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Nov 11, 2010 03:26 PM

Restaurants unfairly snubbed by Jonathan Gold

Urasawa. How does this not make the list? About the only criticism I've ever heard of Urasawa is that the sushi isn't quite as good as the sushi at Mori Sushi.

Mori Sushi. Perhaps the board consensus best sushi restaurant doesn't make the list?

Water Grill. I don't understand how Chaya Downtown makes the list but Water Grill doesn't. Water Grill is in a different class.

Al Noor and/or Al Watan. These are the best North Indian/Pakistani restaurants around.

Water Grill
544 South Grand, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Urasawa Restaurant
218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Al Watan
13619 Inglewood Ave, Hawthorne, CA 90250

Al Noor
15112 Inglewood Ave, Lawndale, CA 90260

Mori Sushi
11500 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

Chaya Downtown
525 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071

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  1. I don;t know Jonathan to ask him, but...

    Los Angeles is a huge area, with a lot of restaurants. And he has visited a lot of 'em. But if he hasn't got to your favorites -- and are you positive he hasn't? -- give him time. Better still, drop him a note,

    1. Although they did not make his list this year, he does hold Urasawa, Watergrill and Al Noor/Watan in high regard and has written about them in the past...


      Urasawa Restaurant
      218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

      1. I'm not really sure of this, but I have long suspected that Mr. Gold does not "snub" anyone so much as simply list the restaurants HE likes the most, the ones that have most consistently pleased him. Critics don't usually poll the audience to learn how they liked the play, concert or movie, but consult their own taste and judgment, and I would expect a restaurant critic to behave similarly. And perhaps he has been to some of the raved-about places and found them not totally raveworthy, and prefers not to say so. His prerogative.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Will Owen

          He definitely prefers to talk about places he likes over dislikes.

        2. Pay attention to the title of his list.

          It is the 99 Essential Restaurants of Los Angeles, not the 99 Best or 99 Most Important, or 99 whatever else you might consider to be noteworthy.

          So, there's a lot of wriggle room in the term "essential". It's basically Gold's way of listing 99 restaurants he thinks should be put on his list of 99 essential restaurants in LA.

          11 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            But there's nothing really "essential" about most of the restaurants on his list. However you may feel about Giang Nan (and I certainly don't *dislike* the place), to call it "essential," in any literal sense of the word, is ludicrous. Moreover, if there are any restaurants truly "essential" to the LA dining scene, Urasawa is surely among them.

            Urasawa Restaurant
            218 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

            Giang Nan
            306 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA

            1. re: sushigirlie

              How is Urasawa essential to LA in a way that Giang Nan isn't?

              No doubt Urasawa is a jewel of Japanese Kaiseki dining, and an overall outstanding fine dining experience, but how does that make it essential? It's simply really great Japanese food, but it's influence is rather limited. Urasawa-san certainly did not impact Japanese sushi in the way that Nozawa or Sasabune arguably have, nor has it spawned copycat or similar upscale Kaiseki restaurants.

              Conversely, one could argue that Giang Nan is in fact essential to the LA dining scene because it is one of the forefathers of Shanghainese (and Jiangsu) cuisine in Los Angeles, predating more famous places like Din Tai Fung, etc.

              Point being there are different ways to define and characterize what's essential.

              I have no idea what Gold means by "essential" but dollars to donuts my guess is that neither do you.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Well I guess that's the point then. He should explain what he means!

                1. re: sushigirlie

                  There is no virtue in being readily comprehensible at the loss of all basic insight.

                  1. re: sushigirlie

                    Well I guess that's the point then. He should explain what he means!

                    Um, why?

                    Don't you know what "essential" means? If not, then just look it up.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I know it doesn't mean what you suggest it means, i.e., historically important.

                      1. re: sushigirlie

                        Who said that was what I suggested Gold meant by "essential"?

                        Never assume the exemplar to be the standard.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Considering that I understand myself to be in agreement with you about what Mr. Gold means by "essential", I am more distressed by Pann's not making the list than by the omission of Water Grill. The latter is a fancy seafood restaurant of the sort that can be found wherever there are enough moneyed fish lovers. Pann's is a diner, of the particular variety that was invented here, that is endemic to post-WW2 L.A., and is probably the best and purest example of that culturally significant breed. Pann's is as essential to postwar L.A. as salvation by grace is to the Baptist church.
                          It fails only in that it is no longer a round-the-clock operation, but the only such diner I know of that is (Harry's in Burbank), while in many ways quite good, lacks the rigor in the kitchen that Pann's people still exhibit.

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            I think Pann's does fit in in the timeline of LA food as does Musso and Frank - maybe even better for the common man. While Musso and Frank had a reputation for serving some of Hollywood's most elite, places like Pann's was accessible to a broad spectrum of folks on just about any given day. Like suburbs, housing tracts and the Cold War, Googie architecture and the rise of diners were signs of life evolving after WWII. And for Pann's to still be on their game (who can produce a better patty melt on any given day?), they definitely deserve a place on this list.

                            Pann's Restaurant & Coffee Shop
                            6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045

                            1. re: bulavinaka

                              "On their game." Couldn't say it any better. I don't care what your cuisine is or what you charge for it, I just want you to pay attention to it while you're cooking it. I'd rather have a carefully, thoughtfully prepared hot dog than a porterhouse the cook just phoned in, wouldn't you? This is what I expect and almost always get at Pann's: okay food carefully made. The ordinary, polished meticulously to a high luster. It's quite frankly the kind of cooking I do, at my best, and it's just about my favorite kind (why the hell do you think I do it?).

                2. re: sushigirlie

                  Personally, I think the problem with considering Urasawa to be essential is that it is limited. In terms of Kaiseki, Urasawa is just one example of Kaiseki, with a heavy emphasis on sushi and sashimi. Sure, if this was Kyoto or other parts of Japan to a lesser extent, Kaiseki would be essential to the equivalent list - multiple iterations of it. But Kaiseki itself isn't really essentially LA when it comes to the food culture - a very small part of it. Very few people actually experience it here - it's just a matter of supply and demand. The supply is small by shear numbers, the demand is small because of a shear lack of interest or knowledge, and of course, price is very limiting also. I will grant you that it is exemplary in showcasing the more exquisite points of Japanese cuisine - how far the Japanese have taken their cuisine in terms of sourcing, seasonality, preparation, plating and presentation. But This is J. Gold's list of places in LA - I interpret this as what is prescience in his mind of what is really the pulse of the LA food culture. Urasawa is a gem, but more like being able to capture the essence of a Mikimoto pearl without having to pay the plane fare from LAX to Kyoto and back.

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