Funkhaus’ Renegade Ode to Jonathan Gold

July 26, 2018
- Extracurriculars
Author - Katherine Fox

LA is a city of clichés and contradictions; a place too often defined and divided by freeway exits, distinct neighborhoods, and insular industries, it’s both an anomaly and an archetype for endless narratives, a duality that makes capturing the essence of this city nearly impossible.

Unless, of course, you were Jonathan Gold.

To know Los Angeles is to know—and remember—Jonathan Gold. More than a restaurant critic, Gold’s magic was just as much his food-centric wordplay as it was his ability to capture all of the colorful, flavorful, and wonderful stories that are held within. He was fair with his criticism, unafraid to explore, and never ashamed to convey his undying adoration for this city. He loved this city. The city loved him back.

Not long ago, Funkhaus began a quest to interview Gold for our in-house publication, Scoundrel. When traditional methods weren’t possible (we sent two interview requests his way that sadly received no response), we stole it. It was a classic Funkhaus approach: if no solution presents itself, create it. We noticed that every Wednesday Gold would hold court on the LA Times website and conduct an AMA (Reddit’s ask me anything) where culinary fans galore would ask him questions.

The masterminds behind it all—Dylan and Amy—made accounts and were there with guns blazing, posing weekly queries for an entire year that resulted in nearly 100 questions and many hilarious, insightful, and thoughtful answers. With his passing we felt compelled to unveil more from their unauthorized interview. Grab a taco and read on—it’s what J Gold would do.

I’m sure so many people have asked you what your desert island foods would be or your death row meal. So alternatively, imagine you’re in a personal hell. What would the devil be serving you?

I like Calvin Trillin’s answer – the best Chinese restaurant in the world, except you’re dining at a table of what are commonly known as meat n’ potatoes guys, and you’re not allowed to order. “That sweet and sour pork is just too weird – let’s just have the plain chicken.”

If you could sit down to dinner with anyone right now, who would it be, where would you go and what would you order?

I would be sitting center court at a Wizards game with President Obama, and we would be eating whatever they happen to be serving at Verizon Center. Chili dogs? Maybe. But we’d be watching Wall, Beal and Gortat, and everything would be fine.

Is there a future for the spork in adult eating?

There seem to be start-ups betting that it will be – the spork is kind of the utensil equivalent of Soylent – but I’m betting it will never catch on. I don’t know about you, but I get extremely nervous putting anything like a sharpened spoon into my mouth. You never know what might pump you from behind.

Pineapples on pizza. Offensive, okay if you’re willing to be that person, or yes delicious?

Strictly speaking, any pizza topping that isn’t marinara or margherita is going against the original code. So once you’re putting sausage or pepperoni on it, you might as well go all the way to pineapple. One of my favorite pizzas ever was the prosciutto and melon pizza the late Ed La Dou used to serve at Caioti. So while I personally may not ever have pineapple on my pizza, I defend the right of others to do so. Legendarily, Hawaiian pizza was young Barack Obama’s call at Casa Bianca when he was an Oxy student 30-odd years ago.

In anticipation of the release for the critically-acclaimed, soon-to-be-Oscar®-nominated documentary CITY OF GOLD, how do you feel about the en-vogue trend of throwing real gold on common foods? I’ve seen burgers, donuts, and even aurous bacon! Are they all that glitters, or simply an expensive, gilded gimmick?

Gold on food is definitely a gimmick, whether it’s floating in Goldschläger, sprinkled on tuna at Go Sushi Mart, draped across kheer in an Indian restaurant or put onto a concoction of cod sperm and osetra caviar on a deconsecrated holy wafer I once had at Nobu in New York. Since gold is highly nonreactive, it tastes of nothing. But the next morning, there will be gilded poo, if that’s your bag.

I drunkenly stumbled to Taco Bell last night for the fast food abomination known colloquially as a Quesalupa, and I regret every delicious second of it. Can you recommend some non-traditional Mexican cuisine so I can cleanse my (literal and proverbial) palette? Follow up question: te quieres Taco Bell?

A Quesalupa! You, my friend, are living the dream. I still remember my first enchirito as if it were yesterday. And no amount of medication will help me forget. Anyway, I could suggest a Typhoon Shelter Crab at Seafood Palace in Temple City, because Typhoon Shelter Crab, but I suggest you head over to Trois Familia instead. See what Ludo does with the Taco Bell menu. Sleep soundly at last.

Do you have a favorite outfit or item of clothing to wear when dining out or reviewing?

I am very fond of the clerical vestments I picked up on the Via dei Cestari in Rome. They’re from a pretty obscure order – you wouldn’t have heard of it – but they put me at ease.

Please settle a hotly contested debate in our office. Pastrami: Langers or Wexlers?

I greatly admire the pastrami at Wexler’s, and it is getting better with each passing month. (A sandwich just last week was spectacular.) Yet I will still have to give the nod to Langer’s. But the quality of the navel cut they use and their extreme care with it are still unsurpassed in the US.

I rament to laksa question last week, but I totally phorgot. My phad (thai)! What’s your favorite Asian noodle dish in Los Angeles? Holler at batchoy!

I vacillate! But among them has to be the boat noodles at Sapp, the Chengdu-style zhachiangmian at the new Mian in Alhambra, the phat Thai at Pok Pok phat Thai, and the bun cha Hanoi at Brodard in Little Saigon. There are probably three dozen more…

Nom nom, sandwich time! What’s the most inspirational sammich I can smash down my gullet for lunch today?

Since it’s Wednesday, you’re well-placed for the lunch-only fried-chicken sandwich at Night + Market Song in Silver Lake, which is certainly one of the most inspirational chicken sandwiches in town right now. Other than that – banh mi dac biet at Buu Dien in Chinatown, The Sandwich at Roma Deli in Pasadena, a cemita with milanesa and extra cheese at Elvirita in Boyle Heights, an extra-hot torta ahogada at El Guero in East L.A. – so many…

This simply scratches the surface of our Gold correspondence. We suggest you explore LA the J Gold way until we unleash part two.