There's right way to eat and there's a wrong way to eat. Let's explore places where delicious food can be offer in a casual bistro or a fine dining restaurant. Join me on finding some of the best and worst places to go in USA.
There are only a few places in L.A. would captivated me to write a review for one dish.
Gorbals would be one of those places that steered me from my unbroken rule. Usually, restaurants would have to have more than 1 dish in their repertoire on their overall balance in their menu to stand up for themselves. Hence, I rarely would have just write about one dish for any restaurant.
If you are a fan of a reality show on Bravo called "Top Chef", then you may have probably know that the owner and head chef of Gorbals was Top Chef Season 2 winner Ilan Hall. The second season of the show was my favorite because of well crafted editing of the show, the personalities of each of the main contestants, and the creativity of the dishes that was put forward by many of the contestants including Ilan Hall.
Honestly, when I heard he was opening up a restaurant in downtown LA, I was thinking more of the line of Spanish cuisine because of his previous employment in New York would dictated that. I was pleasantly surprised by his bold daring move of opening up a Jewish fare borderline with other International influenced cuisines.
The cooking at Gorbal is more geared towards rustic home cooking which many of the diners and fans came to love at this place. Some of chef Hall's popular dish were his "bacon wrapped Matzo balls" and his "banh mi poutine".
Roasted Half Pig Head (Gorbals - Downtown L.A.)
On this particular night, we were going to experience a new dish he presented last fall...his roasted half of pig's head.
Needless to say, growing up in a Chinese household, I have only gotten taste of boiled pig's feet or snout that was poured with massive amount of soy sauce. I might even have steamed liver, tongues, or pig's ear, but never the entire head (well, we're getting half of the entire head). You can only imagine how nonplus I am about wanting to try this dish. I just figured it will not cost me that much because I'm sharing the head with 5 other diners that night.
Let me start off by saying I was so surprised how well cook the pig's head was. The roasted pig's head was very crispy on the outside, but very tender on the inside. Giving you a perspective, the skin is like the Peking duck, while the meat was moist and tendered like a broilered chicken. There were some seasoning to make the meat more enjoyable because I was definitely expecting a bland pig meat. Our table deconstructed the head from the ear to the snout, with the pig's teeth and eyeball being collected as souvenir.
As pointed out earlier, the plate of half of a head was more than enough for a dining group of 6 as all of was stuffed that night. Make sure to order ahead because it will take about 45 minutes for the dish to be prepare.
After 4 visits at The Gorbals, I have to put the pig's head dinner as one of more satisfied meal in recent memory. I definitely would go back for the "banh mi poutine" as well and "bacon wrapped matzo balls" have won me over recently.
Now, the only question I have for Ilan Hall was that if he was serious about starting a food truck business. If so, will the "banh mi poutine" be on the menu? I doubt the roasted pig's head can be prepared adequately, so I'm hoping for at least one of the two popular dish to survive the food truck venture.
One dish doesn't make or break a dinner. However, just for this one unique dish, it can complete a meal.
501 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Seriously, I think I had been out of the game way too long.
The feeling I can't really be put into words until I was told there was a new place opened up called "Red O" or did I tried "Toranko". Huh and huh? Followed by a sound of "hmmm" with a quick reflex to google up in my smart phone. I can't even fathom on how I can keep with these new places.
It was also brought to my attention that a few of my favorite places have closed down since last my post in the summer of '10. Felt a bitter cold wrenched in my heart and a little bewilderment clouding my thoughts because I always thought places that served good food will last forever.
Won Ton Noodle Soup (Won Ton Forest - City of Industry)
The closure hit me the most was a won ton noodle shop called Won Ton Forest in City of Industry. This hurts me badly because it was only a minor walking distance from my work. A won ton noodle shop that would have made a great lunch choice for me instead of Jack in the Box nearby most of the week have now come and gone. Somehow I didn't even know about it until a comrade Go Ramen (who is pursuing his dream of being a top Ramen maestro in Japan) introduced this place to me and had championed it for as long as I had remembered.
The big heart break?... I didn't visit this place until a month before it decided to shut down.
The won ton as anyone can tell you is not a small dumpling in a soup, but a well crafted combination of meat wrapped beautifully in either a flour skin or deep fried variety. Personally, I loved the soup version of the dumpling served here in a generous portion with an inviting bok choy that accompanies it. If I had to turn back time, it would be skipping the lunches at Subway (right next door) and all those crappy lunches at Jack in the Box, and come here instead.
Boy, did I ever regretted this.
Pho Bac (Pho Minh - South El Monte)
If I need another gut punch, this blow would floored me for sure. I was really bummed when I discovered that Pho Minh closed down in November of '10. I treated this place like my secret hideaway. Never really wanted to give an acknowledgement on how good their broth with its unique subtle and very light taste. Most of the time, the oily backtaste that is on the broth soup leaves me clamoring for water. Not at Pho Minh, which I'm sad to learn they never really caught on.
I wasn't suprised because I'm usually the only person on most week nights and no other customers to speak of. It has to be very discouraging because it never got a fair shake as it had a rough start and never recover.
The sad part is that both establishment were run by young and enthusiastic owners who are hoping they can make a go at the unforgiving world of restaurant business where the rate closure is less than 3 months. It is going to be brutual and both started at a not so great locations for their business. I really hope both young owners give it another go at this restaurant jungle, but I would understand if they felt discouraged.
It's tough to see these places go in a quick flash. It only serves me as a reminder that these new places that are popping up are replacing the old establishment that didn't made it. Of course after looking up where Red O and Toranko are located, I can only surmise that both have a fighting chance with much more buzz going for them.
Lesson Learned for me. I let this things passed by and only had a faint memories of these two places.
Shoot....*sigh*. Let's take a look at the menu for the new place that had just opened up. What's it called again?... Playa Rivera?
Won Ton Forest
18230 Gale Ave
City of Industry, CA 91748
9646 Garvey Ave
South El Monte, CA 91733