The Gorbals

We were dubbed “the posse” by Jantastic, who by the way now has a weekly review on the food section of Neon Tommy. As part of her posse, we hit up The Gorbals, Ilan Hall‘s restaurant in Downtown.

We were able to sit at the kitchen counter. If you have the opportunity to do so, I recommend it as you can see Chef Hall get to work as well as have him and other members of the kitchen staff explain the dish. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

We started out with the bacon-wrapped matzo balls.  As un-kosher as dish may have been, it sounded better than it actually tasted.  Maybe it was the matzo, or maybe it was the bacon.  Something didn’t click here.  But that’s okay, because the BBQ sandwich was up next.

First the bread was grilled on the panini press.  Then the bread with a heapful of cheese was put into the oven where it turned into melted and toasted goodness.  Then comes the pulled pork mixed with some bbq sauce.  It’s a good sandwich.

The cow tongue confit.  Cow tongue… lengua… I love this stuff.  It was seared and had a nice char on the outside but the softness and tastiness was still there.  The cow tongue was money.

Next in line was the Mussels with Squid Ink Butter.  The mussels were good but the squid ink… I should have known better.  I’m not a fan of squid ink.  It’s too rich for me.  The Korean in me needs some well-fermented kimchi when eating squid ink.  Fortunately for me, the squid ink didn’t smother the mussels, so I could deal with this.  But imagine squid ink risotto… pass the kimchi please.  What was nice about this dish, however, was the fact that there were french fries on the bottom to soak up all that mussel juice.  Now that was good stuff.

Roasted Corn and Pimento Butter.  Okay, the presentation was a whole lot better but I took the picture after people dug in.  The corn?  How could anyone not like roasted corn?  How could anyone not like buttered roasted corn?  Good stuff.

Twice fried chicken with grilled watermelon.  Chef Hall tells us the chicken was brined for two days and then fried twice.  FRIED TWICE.  And if you thought that was great, he drizzled some honey on top of the chicken.  This was the most glorious fried chicken I have ever had.  The chicken was so nice and juicy.  The batter had such a nice crisp.  And we got some sweetness up in here.  Then with some watermelon on top of that?  I couldn’t have been more pleased with this dish.

I like the concept here.  There’s lots of sharing going around.  Some dishes were memorable and others weren’t as much.  But the memorable ones, boy were they great.  The next time I’m here, the approach to ordering would be totally different.  I’m taking that fried chicken for myself.  Ahaha.

The Gorbals
501 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213.488.3408

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Wurstküche

I find beauty in the free market.  I find the concept behind it a work of art.  It’s just so natural and free-flowing.  Somehow, that permeated to how I view things.  When it comes to city layouts, I like a free market approach. I prefer that over a planned approach.  It seems more lively while a planned city seems so sterile, you know, like The Cheesecake Factory.  My friend, S, an international student at USC from Korea, prefers planned cities.  I like Los Angeles, he likes Irvine.

I finally got to trying out Wurstkuche.  I wanted S to at least experience more of LA rather than limit himself to Koreatown, USC, Little Tokyo, and Beverly Hills before he graduates and goes back to Korea.  As I was driving and looking for this joint, without fail, S asks me why the area was so ghetto.  I finally find the damn place and what a surprise; not only was there abundant parking in the area but I never imagined this type of district being in Los Angeles.  Still S thought it was ghetto.

We walked in and was greeted with a bunch of sausages.  I ordered a Brat and Kielbasa and S ordered a Brat and a Hot Italian sausage.  We walk towards the back and was taken aback.  What a neat place!  S nodded in approval too.  Free market buddy; can’t get a place like this if someone plans everything; the market leads to innovation.  He chuckled.

Enough of our story and more about the sausages.  I ordered two but one would have been enough.  I did enjoy both.  As much as I love sausages, I’m nowhere near a connoisseur.  With that said, the brat was pretty good.  The kielbasa, a polish sausage, was great too.  It ain’t your store bought Hilshire Farm polish sausage that’s for sure.  You get to choose two toppings for each sausage, and I got the caramelized onions and sweet peppers.  They’re very generous with the toppings and I didn’t want it to take away the spotlight from the sausage so I scraped some off.  The Belgian, not French, fries are decent, but the dipping sauces… mm hmm hmm!  There’s a lot to choose from and we got the Curry Ketchup and the Pesto Mayo.  All you do is dip your fries in there but man, it’s good.

