Photo credit: Gorge
8917 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Unless you’re a mom and pop ethnic hole-in-the-wall located on the outskirts of LA County, it’s damn near impossible for a restaurant to slip under the radar, in a city full of culinary Indiana Joneses looking to be the first to unearth the next dining treasure. But that’s what Gorge has managed to accomplish, despite having a trio with impeccable resumes running things front and back, and being located in West Hollywood. LA Times has barely grazed it, LA Weekly has avoided it like a plague, and you’d be hard-pressed to find reports of it on most food blogs. Recently, someone was asking for info about Gorge on Chowhound (surely due to the lack of information I noted above), and I realized that I did the restaurant no favors by neglecting my very own post, especially when I enjoyed my visits there.
Upon first glance, Gorge appears to be your run-of-the-mill French bistro/brasserie. Old-fashioned French decor here, old-school French dishes there. Take a closer look at the menu, however, and you’d be surprised to find an extremely focused menu – one that does no favors for the ladies looking out for their figures in this part of town by specializing in cured and cased meats. It’s actually very old-school, right down to the all-natural preparations of said cured and cased meats. They mentioned how they wanted to “bring the classics back” into the spotlight. And yet, the concept of Gorge is actually very new, for LA hasn’t seen a French restaurant like this before.
On my first visit, I tried the mackerel tartine and the saucisson sec (charcuterie plate). The mackerel had a wonderfully fishy flavor, a welcome taste for one who likes briny foods, and the curing was strong, but not overpowering and salty. On the other hand, the curing for the cured meats was on the lighter side, presumably due to the all-natural process involved. It’s a labor-intensive and patient process, but the love is certainly evident- each slice of salumi glowed radiantly (probably because it’s fatty), and had a nice variety of salty, herb-y, and garlicky flavors across the board. But the MVP of the charcuterie team had to be the headcheese. Meaty, gelatinous, fatty, herb-y, it’s all there. And it still managed to not be heavy. Also, the pickled romanesco was an inspired choice to match.
On my second visit, I tried the chicken liver parfait and beer sausage. The chicken liver parfait was rather lean – imagine a refined version of the chicken liver pate your Jewish grandma would make. But getting it and the layer of fat that tops it together, and the lean pate transforms into a more creamy bite. The beer sausage was good and had a decent snap to it, and was elevated further by the accompanying fingerling potatoes and what I presume was the French equivalent of sauerkraut. Really a fine job by Chef Elia all-around (this is the same Elia as the one who appeared on Top Chef by the way – twice!)
As amazing as the savory items are, you’d be remiss to not order dessert at Gorge. There is only one type of dessert, the St. Honore (albeit in five varieties). According to Wikipedia, it is a “circle of puff pastry at its base with a ring of pâte à choux piped on the outer edge. After the base is baked small cream puffs are dipped in caramelized sugar and attached side by side on top of the circle of the pâte à choux. This base is traditionally filled with crème chiboust and finished with whipped cream using a special St. Honoré piping tip.” Long description, but puff pastry + creme + cream puff on top = awesomeness. The flavors rotate based on seasonality and Pastry Chef Uyen’s imagination, but the classic vanilla will always be there, and that’s where you should start. Sure, there’s only one dessert, but consider the St. Honore a combination of different French desserts in one Frankenstein package.
Another thing I have to mention is the amazing beverage program here, headed by sommelier Darius. I’m no expert on beer and wine, and Darius was more than helpful at describing the different types offered, and even has a beer AND wine pairing for EVERY dish on the menu- that’s dropping knowledge. He, along with Uyen (the two combine to work front of the house during dinner service), are very hospitable hosts…to few customers unfortunately. You can make a reservation, but it isn’t necessary at all. In fact, the most occupied I’ve seen the place during my visits is 6 people. I can certainly appreciate the me-time, but Gorge deserves better. For now, they seem content at serving return local diners, and ones who’ve heard and read rave acclaim from less mainstream sources (like myself). I just hope that they stick around long enough for word to spread further, because a quality restaurant in LA will not be forever neglected.