After 8 years in Brooklyn (Bed Stuy! Do or Die!), I kissed my favorite pizza good-bye and flew home to Los Angeles. A few months later I was hired at Slice. I didn’t know much more about pizza then the average NYC foodie. But that’s considerably more than the average LA foodie… and probably how I got the job. This past year I’ve devoured the Los Angeles pizza scene, learning a simple truth: There is awesome pizza in LA!
I’m not a star chaser. I’m not! Really! But… would I have cared about The Gorbals if not for Top Chef? Er, probably not.
One night, in need for a last minute dinner reservation anywhere downtown, The Gorbals popped up on Open Table in the time slot I searched, so I booked it. Illan Hall wasn’t even one of my favorites on the show, but much to the chagrin of my elementary school teachers, TV tells me what to do these days.
In the vaguely dirty lobby of the Alexandria Hotel (similar to Manhattan’s Jane Hotel pre-ultrahipsterazation), through an unremarkable door hides the sparsely spacious dining room. Populated by utilitarian wooden furniture and down lights, it’s a refreshingly quiet space for a winner of reality television. But the unpretentiousness of the space is muddled by the paint-by-numbers predictability of the hostess’ outfit.
The menu is broken down by animal, with a neat little omnivore section for the likes of me (and you?)! Though the pimento cheese and corn was sadly expunged from the offering that night, we ordered a nice assortment of hits and misses that gave me a clear picture of Chef Illan’s cooking point of view. Yes, even without the meat.
Our meal kicked off with the Persian cucumbers and clearly not canned garbanzos beans tossed with sesame oil and sumac ($8). Wading in a puddle of what I assume must be “watered down” sesame oil, the cucumbers –normally renowned for their cool mildness– were “kick up a notch” with sumac. I really didn’t know what sumac was before this meal, but I’ll never forget it now! Though the red color implies spiciness, it’s more like a rough dusting of lemony zing! Fabulous!