The wursts range from $6-$7.75 and they taste great.  I think that’s pretty reasonable.  As unenthusiastic as I may have sounded, Wurstkuche is probably a place I would like to frequent.  I played it safe today in terms of the sausages I ordered.  Now that it was good, I feel safe to move on.  I recommend that you check out their menu on their website to see the variety of sausages they have.  Actual descriptions of the wursts are on the menu on site.  And did I mention the staff is pretty friendly?  Probably not, but keep that in mind.

I love the surprises Los Angeles has to offer.

Wurstküche
800 E 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213.687.4444

Wurstküche on Urbanspoon

Pitfire Pizza Company

I frequent their location in Westwood.  I remember the first time I went to Pitfire Pizza.  I had the “Big Sur.”  It just happened to be a big disappointment and I wasn’t ready to go back.  I don’t know why but later I wanted to go back, only out of convenience.  Of course I had something else.  And I went again and again and again.  Pitfire Pizza grew on me and now I really like the place.  It’s $10 a pizza and I think the prices are pretty reasonable.  And like the name might suggest, it’s cooked in a pit.  Yummy.

I was in for a pleasant surprise today though.  After school ended, I met up with a couple of friends to go to the Pitfire Pizza location in Downtown.  We go to USC, and it’s just more practical to go there than the one in Westwood.  We met at around 5:30 and headed for Downtown.  It was just before six when we got there.  Lucky me, free street parking available at 6.  Then we walk into the spacious area of the Downtown location only to find out that Happy Hour is from 4-7pm!  That means the things on the menu are half off!  I’m not big on drinking but so are the beers on tap!  And also some of the wine too.  I got a bottled beer so the happy hour rates didn’t apply, but my total came out to just over $9.  Oh yea, this is including my Pitfire Sausage pizza.  About the Pitfire Sausage pizza, it’s gotta be my favorite.  Their mushroom pizza is next on the list.

I am so coming here again!  I don’t know if the rates apply to the other locations, I doubt it, at least I doubt the Westwood location has the Happy Hour special.  So I’m coming here right at 6 for free parking and some good cheap pizza and some beer on tap!  Imagine if you can’t find parking on the street… Well there’s a lot next door where you can pay a flat rate of $8.

Oh yeah, and it’s such a laid back environment.

Edited 4/21/09> Also recommended is the Burrata Pie!  Tomato sauce, burrata, carmelized onions, and a pile of wild arugula makes for a wonderful combination!

Pitfire Pizza Company (Downtown location)
108 W 2nd St # 108
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 213.808.1200

Pitfire Pizza Company on Urbanspoon

The French Garden

This is where you would least expect it. Make your way out to The French Garden and you’d probably think you were lost. If you have the correct directions, chances are, you’re not. It’s a nice little place amidst the warehouses and the factories in that area of Downtown where you probably do not venture out to unless you have business there, or of course, if you want to eat lunch at The French Garden.

You’d expect the place to be French fare. But nothing stood out as being exclusively French. Or maybe it was because I was able to pronounce everything on the menu. Whatever it was, it was a good lunch at a good price. The French Garden opens for lunch only. I don’t think you’d want to eat dinner in this area anyway. Okay, I exaggerate the shady-ness of the area. But it’s a great place for lunch. You can sit out in the sun if you’d like or go over to the shaded patio or maybe even indoors. Well, to be honest, I don’t know if indoor sitting is available but considering they got the building to themselves, I assumed they did. Anyway, the menu consists of a bunch of salads, sandwiches, and pastas. They have some meat dishes as well.

I had the steak sandwich and enjoyed it. You got yourself some cuts of steak in there along with onions, greens, and some dijon mustard on a toasted French Baguette! I loved that combo of the steak and the dijon mustard, and the toasty-ness of the bread made it better. ‘Twas good. ‘Twas satisfying. If I knew French I would have said something in French but oh well.

There are plenty of tables at The French Garden, the food is good, and the price is generous. It’s close to USC so Trojans should check this out. I think the 10-15 minute drive here for lunch is worth it. It’s a good alternative to the corridor of fast food establishments on Figueroa and it sure beats the food on campus. Valet parking is available so you don’t have to worry about looking for parking space unlike the rest of Downtown and I believe it’s complimentary. The French Garden is something you should add to your “to-try” lists if you haven’t done so already.

