Track down some Californian vibes in Glasgow's city centre, with a visit to So L.A., says Gaby Soutar

It’s just not very LA to have a stinking cold.

In the City of Angels, you’d head it off by going to a juice bar, getting acupuncture, a vitamin shot or undergoing whatever other wellness trend you’d read about on Goop.

Unfortunately, my man flu was on the boil, a deadline was looming and I needed to do a restaurant review, snotty or notty.

We trudged through wet Glasgow to this glossy venue from restaurant, design and lifestyle group Rusk & Rusk, who also own Hutchesons City Grill and The Spanish Butcher, among others.

Most of the other diners were fabulous – so much leopard print – and I wasn’t looking my finest. Thus, I was grateful for our U-shaped booth and the ultraviolet-tinged club nite gloom, which meant everyone could share my granite pallor.

They serve Californian-style food – think fusion, with East Asian, Mexican and US twists and catarrh clearing ingredients like citrus and chilli.

First, a medicinal drink, and I opted for the Zen garden (£9), which, most accurately, would probably just be stones, a bed of sand and a rake.

Each cocktail comes with a “motivation”, and this one had; “The Pacific beat pulses in your ears, you close your eyes and drift to another place, this moment is for you”.

Righty-ho. Anyway, they were out of the matcha tea ingredient, which might have been the pep I needed.

Instead, it just contained sake, melon liqueur, and aromatic liqueurs, but tasted strangely chalky, like Pepto Bismol.

From a seafood heavy selection of starters, I’d gone for the finely cubed tuna tartare (£9) in a hot Korean red dragon sauce, with toasted peanuts, a yogurty “citrus cream” and prawn crackers that doubled as fishy scoops.

It was a strange hybrid of sophisticated option and TV snack, which is probably why I liked it.

Still, I was slightly put off by not being able to see anything much. I imagined vibrant colours, but it is very dark in here. I felt like a teenager at Laserquest.

Similarly, we couldn’t get a proper look at the fried soft shell crab tacos (£11). In the low light, they resembled tarantulas crawling out of a pair of balled up socks.

Luckily, the flavours were there, with a nicely spiced batter, crispy legs, and a mixture of avocado salsa, sweetcorn relish, pickled chilli red onion, coriander and lime, in slightly wet and cardboard-y, but sweetly corny, taco shells.

We loved our main of charred monkfish tail (£25, or £50 for two people) – a beautifully cooked cloud of meat, commando apart from its lemongrass and sesame marinade, some accompanying cuttings of lamb’s lettuce, a lemon wedge and a ramekin full of block-like chips.

Our other main was the five-spiced duck breast (£21), which came with a couple of riffs on aubergine – a chunky and oily chutney and a charred purée. There was also pak choy and, strangely, mint leaves and…are those bonito flakes?

It was pretty nice overall, just as busy as the January sales (online obviously, since they say the high street is dead).

As this hadn’t come with any carb, I’d ordered a side of kimchi fries (£4), which were sprinkled with the addictive tastes-like-prawn-cocktail-crisps Old Bay Seasoning, with a vinegary spiced dip in a pot.

Also, another side of watermelon and green tomato salsa (£4), was fresh and zingy, though more like an accompaniment than a solo artiste.

As I was fading fast and on the cusp of the sneeze to end all sneezes, we just shared the “PB and J sandwich” (£7) for pudding.

This all-American dessert consisted of chocolate chip cookie dough sandwiching vanilla ice-cream, with a blueberry compote and “raspberry milk crumb”.

“I can’t stop eating this, though I don’t think I like it,” said my other half.

Indeed, since it was the taste of someone else’s childhood, I couldn’t get any Proustian thrills either.

Still, the savoury stuff was pretty good, and I left with a bit of that Pacific beat pulsing in my ears (or maybe that was my sinuses).

So L.A. Glasgow

43 Mitchell Place, Glasgow

(0141-473 7333, www.solaglasgow.com)

 

So L.A., Glasgow, restaurant review
Food75%
Ambience65%
70%Overall Score
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About The Author

Gaby Soutar

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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