I have been wandering L.A. with, among other things, the J. Gold book and the printouts of the L.A. Times Authentic Eats listings in my glove compartment. And everything I can remember from the board floating around in my head.
Have had some thoughts about the food critics, was wondering if others agreed or disagreed.
Linda Barum - the person who does a lot of the LA Times ethnic stuff - and J. Gold are the two major presences for me in the LA food critic world. Though I am not familiar with all the food critics. I think, during a meal at Otafuku (recc'd by Barum) that I have come to understand the food personalities of the two.
There is a remark in Chris Schlesinger's Big Foods of the Hot Sun, something along the lines of - there are two major thinkings about food in the world. The French/Chinese axis, which attempts to build, through much effort, a single gorgeous flavor or two-note harmony ("architectural") vs. the Caribbean/Indian/Polynesian axis, which likes to put several bright flavors, competing, at once. Joy in the noise.
I think that's sort of the line between the two of them.
Where Gold has pushed me that I love most are the Latin restaurants, the Armenian restaurants, Indian places (Jay Bharat he got me to, which has changed my life), Mexican places. Many of my favorite taco places come from him (though no human being could eat at even half the taco joints in this beautiful godforsaken place.) Issan Thai places. He has the peculiarly wonderful quality of being able to explain how to like something. He is how I learned to like Thai salads.
But he doesn't, I don't think, quite get sushi, or other Japanese places. Or some Vietnamese, either. His recc's for pho have been, to my taste, off. Most importantly, his recc's for sushi and Japanese noodles. His sushi reviews have a bit of a note of petulance. He always says something about not quite getting a lot of sushi and preferring the stronger, oilier fishes. He remarks about udon that he doesn't like it - it's bland - and recc's an OK place.
Linda Barum, on the other hand, is strong exactly where J. Gold is weak. She really appreciates the quiet, one-note glories. A good herb platter at a Vietnamese joint. A nice bit of dill. The noodles at Otafuku - which are incredibly, by the way, but hard to get a handle on. First two or three bites I couldn't taste anything. By the end, careful attention - a beautiful, glowing, slippery buckwheat flavor. Left the place feeling calm and careful and attentive.
Yeah, I forgot where I was going with this.