Monday, April 5, 2010

Fates and Lard

A little local downtown flavor was in order. We live so close to this bustling metropolis that it is only fair to occasionally head east and out of our familiar neighborhoods and see what is coming up anew.

My experience with downtown varies slightly. Half the time it feels like a ghost town, dark empty streets lit up with the neon light of the very disturbing LA Live. (ESPN burger, anyone?) There are a few gems. Church and State, Bottega Louie. I always love eating at Wurstkuche. The Varnish is charming yet pricey, and the scene at some of the watering holes and wine bars make me wonder where the hell are these folks from? It does not feel like LA to me.

My wing lady Miss V and I traversed in the dusk hour to catch the sunset at The Standard and see what adventure awaited us. The Standard is just that. Nothing remarkable although I always hope for miracles when I go there. I recommend a blistering hot weekday when all those poor fools are in their offices looking down at you lounging by the pool in the shade of a giant red pod chair, while some bored but kind out of work daydreaming actor brings you cold beer and appropriate day cocktails. Don’t head there on a Saturday night while a bachelorette party, a private industry party and an Ed Hardy boys night out is simultaneously taking place.

One drink in and hunger came over as it always does, and while the food at the Standard is decent bar fare I wanted a change of scene.

Miss V was down for the adventure as she often is and my brain gently reminded me of what was at the top of my downtown eats list.

The Gorbals. Ilan Hall, winner of Top Chef Season 2 won his place fair and square and with great grace and emotion. Very exciting that he has opened his own little personal spot in the newly revamped, haunted but glorious building that is the Alexandria Hotel.

The fates were in our favor. A parking spot half a block away. Absolutely no wait at 8:30 on a Saturday night. An adorable hard working chef greeting us as we slid into our stools at the counter overlooking the kitchen. (Who designed the great stools with a built in hutch with room for your purse and jacket and a sleeping infant?)

The wines are all California. The service is friendly with just the right amount of flirtation. The space is raw with blondish wood. There is no pomposity. Just a passion for what they do.

And what they do is so very…well this is what is difficult. The menu is brief with mostly small plates as well as a few big ones. We opted for sweet potato latkes served with a homemade applesauce and fried sage leaves. Nothing too remarkable but a good choice for Miss V who is veggie. The broccoli served with a chili soy glaze was unreal. Slightly fried, maybe a little toasted at the end. Pure sodium heaven. It was the last broccoli of the night we were told. Lucky again.

I will be brave and get the bacon wrapped matzoh balls next time. They looked perfect and I believe they were grating fresh horseradish on top.

On another dish of deep fried greens they were grating butter. Yes, butter. And what is the white creamy sauce they are dishing onto the plate of chicken schnitzel? Why, lard, of course.

The Gorbals is not for the faint of heart. And it is NOT for vegans. I was eyeing some gorgeous king oyster mushrooms being sautéed up and served with walnuts. Those accompanied a large roasted bone marrow and some dark brown rye bread. Crazy, I thought. But I secretly longed to try. Well, within a few minutes we were offered what was an extra bone marrow dish. And I am NOT one to refuse free food. So I took my little silver spoon and spread gelatinous opulent marrow onto my brown bread and arranged my mushroom walnut parsley heaven and enjoyed.

This is food you eat with guilt and wonderment. It is food that negates anything good you might have done that week for your health. It is food you create when you are alone in your kitchen teetering from drunkenness and insatiable hunger but you still have the wits to utilize your culinary prowess. It is sexy and slightly sinful and I can guarantee a food hangover the next day. And I will be going back very soon.