the ikura. Meanwhile, I loved the crisp, juicy crunch of the fennel and its interaction with the creamy velouté. However, since there was a lot going on, I did feel that asparagus could've had a stronger presence.

Scallop, Almond Puree, Pickled Grapes, Capers, Curry Oil & Cauliflower Ice Cream
Scallop, Almond Puree, Pickled Grapes, Capers, Curry Oil & Cauliflower Ice Cream [$14.00]
Taken alone, the scallops were rare, dense, and luscious, though quite mild in flavor. Thus, I did appreciate the almost jarring tartness imparted by the grapes, as well as the sugariness of the almond paste, which mirrored the bivalves' natural sweetness. On the other hand, I was ambivalent about the cauliflower, and I did feel that the capers were a touch domineering.

Marinated King Salmon, German ButterBall Potato, Red Wine Vinaigrette, Crème Fraiche
Marinated King Salmon, German ButterBall Potato, Red Wine Vinaigrette, Crème Fraiche [$15.00]
With this course, Ludo presents his interpretation of the classic salmon-crème fraiche pairing. Indeed, the cream did provide a nice bit of tanginess to offset the somewhat overbearing weight of the salmon, but the vinaigrette was much more effective in that regard. The key, thus, was the potato, which had a fantastic starchiness to it that formed an excellent counter to the monolithicity of the fish.

Snapper Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Jalapenos, Red Onions, Meyer Lemon Paste, Olive Oil
Snapper Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Jalapenos, Red Onions, Meyer Lemon Paste, Olive Oil [$14.00]
There's always room for a good ceviche, and this certainly was no exception. We have to start with the snapper, which was uncompromisingly fresh and, well, snappy. The onions and bell peppers, meanwhile, provided a superb vegetal counterpoint, and the use of olive oil lent tones of gravity and contemplation to the dish. The best part, however, was the application of jalapeños--mild at first, they intensified with mastication, leading to a great bit of lingering heat on the finish. One of my favorites of the night.

Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guiness
Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guiness [$12.00]
Interestingly, this ham soup had little in terms of identifiable ham. Rather, the potage was positively imbued with a light, "hammy" essence that effectively conveyed the meat's character. It went wonderfully with the bread and cheese, and in fact, I wanted more bread to sop up the leftovers--we even described the dish as a "liquid sandwich!"

Squid "Carbonara", Pancetta, Poached Egg (63 degrees), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers [$18.00]
Squid, pancetta, poached egg? There was almost no way that this could turn out poorly, and indeed it didn't. It was, in fact, my dining companion's favorite dish of the meal. I loved the supple texture of the squid "pasta," augmented by the bits of salty, fatty pork belly and creamy egg. Classic flavors, but with Ludo's flair.

Steak 'Au Poivre', Shallots, Polenta Bone Marrow, Roasted Eggplant Puree
Steak "Au Poivre", Shallots, Polenta Bone Marrow, Roasted Eggplant Puree [$25.00]
And here we have Ludo's take on the classic steak au poivre, with plenty of poivre. The steak, expertly cooked and quite delicious on its own, was quite peppery indeed, and went gorgeously with the unabashedly tangy shallots. I didn't care too much for the eggplant, however, finding it overly smoky. Obviously then, there were some strong flavors at play, so the polenta--some of the best I've had--was crucial in its temperance.

Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Smoked Eel, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint Potato Mousseline
Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Smoked Eel, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint [$26.00]
Out last savory course of the evening was this beautiful lamb chop, which proved to be immensely flavorful, with an almost beef-like quality to it. I enjoyed its inherent succulence and profound saltiness, accented by just a hint of mint. The eel, at the same time, gave the dish a trace of smoke, which played well with the creamy tang of the goat cheese. Nice!

Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla - Whisky Ice Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream Vanilla - Whisky Ice Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream
Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla - Whisky Ice Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream [$13.00]
Our first dessert was actually a surprisingly straightforward soufflé, a classic mélange of chocolate and ice cream, at least at first. The whisky added a slight hint of woodiness into the fray, but what got me was the finish, which had just the right amount of black pepper(!) creeping up on you.

Macarons, Organic Strawberry & Chantilly
Macarons, Organic Strawberry & Chantilly [$12.00]
And finally, we close. The strawberries (from Harry's Berries?) were incomparably bold, vibrant, and sugary sweet. The chantilly, thus, formed a crucial moderating element and, along with the macaron, made this dessert reminiscent of a strawberry pie! Delish.

Chrstine, Krissy Daria
As usual, food cognoscenti were abound: AK of The Salty Lawyer, Christine of Folie à Choisauce, Julian of Jewelz, What Are We Doing Today?, Ryan of Epicuryan, and Zach of Midtown Lunch. And that's just in the dining room. Working in the kitchen were Austin of Living to Eat, Holly of The Michelin Project, as well as the one and only Sydney Hunter III, Fraiche's recently departed Chef de Cuisine (who'd worked with Ludo before at Bastide). And let's not forget about everybody's favorite server, Daria!

