Let me begin this review with a caveat. I grew up in the South where nearly all store food courts involved the holy grail that is Chick Fil-A. So for a restaurant attached to a store to get me going, it's gotta be damn good or serve waffle fries. Unfortunately, The Gorbals has neither of these things working in its favor.
Located at the new Urban Outfitters in Williamsburg, when you first walk into what the sidewalk chalkboard says is The Gorbals, you will ponder: Um, what? You have to walk through the storefront equivalent of a poor door and up three flights of stairs with zero signage leading the way.
Once you find it, the space is quite beautiful and it's easy to forget you're sitting atop the store single-handedly responsible for the popularization of hipsterism and its inevitable norm core fallout. But do not be fooled by the nice surroundings, smiley waitress, and delicious-seeming menu. It is all a trick to get you to order five things to share with the table before you have a chance to realize 80% of it will be disappointing.
Yes, in theory a bacon-wrapped matzoh ball is what I've prayed for every single night before sleep since I was 6. But in practice, the dish doesn't meld well, with the smokey bacon rejecting the over seasoned ball like a poorly executed skin graft. Then there are the pickled mussels, which are presented beautifully but taste like the bay from which they were plucked was used as a marinade.
Pretty much everything at The Gorbals is underwhelming except for the pork banh mi poutine, which I encourage you to treat yoself with after finding a dope new t-shirt or area rug on the floors below. Life is short, ya know? But as a destination, I would keep The Gorbals in mind for their rooftop bar only. At least there you can sip a good cocktail in a tent-like booth thing as you overlook the work-in-progress condos that will eventually block the view of Manhattan's skyline. Ah, the sweet scent of gentrification in the summer.
They get their own little blurb because The Gorbals does drinks really, really well. The Darby is a good pick for those who lean toward fruitier cocktails; it's tart and juicy without tasting like Koolaid laced with a deconstructed sour patch kid. Then The Son of a Gun is my favorite because I will drink anything with Tequila and Mezcal. And it had an interesting texture and vibrant taste that lasted long after it was poured.
Cucumbers, Avocado, Pickled and Crispy Garbanzos
This seems like the most recognizable item on the "Field" part of the menu, but that is exactly the problem. It's enjoyable, don't get me wrong. The produce was fresh, the garbanzos were in fact crispy, and it's a nice light option to kick off the meal. But there is nothing distinctive about it to set it apart from anything your gluten intolerant friend would bring to a potluck.
Nueske's Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls
This sounds like everything I've ever longed for when I'm hungover. After all, both bacon and matzoh ball soups cure all ills. But The Gorbals' creation was surprisingly boring. There was nothing to tie to the dish together and the spices of choice failed to bring it to life. But I will now make it my life's mission to improve upon this concept because I think we all deserve satisfying bacon-wrapped matzoh balls.
Banh Mi Poutine
This dish is awesome. It's substantial, flavorful and the classiest damn plate of French fries I've ever seen. The pork is spicy and juicy with its sriracha infused-mayo gravy. The pickled carrots and thrice-cooked fries give it punch. It legitimately tastes like a pork banh mi bun exploded on a platter of crispy diner fries, so mission accomplished, Gorbals.
The lamb ribs are another item that jump out on the menu as a must-have. But they are absolutely awful. Not the presentation or overall "dressing" of the meat. I really like where they're going with the ginger and crunchy raspberries. But the ribs themselves are almost entirely fat, not the normal balance between meat and lard that one hopes for when ordering ribs, even of the lamb variety. I urge you to stay away from these.
I love eating mussels in all forms, but have never tasted them pickled. So I was looking forward to discovering a new niche in the mussel game. And with such a beautiful presentation of the shells sitting atop little river pebbles, you might think you're in for a real treat. But the seafoody-ness completely overrides any pickling, spicing, and dressing that may happen in the kitchen. They are very meaty though, so if you like when your mussels taste like ocean water, get after it. Otherwise, these likely aren't for you.