Oh yeah. Happy New Year everyone!

The French Garden
1936 E 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Phone: 213.623.4028

French Garden on Urbanspoon

7+FIG Student Discount Card

Hello USC, Loyola Law School, FIDM, Southwestern Law School, and The Colburn School students! Do you know what we all have in common? It’s probably our proximity to Downtown and that includes the 7th and Fig complex at the the Ernst & Young Plaza on, you guessed it, 7th Street and Figueroa.

I think it would be considered a mall. I just refer to it as 7th and Fig. It’s pretty deserted save for lunch time on the weekdays when everyone in the surrounding buildings walk over for some lunch. They have a farmer’s market every weekday during the lunch hours save for holidays. At least they used to. It’s been some time since I’ve been there. It’s at least once a week though. Technically it was once a week, but I just saw it everyday when I was interning over at an office building nearby two summers ago. Awesome kettle corn!

Well, I’m here to tell you about the student discount card that 7th and Fig has. Just click on the link, sign up, and wait for them to send you the card. It’s for free and you can get yourself discounts. 20% off California Pizza Kitchen, 15% off any cake or gift basket at Mrs. Beasley’s, and 20% off Quizno’s just to name a few. I think it’s good to have. You might not go there often, but when you do, and you have your card in hand, you can get yourself some nice discounts. You get discounts at other stores in there as well; it’s not limited to food.

Oh, and George’s Greek Cafe, down in the bottom floor, gives 10% off to students. Have your student id card in hand. When I was interning in the area two summers ago, I remember Mrs. Beasley’s had Free Cake Fridays. I don’t know if they have that anymore but it was a buy one bundt cake get one free deal.

Hey, free discounts, no strings attached other than occasional emails, proximity. I ain’t complaining. It’s good to be a student sometimes.

7th and Fig
735 S. Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: 213.955.7150

Redwood Bar and Grill

It’s a given… the traffic in Downtown, Los Angeles is horrendous. And that’s an understatement. After you manage to claw your way through the unforgiving drivers, the one-way streets, and just the sheer number of cars, you then have another problem to deal with. The parking. At least in the evening the parking lots charge flat rates, but the rates aren’t so friendly during the day.

So after me and and a friend of mine dealt with the traffic and parking issue, we walked over to Redwood Bar and Grill. The interior outfitted with a pirate theme. Interesting, but that isn’t a big deal. I’m not sure if Redwood Bar and Grill has a host or not, but when we walked in, there was nobody to greet us. We stood around, looking at each other and waited a little bit. I asked one of the servers if we were supposed to seat ourselves. I have to say, she wasn’t friendly and told us there’s nowhere to sit and walks off.

Okay… that didn’t go so well. Then I asked another server if it’ll take long to get a seat. His friendliness made up for the not-so-friendly coworker of his. We didn’t wait long and he took us to our table.

Happy hour is from 4-7. Appetizers are half-price and draft beer is $2. Not bad. But unfortunately, neither of us are of age. Soon though, very soon. So we ordered the crabcakes to start off with as an appetizer. I’m from Maryland. Well, I was born in Baltimore but moved out to Los Angeles when I was about two. But I still have family over in Maryland and I go there at least once a year. And in Maryland is where you find true crabcakes. The crabcakes there are more crab than cake. So you can figure that I wasn’t too impressed with these crabcakes. Three pieces and they were very tiny. The crabcakes here are not worth mentioning.

Now on to the main course. I ordered the Rock Shrimp BLT Panini. And may I add, it was pretty darn good. It’s what you would expect from a BLT: bacon, lettuce, and tomato, but a little more. “Rock shrimp sautéed with white wine, shallots, apple wood smoked bacon and avocado.” I’m not a big fan of bacon, but the whole sandwich was good. It all seemed like a good combination for a simple sandwich and the fries were pretty good too. Our server was also attentive and friendly, unlike the lady who we first encountered.

So I have to say, overall, Redwood Bar and Grill was a good experience. Good food, moderate prices. I’m definitely coming here again, especially since Downtown is so darn close to USC!

Redwood Bar and Grill
316 W. 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 213.680.2600

Redwood Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

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