Hungry? Jonathan Gold Has 99 Restaurants for You

Just in time for the weekend, LA Weekly foodie Jonathan Gold released his list of “99 Essential Restaurants” for 2011.

The question on Gold’s mind this go-round was “what is an essential Los Angeles restaurant?”:

I was thinking about that over lunch at Providence a couple of months ago, contemplating a dish of Santa Barbara sea urchin cosseted with gently scrambled egg, wondering whether the uni might go better with an Alsatian pinot blanc or a Central Coast viognier.

As the L.A.-based sportswear industry tends to have more global sway than the louder kings of high fashion, and even the artiest of European directors looks over his shoulders at Hollywood, Los Angeles cooking has traditionally exalted the idea of food as popular entertainment, the big fast-food chains, as well as the aestheticization of sushi, pizza and tamales. But a meal like the one before me at Providence is a different thing altogether, the result of precision, real technique and a well-trained kitchen team. Somebody had to raise the uni, someone needed to recognize it as special, somebody had to prepare it, and a fourth person needed to know how to cook it.

I like trucks, taco tables and pop-ups as much as the next guy, but I was really hoping to find evidence pointing to a resurgence in fine dining, powered by exposure to complex cooking on food television, and the vast numbers of people coming out of training programs like Cordon Bleu or the CIA. Alas, I did not.

I have no problem admitting that of the 99 restaurants on this year’s list, I have dined at just one — Border Grill.

And by dined, I snacked on chips and salsa.

I’m a picky eater with a restrictive diet, what can I say?