It is hard to overestimate the appeal of a good hog in this town, the charismatic pull of a whole roasted animal with crisp skin and heat-singed ears, an apple jammed gaily between its teeth. During Thursday's Downtown Art Walk, a celebration of galleries and the taverns that surround them, the biggest turnout was for The Gorbals, Ilan Hall's eccentric Scottish-Jewish restaurant in the lobby of the old Alexandria Hotel. Hall and his crew had provided a bagpiper, a band playing mournful New Orleans-style jazz, and two – count 'em – pigs that had spent many, many hours toasting to a burnished, bubbly crunch. At 8:30, the wait for a taste of pig approached an hour and a half.
By the time I showed up, a bit after 11, the pigs were long-gone, of course, transformed into useful ballast against a Gorbals-style onslaught of draft ale and single-malt Scotch. I settled for the belly of another pig, a Berkshire beast that had been wrapped in plastic and foil and slow-cooked overnight before being seared off – “hillbilly sous-vide,'' Hall said to a friend – and a gamy, numbingly rich slice of lamb breast that had undergone much the same process.
I toasted the lamb rib, and prepared to move on. I was looking forward to an assault on Las Perlas, Cedd Moses' new bar around the corner, and my liver was quivering in anticipation. And then somebody at the Gorbals remembered the half cheek left over from the evening's hog, an unlovely scrap of meat the color of a Hermes Kelly bag. A couple of slices were tossed onto a plate. The sensation? Crunchy, porky air. Delicious. I stumbled off into the cold night air, nearly as drunk on pig as I soon would be on mezcal.
The Gorbals: 501 South Spring Street, Los Angeles; (213) 488-3408.