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The Gorbals' opening party makes a splash

August 14, 2009 |  8:53 pm

Last night marked the opening party for Top Chef-winner Ilan Hall's new downtown restaurant the Gorbals. Last time we checked in on the Gorbals, which is located off the main lobby of the historic Alexandria Hotel at Fifth and Spring, it was still very much a work in progress.

Now, although there are rustic wooden tables (including a large communal table in the center of the room), stools by a bar with a view of the kitchen and lots of charming old molding bathed in stark white paint, the place still feels like a work in progress. Which may not be a bad thing, since downtown itself is very much a work in progress. The Gorbals will open in about a week or so, and when it does it will probably draw a crowd of comfortably employed hipster types with well-intentioned artistic leanings and curious Westsiders with a desire to occasionally dip their toes in the "gritty" fun that downtown L.A. has to offer.

The party coincided with downtown Artwalk and a visit to the new bar that was once the savagely divey Charlie O's. It's now called Down & Out, and a more unfortunate name could not possibly have been picked, especially since the cologne-scented, unofficial Ed Hardy outlet mall looks like it would be perfectly at home on the Third Street Promenade next to Barney's Beanery.

The Gorbals felt like King Eddy's by comparison. And that's a good thing. Inside, Hall cooked with fellow Season 2 Top Cheffer Elia Aboumrad while revelers (including "My Name is Earl" actor Ethan Slupee) sipped on Scotch and nibbled on guacamole-covered cucumbers, pork belly on toast and bacon-wrapped matzoh balls, which seem to be the culinary equivalent of making a porno in a nunnery just for the "hey wow, that's wrong" novelty factor. Perhaps some broth would've helped.

That said, Hall was as charming a host as they come. Toward the end of the evening he knelt on a counter above the kitchen and gave a heartfelt speech about how his dream has come true. His adorable grandmother, father, cousin and other assorted family members and well-wishers smiled at the loveliness of the moment.

--Jessica Gelt

Photos: Left, Ilan Hall talks to the crowd; right, the bacon-wrapped matzoh ball. Credit: Rob Takata / For The Times