Yelp Wins the Gold: Jonathan Gold

In this town the mere mention of Jonathan Gold sends restaurant owners and maitre d’s into an all out tizzy. In this installment of the Weekly Yelp our very own, Aunny D sits down with LA’s favorite foodie and Pulitzer Prize winning restaurant critic, Jonathan Gold to get the dish on some of his favorites (food and yelpers).

Aunny D: When did you come across Yelp originally? How often do you use Yelp as a resource?

Jonathan Gold: Like everyone else, I think, I started looking at Yelp as the algorithms pushed the site higher and higher up the results pages, and I find a lot of it indispensable. I trust my taste and my experience, but it is undeniably useful to discover what, say, young Taiwanese guys in Hacienda Heights think about a noodle shop in Hacienda Heights designed to appeal to young Taiwanese guys.

AD: Being a native Angeleno, in your opinion, what places (restaurants,  bars, landmarks, etc.) in LA makes this city so unique?

JG: What Los Angeles has over every other place on earth is the serendipity enabled by extreme diversity, so that you really can feel as if you’ve slipped into a wormhole in the space-time continuum and wound up somewhere completely different than where you were 15 minutes ago, where half-timbered Tudor mansions sit next door to Mexican haciendas, Norman villas and Japanese-inspired bungalows.

There are too many to name, but I am very fond of the Alameda Swap Meet, Al & Bea’s at lunchtime, the community gardens off Stanford Street in Watts, the bar at Musso and Frank’s, the mind-blowing southern-Thai curries at Jitlada, the Clark Library down in West Adams, Koreatown in its entirety and the Hollywood Farmers Market.

AD: What would your last meal on earth be (This is a Yelper profile question)?

JG: Until a couple of months ago, I would have said the splendid antipasto buffet, a plate of wild-boar pasta and a Chianina steak cooked in the fireplace at the Hostaria di Costachiara, a country trattoria north of Arezzo that I have been going to every summer for years, of course surrounded by family and friends. Unfortunately for Italian gastronomy, the owner recently had his own last meal. So I’ll go with: whatever Nancy Silverton happens to be cooking that night.  Or maybe a beef roll at 101 Noodle Express.

AD: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what meal and/or restaurant in LA would you miss the most?

JG: During the few years that I was stranded on a desert island – Manhattan – I usually found myself alighting at Golden Deli (Vietnamese spring rolls) and Langer’s (pastrami) within the first 12 hours. And even on the grayest day of an East Coast winter, it was sometimes enough to lean back, close my eyes, and imagine that I was at Ciro’s, my single favorite place in East Los Angeles: an iron-barred, low-ceilinged room; a plate of warm flautas, and the tiny dish of fresh, juicy avocado salsa that the house brings out for free.

AD: We all have our limits, so is there anything you wouldn’t eat?

JG: I find terror in a plate of scrambled eggs.

AD: Dining out as much as you do, do you ever have time to cook at home? If so, where is your favorite place to grocery shop?

JG: I cook at home every night, practically, even on nights when I go out – I have two kids to feed. I shop everywhere, but the bulk of our food comes from the farmers markets in Pasadena and Hollywood, Alexander’s Prime Meats, Fish King and 99 Ranch. And the imported cured meats, pastas, porcini, oils and cheeses at Guidi Marcello are as good as it gets.

AD: Every foodie has a guilty pleasure, so tell me, do you have a favorite fast food restaurant? (Sorry I had to) 😉

JG: The Rosemead branch of Lee’s Sandwiches, the mammoth Vietnamese banh mi operation, has a drive-thru window now.  That’s living: house-made Vietnamese charcuterie on a freshly baked baguette without getting out of your car.

AD: Do you have a favorite Yelper or a Yelp review that has really impressed/stood out to you?

JG: I have to pick just one? Valentina D stands out as a fine writer. I really like the energy Ericka L brings to her reviews. And I think Tony C hates me, but I like the vengeance with which he attacks the restaurant search.