Remembering Jonathan Gold: RIP 7/21/18
This was first published on July 22, 2018 on @hereslookingatyoula, by HLAY co-owner Lien Ta, after learning that the great LA food critic had died at age 57 the night before. This restaurant is alive because of J-Gold. He wasn't fond of runny egg yolks, so he never ate our signature beef tartare and yet he still called us "a winner." #HLAYforever because J-Gold FOREVER.
Just the other day, someone asked me: Does it really make a difference to be reviewed by Jonathan Gold?
For a little place like ours, run by two nobodies with a running tab of significant debt -- yes, it certainly does. It DID. He's the reason why we made it past the four-month mark.
Two years ago, we opened on a Wednesday night in mid-July. And we struggled to fill our seats for months. A host no-showed, no-called the first week. We couldn't find cooks that wanted to cook at Here's Looking Whatever. So, @jonathanwhitener worked grill nightly, and our friend @pauldozois ran the pass. A baby army of us worked six-night stretches for a long while ... until this one Monday evening -- our Friday!! We could taste the beer! The feels!!!! -- J. Gold and his wife Laurie walked into HLAY. It was 10 o' clock.
I was standing at the pass, waiting to take some food to its new owner, and my back was towards the front door, and Paul calmly said, "Uh, Lien, J-Gold is at the front door." My head swiveled, identity confirmed, and then Chef, at the rear of the kitchen standing and sweating beside his beloved Green Egg (RIP), bellowed, "J-Gold is at the fucking front door!"
Laurie had made a 10PM reservation just a little earlier, and their table wasn't ready. So, I cocktail-waitressed my ass over to the lobby and took their drinks order. Just days left of our opening cocktail menu, titled "Origin Story," each drink telling the story of how HLAY came to be -- Laurie, who is SO LOVELY, ordered the martini: the Strawberry Solstice. Mr. Gold asked for the Executive Decision. I explained that it came two ways: with tequila or pineapple rum, and he said, "Ah, thus, the executive decision. I'll take rum."
We sat them at 21, under Mary-Kate and Ashley, the oryx heads. JW was pretty convinced we botched the dinner. The peach dessert was definitely eff'd up. After the last dish of the night had been ordered in, Chef and his two cooks of the night, sat outside for a cigarette break and some wound-licking, in the dark. Their silence was broken by a couple of guests who had come around the back to retrieve their cars from valet, and the cooks overhead their feedback: "The food was ..... good. But it wasn't anything special."
J-Gold would return again with his friend Peter Meehan, founding editor of "Lucky Peach," and sit at the bar for @karlabeyonce's famous pie + more cocktails (to now enjoy our Fall '16 menu, "Intersections.") The review shout-out that Mr. Gold gave to @1harrychin's Shipwreck Swizzle, inspired by an old diner called Ship's, where Harry used to eat as a kid -- inspired the old owner of Ship's to call HLAY and leave an emotional message, wondering how his old family restaurant had somehow inspired a cocktail so good to inspire a shout-out by the infamous Jonathan Gold on national public radio.
During his third visit, he was being interviewed by a young blond lad. Guests straight up interrupted his dinner to request selfies with J-Gold. Kind of mortified, but ... I didn't do anything about it. These guests were SO happy about their celeb-spotting. This night, J-Gold Instagrammed his blue martini, the Weston, and his caption was: "My drink is blue."
On his fourth visit, he sat under Morrissey and ate the damn rib eye on "someone else's dime." I dropped that rib eye off knowing that the review was coming.
It arrived the Friday after Thanksgiving. Chef and I tried to decipher it, aka, we searched for the negative feedback. Mostly I cried. And ran to buy all the newspapers. Chef was with his entire family and they blew up their computer screen onto a giant blank wall and scrolled the length of the review. Applause erupted while we spoke on the phone, and I was SO proud of him.
J-Gold brought us Westside diners. J-Gold brought us resumes. He brought us people that tried to order bar pie at their tables. He brought rumors that he was the new owner of HLAY, per People Magazine. He brought us diners that are eating their way through his 101 List, and one time, these guests were like, we just have Vespertine left to go. Like Destiny's Child, he's helping us pay our bills. J-Gold brought us tears. Everything. Thank you. We will miss him so very much. LA and HLAY will love you forever.