Profile: Ma Dang Gook Soo, aka Ryan Berates His Intern
From the surface, this intern concept looked to be one big wash. I need performers. Focus. Commitment. Intern was running unchecked all over hill and dale with three-sentence Zagat reviews and buzzwords. One voice, three sentences, forty directions in ASCII. Undaunted, I’d scheduled a face-to-face summit in Koreatown and flaked at the last minute. Weeks went by. Seasons changed. Ultimately our schedules collided. A window opened. Dinner was planned. Over a bowl of watery kimchi I faced the intern with stern eyes.
I found myself in rare form, dictating to Mair the Intern while she took notes over noodles, rambling on to her about her commitment level and how we’d change the title of her column to “Mair’s Best”, and how we’d start with the best ketchup in Los Angeles, and how she’d have to visit somewhere between 50 and 150 restaurants over a span of years, noting Heinz vs. Hunts, mfgr’s squeeze bottle vs. mfgr’s glass bottle vs. diner squeeze bottle vs. individual packets self-serve vs. individual packets allotted by venue staff vs. spigot-and-tub with tiny paper cup, whose is watery, whose is thick, who has the best consistency, who refrigerates, who recycles and consolidates bottles (yech!), whose is tangiest, whose has a hint of smoky barbeque, who uses off-brands, who offers tapatillo, etc etc ad infinitum ad nauseum. I should never be allowed a real-life intern, ever. Take note. My version of the night’s meal follows.
Me: Mair, Pay Attention.
Mair pulls out notebook and pencil and begins to take notes.
Me: My Brit-voiced friend tells me of a Chinese sandwich purveyor in a Woodland Hills mall just off Oxnard, proffering all manner of ketchups– upwards of sixteen or so– some with pepper, some with jalapeno…point being, said purveyor may potentially be the ketchup mecca of west valley. Could it be true? These are the types of things you’ll be expected to answer in the months to come.
Me: Also. I need you to put me in touch with all of the crazies you know. Could be something there. Take for example the guy who puts on the light show at Canter’s, nightly, roughly 12:35. I want an interview. I’ve tried to talk to him. He’s not having it. Hey, cheers. You, sir. Cheers. Lightshow: Cheers. Hey, by the way what the holy good goddamnhell is up with the two flaming shots of Wild Turkey capped by 151 and the disco rave blue light in the club soda? What’s with the suits you wear? It’s one in the morning, did you just get off work? Etc.
Me: Ok, so Ma Dang Gook Soo this eve. What do we think? I’m going to call mine Ma Damn! What do we think here. You have traditional Gook Soo, basically a fancy chicken noodle, only you’ve got mussels in it. I’ve ordered a cold dish; cold-spicy-ramen. I think yours wins hands down.
Mair:It’s bland. But I like it. I don’t normally like Korean food but this, I like.
Me: I need you to hit Oki-Dog, Pico. We need to figure out what they have going vs. the original.
Mair: What’s Oki-Dog?
For the sake of brevity I basically explain to the intern that Oki-Dog is this.
Me: I’m getting on in years. I just don’t have the stomach I used to for those kinds of outings. Additionally, I need you to cross-check Carney’s Ventura vs. Carney’s on the Strip. Don’t worry, doesn’t have to be completed same day. Additionally. Didn’t you mention you like mac and cheese?
Me: Don’t answer that. I need you to do a best of mac and cheese, following the ketchup issue. Where’ve you tried?
Mair: The 101, twice. It’s great, but…my sister’s is the best in town!
Me: There could be something there. You try all these mac and cheeses, and as it turns out the absolute best mac and cheese in the city of Los Angeles is concocted by your very own flesh-and-blood sister.
Mair: She hasn’t made it in years.
Me: Maybe it’s no good now. Have you tried Kate Mantilini? Snooty place, don’t get me wrong. We ended up there by mistake following LACMA once. $10 mac and cheese, but there could be something there. It was either really good, or really mediocre, bordering on good. That, or it was neither. You determine. Make sure it makes the article. I’ve got photos of the 101 from a recent hangover brunch if they’ll help. Let’s use ’em. Done. You can almost see my puddle of drool on the table in one of them. No mac and cheese. We’ll have to fake.
Mair writes furiously, eyes glued to her notebook. She breaks the tip of a pencil.
Me: Is that #2 lead? What’s going on over there. How’d this happen. Do you want some more cold ramen?
In the end, she seems to know her food and her heart’s in the right place. This intern thing might just work, after all. We try Kim Bop, the bastard Korean equivalent of Sushi. We dissect one. [photo] Alongside fish cake, egg and pickled daikon, we surprisingly discover the main ingredient to be either hot dog or Spam®. To this day I’m still not sure, but leaning towards Spam®.
Me: This place is cheap as hell. $6 for this!? There’s enough spicy cold spaghetti for three people in this bowl. No wonder Gold likes it. And yours. Yours is good for winter. I tried that dish at Wang Simri back in August. It was about 98 degrees outside. I was literally sweating over a steaming bowl at three in the afternoon. Not recommended. Today though. Damn it, you got the good dish, didn’t you. Figures. Did I use my outloud voice?
We eat some more. Photos: one, two, three.
Me: Well, among other things I’m going to say that you talked about Dave Matthews practically nonstop during dinner. Let’s face it, you did.
Mair (blushing): Don’t you dare, dare.
Me (pointing to bowl of panchan): Are you going to eat that?
Mair: No, go ahead. What are you going to do for your birthday?
Me: I’m hiding it from everybody. Laying low. Last year, small holiday party. This year, probably go to Magic Johnson’s Fridays with the girl. La Tijera. We can’t wait, truth be told. I’ve been hyping it for days. Do you realize they have all manner of signature drinks?
Mair: I’ve actually been there.
Me: The real party will come in April. I’ll be 33 1/3. Steady rocking at 90bpm all month long. Hell, yeah. Aw, shit.
Mair: Do you want some more Gook Soo?
Me: Back to topic. You’re not going to tell Ron I was berating you, are you? That won’t do. If you want to succeed in this business, you’ll pay your dues like everybody else. I was an intern for this website for eight years. Eight. Years.
We finish up, drop tip and take our leave. Will the intern follow through? I feel like Koreatown Yoda. Scratch that. I feel like J Gold. What would J Gold say to me over noodles? Probably nothing. Too busy eating, that one.
Taking my leave, I notice the sign. Hot lips and chopsticks. Noodles going into the mouth. Nothing suggestive about the image whatsoever. No sir.
Ma Dang Gook Soo
Approved by Jonathan Gold
869 S. Western
Coming soon: Mair Responds