It's been three months since we broke the news that the Orange County Register was hiring award-winning food critic Brad A. Johnson, and about a month since he started doing restaurant reviews for the Reg. SO...how's he doing?
Not bad--not bad at all, actually. He's everything we'd say he'd be, for better and worse.
The writing is there, of course: long, florid sentences heavy on the detail, expertly stacked to construct wonderful scenes. So is the exacting expectations Johnson has always been legendary for, looking for any opportunity to ding--not necessarily because Johnson is a snob, but because he is old-school in that aspect of expecting high dining to be high dining.
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And that's really my biggest problem with Johnson at this point, a problem I knew he'd present from his initial column, where he declared "a food truck or hole in the wall with fluorescent lighting and plastic forks will never attain four stars." His choices for restaurant reviews so far have almost exclusively been high-end spots: some place at Disney's California Adventure, Stonehill Tavern, Brick Pizzeria, The Golden Truffle, and Mare Culinary Lounge. Johnson's version of my "This Hole-in-the-Wall Life," which he calls "Short Order" swings more to the hipster spots: Shuck, HopScotch, and Ramen Jinya--all great spots, but nowhere near reflective of the wonderful holes-in-the-wall that define OC dining life.
And then there's the pesky detail of modern-day food journalism: frankly, you need to blog, especially in a county where food news is breaking every week, if not almost daily. Does the Register really expect their breaking news food reporter to be Nancy Luna, a writer who can't break news unless it's fed to her by a PR hack and who laughably tries to throw her weight around the OC food scene as if she was someone? I understand the need for long, thoughtful reviews--that's why Edwin does his weekly review, and I still do my column, as short as it may be--but in this day of Instagram this and crazy Yelp kid that, writing more than twice a week is not only a necessity, it's mandatory.
But, hey: if the Reg wants to leave that to us, we have no problem...nevertheless, Johnson is doing a great job. Just give some love to actual holes-in-the-wall every once in a while, no? Hey, have you ever heard about a pink taco truck...