The Los Angeles restaurant scene is notorious for drawing on a medley of multicultural ingredients and flavours. It’s an ever-evolving beast that habitually reinvents itself and forces you to step out of your food comfort zone. So, naturally, the vibe at So L.A emboldens you to expect the unexpected.
Owners James and Louise Rusk boast a successful array of go-to restaurants with the likes of Butchershop Bar and Grill, Hutcheson’s and The Spanish Butcher. All spots frequently appear in articles reciting the best beef and seafood joints in Glasgow, however, unlike the other restaurants within the Rusk and Rusk group - who set the bar high with their respective cuisines - So L.A has been under wraps with not much given away beyond their minimalist website and bold food menu which is unabiding to any culinary directive. So far, so good. We have everything we would expect from an up and coming Californian inspired restaurant; it’s secretive, it’s chic, it’s so L.A.
The venue takes over a site on Mitchell Street that has lain empty since February 2017, when Chop Chop, a Chinese all-you-can-eat restaurant closed its doors. Unlike Chop Chop, So L.A is not a place you’ll be frequenting to threaten your waistband, but to instead witness the nativity of Glasgow’s very own Sex and the City-esque hot spot.
Upon entering, I'm greeted with a dark (but not dingy) ambiance typical of a high-end nightclub, and the hum of indistinct (but pleasant) dance music. The partitioned walkway takes me to the host, and the bar area is revealed; black leather upholstery, classy plants (yes, that is a thing), a beautifully lit, pristine bar, and sharply dressed bar staff. I was ready for my cosmopolitan.
The host is dressed to impress, and with a beaming smile, directs me to my friends who are sipping on Prosecco. I hand over my coat, order a pint of lager (force of habit, cocktail to follow) and join them.
Our reservation was at 8.15 p.m, however, after several apologetic pit stops from various members of staff, we're seated around 9 p.m. If it wasn't for my preconceptions - borne of US based dramas - that waiting for your table echoed exclusivity and excitement, I'd be annoyed. I
wasn't annoyed, I was soaking up the ambiance of So L.A which simultaneously made me want to eat dinner and drink cocktails, a tough equilibrium to master. Better still, I felt the hype. I felt like I was in L.A. You just know there's a good night ahead of you in a place like this. I was ready for my cosmopolitan, again.
Our server, Jade, delivered the menus and took our drinks order. She soon returned with our drinks and asked us if we'd had a chance to look at the menu. We said no as we'd spent the last several minutes enjoying the novelty of the brand-embellished skip hats gifted to all patrons on the opening night. Jade was fun and relaxed and sensed the same from us, so she took the opportunity to explain the menu. The menu contains many dishes with ingredients or flair that we were unfamiliar with, but Jade was unpretentious and likeable (like all staff we encountered at So L.A) in explaining that a Garlic Copenhagen is a really popular dish in the States, and is a cross between a bread and a pastry covered in garlic cream (and is utterly delicious).
To nibble, I order the KFC (Kentucky Fried Cauliflower). The cauliflower was perfectly cooked al dente and the batter was light and fresh, topped with the perfect amount of hot sauce and garnish. The crumbled feta and Gordal olives were equally delicious and all dishes were perfectly portioned to begin our meal.
As someone who eats a vegan diet, I naturally scan a menu looking first for the ‘(VE)’ symbol before ordering whatever dish is on offer next to the solitary (VE) symbol. That didn’t happen in So L.A; the vegan options were plentiful, and weren’t annexed to a separate part of the menu where taste usually goes to die. I was thrilled to be dressed to the nines, cocktail in hand and able to enjoy something more sophisticated than a portion of chips accompanied by a portion of onion rings (vegan special found in all restaurants).
I ordered the Chickpea Panisse; a beautifully creamy, chickpea filling encased in a light and crispy shell served with bell peppers and spring onion, on a bed of almond puree and puy lentils. The portion size was perfect, and the combination of flavours and textures were knit together perfectly, like all dishes we ordered.
Although we stuck exclusively to the Margarita cocktails on offer that evening, the drinks menu was extensive (46 pages to be exact). Every carefully crafted cocktail’s description is accompanied by its own blurb of ‘Motivation’, intended to transport you to a particular scene along the Pacific Coast. ‘The Cocktail that Ate L.A’ is a Tennessee Whiskey and strawberry liqueur based cocktail and is motivated by the ‘Murmurs of murderous schemes and devious plots surrounding you, the city’s scandal lurks just beneath the surface of your serene surroundings.’ So L.A, so Glasgow.
The cocktails are followed by a generous offering of wine in every variety, ranging from £19-£500 per bottle (with many bottles priced in between) and finishing with a thorough list of liquor and beer. It’s evident that this isn’t your usual restaurant with a scarce drinks menu, almostdiscouraging you from carrying on with drinks after your meal. There’s really no reason to consider a place for food before you begin your next night out, So L.A has you covered.
After thoroughly adopting the laid-back Californian mindset and gorging on L.A inspired cuisine and cocktails, we exited onto Mitchell Street and took in the musky air, torrential rain, and jamboree of buskers and revellers. We were back in Glasgow, until next time.
Where is it? 43 Mitchell Street, Glasgow, United Kingdom, G13LA
How much is it? Small plates from £3 (!), big plates from £14. Cocktails are around £10.