LudoBites just feels different this time around--the food seems more grounded, more self-assured, more confident. We said as much to the Chef during our post-meal chat with Ludo, and he agreed. He finally has a real Sous Chef in the form of Sydney Hunter, and no more of the drama that plagued version 3.0. I'm looking forward to returning on the 28th!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Gorbals (Los Angeles, CA)

The Gorbals
501 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Mon 04/12/2010, 07:30p-10:15p

The Gorbals Exterior
Many of you have probably seen the recent LA Times article on the so-called "food paparazzi." What you probably don't know is that I was interviewed for that article. Yes, I, along with Linden of The Gastronomnom, Nastassia of Let Me Eat Cake, and Tsz of Gastrophoria, spent several hours dining with Times reporter PJ Huffstutter at The Gorbals in Downtown. Sadly, virtually none of our commentary made it into the article, with Huffstutter choosing, instead, to focus on the FoodDigger preview dinner at the newest iteration of LudoBites. Nonetheless, the dinner wasn't all for naught. I still got to enjoy a great meal with my fellow food bloggers at a restaurant that I'd been curious about for some time now.

The Gorbals is, of course, the recent palate-child of Top Chef Season 2 winner Ilan Hall. Born April 6, 1982 to a Scottish father and Israeli mother (both Jewish), Hall was exposed to food from an early age. Growing up, the Chef's mother provided most of the culinary inspiration, instilling Hall with a deep appreciation of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. During his teenage years, this translated to a stint at Marine Fisheries, a seafood shop in his hometown of Great Neck, NY. At age 17, Hall moved to Florence and enrolled in the Apicius Cooking School at the Scuola Lorenzo de' Medici, all the while staging at local Tuscan eatery Al Lume di Candela. He then went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America, where he earned his degree while externing at Charlie Palmer's Aureole in New York. Interestingly, Hall attended the CIA at the same time as his Top Chef runner-up, Marcel Vigneron.

The next year, Hall relocated to California to receive his certification in Baking and Pastry Arts at the CIA's Napa campus, where he cooked at the school's Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. Following his completion of the program, Hall moved back to New York, first working for Tom Colicchio at Craft, then for Mario Batali and Andy Nusser at Spanish eatery Casa Mono. It was during his tenure here that Hall participated in Top Chef, winning the competition in January 2007 at age 24. After the win, Hall traveled the world to conduct "research" for his upcoming restaurant before settling down in Los Angeles in March 2008. Teaming with longtime friend Natan Zion, Hall debuted The Gorbals on August 28, 2009. However, less than a week after opening, the restaurant was shuttered by the health department due to a faulty water heater. The Gorbals finally reopened on October 23.

The Gorbals Interior
The Gorbals Kitchen
Situated on the ground floor of the historic Alexandria Hotel, the interior space is righteously unadorned, unfinished even, dominated by barren white walls, concrete, polished wood, and the swaths of stainless steel from the angular bar and open kitchen (helmed by just a trio of chefs).

The Gorbals Menu
Here we see the night's menu. Given that we had five people, running the gamut was a no-brainer. I was a bit let down, though, that only one dessert was on offer (there were no desserts when the place first opened). Click for a larger version.

The Gorbals Wine List The Gorbals Drink List
A small selection of wines and spirits is available. Of note is the Kiddush Hashem Cellars Syrah, which "must be served by Ilan or Matt." Why you ask? According to company representative Eric Brown, "the wine is non-mevushal (not pasteurized) and according to American Jewish Law must be served by an observant Jewish person in order to remain kosher for all occasions. A Mevushal wine may be served by a gentile or non-observant Jewish person and still remains kosher according to American kosher law." Interesting! Click for larger versions.

Rum, sweet zin, coca-cola, blackberries Gin, lemon, sugar, aromatic bitters, IPA
There is no official cocktail list, so look toward the blackboard behind the bar for the night's mixed drink specials (listed only by ingredient). I ordered a concoction of rum, sweet zin, Coca-Cola, and blackberries [$12]; imagine a strong attack of rum, leading to a saccharine finish accented by just a hint of cola. Linden, meanwhile, chose a mixture of gin, lemon, sugar, aromatic bitters, and IPA [$10]; this was a tangy, subtly sweet drink with a great interplay between the gin and pale ale.

Bacon-wrapped matzoh balls, horseradish mayonnaise
Bacon-wrapped matzoh balls, horseradish mayonnaise [$5.00]
Of course, we began with Hall's signature item, the one that inspired the now-notorious phrase "old Jewish food, date-raped by bacon." The dish was thought up as a sort of joke, something Hall created for a Jewish friend's birthday party, but it turned out shockingly well. The fatty, salty sapor of the bacon did wonders in balancing the relative creamy levity of the matzah, and the paired horseradish mayo was an excellent accompaniment to boot. To quite Homer Simpson: sacrilicious.

Icicle radishes, brown butter, bonito flakes
Icicle radishes, brown butter, bonito flakes [$8.00]
The radishes presented next, juicy and delightfully crunchy in texture, had a great, refreshing, vegetal bitterness that provided my palate a piquant prick. This, however, was quickly tempered by the weight of the brown butter and the rich umami-imbued flavor of the katsuobushi. Quite nice.

