Heavyweight critic Jonathan Gold backs up his hometown this week in Saveur’s new issue (dedicated completely to L.A.’s dining scene) by proclaiming Los Angeles “the best place in the world to eat right now.” Perfect timing for a Pulitzer Prize winner to set the record straight that, despite all the hype our food trucks and red carpet-ready restaurants whip up, it’s really the “huge patchwork of immigrant communities” combined with visionary fine-dining chefs that form his favorite “anti-melting pot” full of widespread, regional flavors and constant cooking innovation. “Food is political here in a way that rock and roll hasn’t been for years,” he offers on the push and pull of cultures, food movements, and lifestyle tempos.
Gold-watchers likely know what follows as the writer waxes poetic on Vietnamese pho shops in Koreatown, Japanese ramen stands in Chinese ‘hoods, and the various divine nibbles you can buy for pennies alongside bootleg CDs in parking lots. Recognizing regional home recipes as the central heartbeat in L.A.’s sprawling storm of languages, Gold looks beyond the plate to rejoice,” I can sit down in restaurants, eat well, and absorb as much of the city’s diverse cultures as I care to take away.” So true.
Though the city rewards “the peripatetic spirit,” it doesn’t mean Gold is blind to the sheen that streets like Sunset Blvd. carry for a few of its Western blocks, what he calls “the other Los Angeles” where “everyone you meet has a role in a basic-cable series and Ashton Kutcher is the most successful restaurateur in town.” Snickers aside, Gold doesn’t knock Hollywood, claiming “never has there been a more supportive crowd of diners” for inspired chefs in flashy locations. Plus, it’s kind of cool to watch stars stuff their faces like the rest of us.
To sum up the power combined in L.A.’s so-called “high and low” places, plus probably drive a bunch of culinary craniums crazy, Mr. Gold is proud to offer, “It’s not surprising to me that almost every current that has informed American dining in the past 30 years…began in LA kitchens.” Ha, other cities! We so agree. Isn’t it nice having a big man in our corner?
The Hungry Metropolis [Saveur]