Downtown LA: The Gorbals Gets SchmaltzySep 21 2010 · 2 comments · Downtown LA
“Ooh, we gotta get that,” my husband Josh said when he spotted Shmaltz on The Gorbals menu last night. He’d never actually tried the fatty spread, which made its debut during happy hour yesterday (the waitress said we were the first to try it. Yay!), but it had always held folklore status in his mind. “As a kid, I’d hear my grandma and her sister talk about schmaltz with nostalgia, but nobody really ate it anymore because it was so bad for you.”
After one bite, it was clear that, indeed, this stuff is really, really bad for you. Originally used by European Jews as a substitute for butter or lard, it tastes just like what it is: liquefied chicken fat. At The Gorbals, it’s also flavored with rosemary and a little pork fat to give it structure and served with thick slices of grilled brioche, instead of the more traditional rye or pumpernickel. Not surprisingly, the rich and pillowy bread did well to absorb the drippy, yogurt-like texture of the schmaltz. Josh said the flavor reminded him of foie gras, and while he liked it, he thought it was best in small doses. I, on the other hand, found it really addictive, but fearing cardiac arrest, I asked the waitress to take it away after my second spoonful.
However, one doesn’t go to the Gorbals for his or her health, and the rest of the meal included the usual mix of forbidden treats, which are always presented with delectable precision.
Here’s the rundown:
I have to thank Chef Ilan for introducing me to the pleasure that is Welsh Rarebit, a Gorbals staple of mine. True, I’ll eat (and probably like) most any food if you plop an egg on it, but rarebit is about more than just yolk: namely, that rich cheddar cheese sauce that blankets the toasted bread. It’s the very definition of “savory.” They used to top this dish with lamb, but I prefer this simpler semblance with a splash of Worcestershire.
A good adjective to describe many of the small plates at The Gorbals is “porky.” They lay it on thick with the pig, and we opted to be covered. Their Pork Belly isn’t served as the traditional big, crackling cube, but I don’t mind these little pieces. They’re still fatty, flavorful and crispy, and the capers are a nice touch.
Josh finds the much-ballyhooed Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls ridiculous, and he’s been known to roll his eyes whenever they are mentioned. Our dining companion was a newbie, though, and he really wanted them, so I was happy to comply. To me, they just taste like breakfast—like eating cream of wheat with a side of bacon. Makes we wish they were served with whipped maple syrup instead of aoli.
I’m not really a fan of tongue thanks to a traumatic experience as a child, but you know, if you fry something up and add some Romesco sauce, I can usually be convinced. That was the case with this Confit of Tongue. The crispiness tempers the “tongue-y” (papillae) texture.
The Sticky Toffee Pudding is the only dessert on the menu, and it’s so good it might deserve the solo status. The spicy, gingery ice cream is the perfect companion to the warm, super-sticky pudding. The flaky maldon salt compliments them both and adds dimension.
Note: It was my birthday, and I had the day off, so we went for the happy hour. Beers are only $4 and wine is half price from 6-8. Food items are regular price.