Gribenes, lettuce and tomato sandwich at the Gorbals, Los Angeles

“That looks perverse,” I exclaimed as the waiter brought a plate of bacon-wrapped matzoh balls in a pool of horseradish cream and topped with shaved manchego cheese.

“That looks perverse,” exclaimed my friend as he returned from washing his hands to find said plate of bacon-wrapped matzoh balls.

“You’ll go to hell, but it’s gonna taste great,” the waiter responded.  

The Gorbals, the restaurant, is the brainchild of Top Chef winner Ilan Hall. He named it for the Gorbals, the neighborhood, the traditionally Jewish district of Glasgow where his father grew up (his mom is from Israel). The frequently changing menu is full of shared plates that tweak the standards (banh mi poutine; roasted beef marrow with oyster mushrooms, walnuts and malt vinegar), but it was the Jewish tweaks that caught my eye. 

The bacon-wrapped matzoh balls (the light and fluffy kind, for the record) were kind of perverse, but the horseradish cream also made them very tasty. We also tried potato latkes with a very fine smoked applesauce (they smoke the apples and then make sauce out of them).

My favorite, though, was the gribenes, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Gribenes is one of those super-fun-to-say Yiddish words I’d heard my whole life (try it! Now!), but I’d never actually seen it, much less tasted it. It’s chicken skin fried to a crisp, kind of the poultry equivalent of pork rinds. If you’re going to eat pure fat, I always say, it might as well be theoretically kosher. The Gorbals’ GLT came with a thick slice of yellow beefsteak tomato, shredded romaine and, yes, mayonnaise (very non-Jewish), on brown bread. Quite satisfying.

As my Nana might have said, “Who knew?”

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