The time has come for Jonathan Gold to deliver his annual list of 101 best Los Angeles restaurants from on high. The stacked collection of eateries certainly showcases the depth and breadth of LA’s culinary scene, but it also comes with its fair share of annual controversy. This year offers at least one startling omission (Evan Funke’s Felix, anyone? What about Kali?), and a handful of other head-scratchers along the way. First, up what didn’t make the cut — and absolutely should have.
The lack of an Evan Funke presence on Jonathan Gold’s list is baffling, particularly with all the massive national acclaim the Abbot Kinney eatery has been getting otherwise. Perhaps the Goldster couldn’t find time to get in for a few proper meals, but still, not having one of the city’s undeniable Italian-cooking talents on a list that leans so heavily towards noodles just feels wrong.
Hatchet Hall is almost universally beloved. Chefs and restaurant types dig the menu, the wine, and the hangs with other industry vets, and locals can’t get enough of the ambiance and the big, bold flavors. Perhaps Gold last went on a very off night? Hard to imagine one at Hatchet Hall, period.
It’s hard to see Kato not make this list, given the upstart West LA restaurant’s tasting menu format, hip appeal, and price point. But then again Gold has always seemed to have a head-scratcher of a time at Jon Yao’s place, even as the restaurant racks up accolades elsewhere.
Jon & Vinny’s
The Shook and Dotolo duo is all over the list in other spots (Animal, the Trois restaurants), but the omission of the group’s most popular restaurant does feel curious. Perhaps this one can be chalked up to a lot of heavy Italian inclusion, and the guys’ faces already prominently displayed elsewhere on the 101 charts.
Szechuan Impression is arguably the best Sichuan restaurant in greater Los Angeles at the moment, even besting out the endlessly popular Chengdu Taste in last year’s Eater national 38 list by roving national dining critic Bill Addison. Gold obviously disagrees, as the power-packed SGV spot is nowhere to be found.
Luv2Eat Thai Bistro
Luv2Eat carries the burden of a goofy name and unassuming Hollywood strip mall digs, but that shouldn’t have stopped Gold from traipsing past more than a few times. If anything the place would seem right up his alley as a contender for the top Thai spot alongside places like Jitlada and Night + Market, but alas it’s a strikeout for the popular destination off Sunset.
Love & Salt
Chefs Michael Fiorelli and Rebecca Merhej don’t always seem to get the attention they deserve for helping to prop up the Manhattan Beach dining scene. Perhaps this is another example of too much of a good thing (in this case Italian food), but it’s hard not to notice when the quality of what the Love & Salt team is doing is so high. Bonus South Bay ask: No love for The Arthur J?
Perhaps the most polarizing restaurant on the not-included list is chef Phillip Frankland Lee’s Scratch Bar. The Encino strip mall tasting menu joint was doing the cooks-as-server model long before lots of other local restaurants, and the Lee’s have managed to turn their little humble corner of the Valley into a compound of restaurant concepts — with more to come up the coast. Apparently much of that growth (and those weekend crowds) has been lost on J. Gold.
Hinoki + The Bird
What has happened to Hinoki + The Bird? Once a standard-bearer not just for Century City but all of Los Angeles, the restaurant seems to have fallen into the cracks lately. It’s completely off Gold’s 101 list despite being constantly busy and still carrying some of the most fun, flavorful dishes around. The okonomiyaki burger alone is worth some level of consideration.
Perhaps Jonathan Gold has not been able to dine at Dialogue yet, but he certainly made time to get in to Vespertine a handful of times right after opening. That’s a shame for chef Dave Beran, who will only have more competition in the high-end dining space this time next year. All the early non-Gold discussions of the place speak very highly of the food, too.