[RESTAURANT REVIEW] Analyzing Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants
How does Jonathan Gold come up with his 101 Best Restaurants list? He likely keeps the methodology a close secret, but every year the Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times restaurant critic throws a bunch of new entries onto the list, and every year a few old quirky favorites remain.
The refreshing thing about the much-discussed list is its lack of pretension—despite high-flying entries like Providence, Spago and Trois Mec. Downtown’s Guerilla Tacos is still a truck, though an actual restaurant is in the works, and a meal at Attari Sandwich Shop in Westwood or Roy Choi’s Locol will only set you back a few bucks.
Here are a few of Gold’s new and old picks near the Larchmont area.
Many of us, including Gold, have been eating at Marouch in East Hollywood for 20 years or more. The prices inch up gradually, but it’s still one of the better full-service Middle Eastern options in the Hollywood area.
Is it better than Carousel? The meat dishes may be better at Marouch, while some of the salads and sides seem brighter-tasting at Carousel. You can’t go wrong with either one.
Gold and this reviewer have both been huge Jitlada supporters ever since Jazz Singsanong, and her brother, Tui Sungkamee, took over.
With a huge menu of fiery Southern Thai dishes, it’s still one of the best places to impress a guest with the vast range of Thai cooking.
It’s hard to quarrel with the inclusion of Sqirl, even if the deceptively simple Virgil Avenue cafe sometimes seems too hip to bear. But Jessica Koslow’s dedication to flavor and technique put the simple breakfast and lunch spot up there with the big guns.
Sapp Coffee Shop and its signature dish of boat noodles is beloved by other famous foodies too, including Anthony Bourdain. It’s a little grungy, still cash-only, and at this point seems to be hanging on the list out of sheer nostalgia
Gold is way more well-versed in the nuances of Korean specialties than most other non-Koreans, so he has suggestions for the popular barbecue places like Park’s and Gwang Yang but also for bossa—Kobawoo House—and raw crab.
His pick for raw crab marinated in soy sauce can be found at Soban, a pleasant spot on Olympic Boulevard with one of the best selections of banchan, the small dishes that arrive before the meal.
Don’t miss the autumnal spicy stewed short ribs—they’re not really very spicy, but they are infused with an anise-scented array of spices in an addictive sauce that also hides chunks of squash, dates and chestnuts.
The newest entry in the area is Le Comptoir, where chef Gary Menes does an elegant vegetable-focused tasting menu at a tiny 8-seat counter in the Normandie Hotel.
Larchmont was passed over, and recent addition Kali Dining didn’t make the cut. But at least, some of the city’s finest restaurants are within a few miles of Larchmont Avenue.
Providence, Republique, Angelini Osteria and the Mozzaplex, as Gold calls Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca and Mozza2Go, are mainstays in Gold’s book.
While some restaurants get combined—including all of Grand Central Market in one entry—Ludo Lefebvre’s haute tasting laboratory Trois Mec and tiny bistro Le Petit Trois get separate entries, even though they’re adjacent to each other in a mini-mall that still sports its old plastic “Pizza” sign.
Newer entries include two meat-centric restaurants: the new Highland Avenue location of Salt’s Cure and Odys & Penelope, the grill-focused spot from Karen and Quinn Hatfield. Also on the meaty side of the spectrum is Bludso’s BBQ on La Brea Avenue, an even more casual temple to all things smoked.
101 Best Restaurants 2016 is a highly personal list that adroitly combines the city’s finest tables, old favorites of every ethnicity and bold new experiments.
It wouldn’t be your list or my list—spare a thought for Luv 2 Eat Thai— but giving the eater something to debate while noshing is part of the fun.