I'VE NEVER QUITE understood why Portlanders are so quick to 'fess up to hating Los Angles. It seems a bit like admitting you lack curiosity, or fear cultures that aren't your own, or don't like tacos? "I resent things I don't understand. But traffic, right?"
Jonathan Gold is LA's best-known food critic; beloved for taking the city's ethnic cuisines seriously, he was the first food writer to win a Pulitzer, in 2007. It's difficult to overstate his influence, both on food criticism as a practice and foodie culture as we now know it, with its fervent pursuit of "authenticity."
City of Gold is a love letter to Gold—and because Gold is inseparable from his home city, it is also a love letter to Los Angeles. We hop into the cab of his truck and criss-cross the city in search of taco trucks, Ethiopian joints, Burmese food, and the spiciest Thai food in town. We spend some time sitting in traffic, en route to unassuming storefronts tucked into strip malls—restaurants that people who think they hate LA don't even know to look for. And we get a warm, curated peek into some of the food communities Gold has impacted. (All of the restaurateurs profiled here have received glowing reviews from Gold, and all speak near-reverently about both Gold's insights into their food and of the career-changing power of a positive review.)
City of Gold is worshipful and a bit overlong—we probably didn't need to know about Gold's failed music career, or how he's helping to promote racial harmony via his food criticism. What we did need, and what we get plenty of, is Gold knowledgeably exploring Los Angeles, eating at his favorite restaurants, thinking out loud about his work and what it means.