Pre-theatre dining at So LA

Sponsored post in collaboration with So LA

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When you think of Californian cuisine, the chances are fish and avocados figure fairly prominently, the sunshine state being more primarily associated with green-juicing yogis and skinny Hollywood starlets than with steaks.

As such, there’s something unexpected about So LA, on paper at least. The latest dining venture from Glasgow food scene stalwarts Rusk & Rusk, it joins a roster of restaurants that, in the universally-acclaimed Butchershop Bar & Grill, Hutchesons City Grill and Spanish Butcher, boast distinctly carnivorous leanings. And while the presence of stylishly cool interiors, a great soundtrack and friendly staff point to So LA’s providence, how, we wonder, will the group’s menu for success fare from Californification?

Based on the evidence of the newly introduced pre-theatre menu, the answer is very well indeed. So LA’s approach to American beachside cuisine appears to be to cherry pick a little of every influence present in the USA’s vast melting pot – an Asian inflection here, a touch of Mexicana there – and bring it all together in a menu that could be confusing but instead manages to be both interesting and crowd-pleasing at once. No mean feat.

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From this eclectic a la carte offering, the new pre-theatre menu offers up a succinct selection of four choices per course, priced at a very accessible £17 for two courses and £21 for three. To start, a steaming pot of mussels in a fragrant kaffir lime and chilli broth featured fat, juicy bivalves, perfectly cooked, while the accompanying warm wedge of freshly-baked bread was put to good use in the mopping-up operation. A huge bowl of chunky slow-cooked pork ribs, meanwhile, was fall-from-the-bone tender, served with a pear, orange and sesame salad that proved the perfect counterfoil to an obscenely sticky chilli, anise and brown sugar glaze. It was messy. We cared not.

Rusk & Rusk’s meaty CV came into its own with our mains selections. The so-called Cali burger was a huge, hard-to-eat confection, the dry aged beef cooked to a rosy medium and served atop a flavourful avocado salsa that added just enough West coast flavour without overshadowing the main event. It was the steak frites, however, that stole the show. The 35-day dry-aged Scotch underblade steak was a huge hunk of meat for the modest £3 supplement, cooked to a perfect medium-rare and rested to perfection so that it barely needed a steak knife. The accompanying Szechuan pepper sauce was a deliciously fiery update on the classic accompaniment, while the skin-on skinny fries were deliciously crisp and ideal for dunking.

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By this point, we were struggling to find the space for desserts, so were grateful for the lightness of touch demonstrated by the kaffir lime crème brulee with citrus shortbread and shaved coconut. A dark chocolate delice with orange gel and kirsch-soaked cherries, meanwhile, was entirely unnecessary, ridiculously decadent and utterly delicious.

Too often, menus displaying such a wealth of influence and variety of ingredients prove to be less than the sum of their parts, confusing rather than satisfying. What we found here was a menu that reads as more complicated than it is, the unusual flavours upgrading and uplifting classically good cookery, rather than overshadowing the great produce So LA’s sibling restaurants are known for. We left stuffed, happy, pleasantly surprised and, astonishingly, just £45 lighter. That we’d have paid far more and left in similarly high spirits is testament to So LA’s appeal. Leave the green juice connotations at home and go eat. You won’t regret it.

So LA’s pre-theatre menu is served from noon until 6pm, Sunday to Friday, and from noon to 5pm on Saturdays, priced at £17 for two courses and £21 for three.

So La, 43 Mitchell Street, Glasgow, G1 3LA - solaglasgow.com