Octopus, gizzards & lemon
Octopus, gizzards & lemon [$13.00]
I'm a sucker for octopus, so I was rather looking forward to this course. It did not disappoint. I enjoyed the octopod's soft, supple consistency and wonderfully savory, almost Asian-inspired flavor, offset by the greens and citrus. The gizzards, surprisingly, acted as more of a textural element for me.

Brussels sprouts, hollandaise
Brussels sprouts, hollandaise [$10.00]
I "heart" Brussels sprouts. I think it's the astringency of the vegetable that gets me, and here the sprouts' tang was showcased beautifully, augmented even further by the bitterness imparted by the copious amounts of char. I also appreciated the use of Hollandaise and how its butteriness balanced the power of the sprouts.

Temecula beet & carrot salad, fried peas
Temecula beet & carrot salad, fried peas [$10.00]
Here, the key was how the dense sweetness of the beets was countervailed by the light, bright greens. However, the best part of this clearly was the incorporation of fried peas.

Braised cabbage, walnuts, caraway
Braised cabbage, walnuts, caraway [$7.00]
The cabbage was braised to a rich, soft, heavy consistency, and its flavor was markedly piquant, with some of the zest cut by the application of walnut. This actually reminded me a bit of sauerkraut, but with a nutty finish.

Highland steak, white beans, arugula
Highland steak, white beans, arugula [$15.00]
One of the highlights of the meal was this steak, which, taken alone, wouldn't seem out of place at a steakhouse. I loved its unabashedly salty savor, succulent consistency, and how it worked beautifully with its accoutrements of bitter arugula and earthy beans. Delish.

Kalimotxo braised lamb neck, coca cola glaze
Kalimotxo braised lamb neck, coca cola glaze [$14.00]
Braised in kalimotxo (a mix of red wine and cola), the lamb was rendered suitably tender, and had a nicely savory, yet slightly sweet flavor that paired well with the greens. I, however, didn't care for the almonds, which were far too overwhelming, effectively masking the flavor of the meat.

Beef marrow, king oyster mushrooms, walnuts
Beef marrow, king oyster mushrooms, walnuts [$11.00]
This was actually one of the better preparations of bone marrow I've had. The employment of mushroom formed a surprisingly effective counter to the sheer oleaginousness of the marrow, and I enjoyed the tinge of nuttiness imparted by the walnuts. Great bread, too.

Chicken liver mousse, apple & smoked cashews
Chicken liver mousse, apple & smoked cashews [$12.00]
The chicken liver tasted, well, liver-y, exactly as it should. What set this apart, thus, was the usage of cashew, which lent a sort of smokiness that did help in balancing the monolithicity of the mousse. The apple, however, wasn't nearly apparent enough for me.

Sweetbreads, green bean chutney
Sweetbreads, green bean chutney [$12.00]
Unlike many preparations of sweetbreads I've had, which are normally quite salty, Hall's version here was surprisingly subtle, possessing of an almost "nutty" sweetness. It paired well with the included chutney, which provided a bit of much needed piquancy. Nice.

Sautéed kale, broccoli leaf, garlic & chili
Sautéed kale, broccoli leaf, garlic & chili [$8.00]
This may not look like much, but it was one of the stars of the dinner. The wonderful, green astringency of the kale and broccoli was superbly preserved and highlighted, augmented by the spicy tang of chili. Deceptively simple, but utterly fantastic.

Crispy pig head, onion, lime & vinegar
Crispy pig head, onion, lime & vinegar [$13.00]
In our final savory course, crispy bits of pig's head were tossed in a tartish commixture of onion, lime, and vinegar. The pork, fatty and salty alone, was countered tremendously by its bracingly acerbic accoutrements. Quite good--it was almost like eating a porcine ceviche!

Lemon posset
Pre-Dessert: Lemon posset
Before dessert, we were brought three teacups (presumably, the intermezzo was only intended for the ladies) of lemon posset, comprised of lemon curd, salted lemon rind, and blackberry--an expectedly sour, refreshing kick to the palate.

Sticky toffee pudding, ice cream, maldon salt
Sticky toffee pudding, ice cream, maldon salt [$7.00]
The sole dessert was like a rich, raisin-y, really sticky cake, with a great bit of saltiness on the close. The pairing of ice cream (Nutella-buttermilk, if I recall correctly) was a classic one, but worked well enough here.

Figuring out the bill Figuring out the bill
Figuring out how to divide the check at the end of the meal turned out to be quite a chore indeed!

The Gorbals seems to draw more than its fair share of ire from food circles, but most of that seems undeserved. The place was designed, from the beginning, to be somewhat cryptic in its cuisine. Taking its name from a gritty immigrant neighborhood in Glasgow (where Hall's father grew up), the food is meant to be a seemingly disparate amalgamation of various gastronomic influences. The restaurant is not really Jewish, or Scottish, or Spanish, or "New American;" it's just The Gorbals, and it was pretty damn good.