Wednesday, February 15, 2017


It was Nelson Algren who, in A Walk on the Wild Side, wrote. "Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own."

I am in the clear with the first of these rules, although if you’d ever played cards with my Uncle Frank, you might well have thought he could and should have been called Doc.  The third rule is a subject for another time, but until last month I could safely say that I’d never eaten at a place called Mom’s.

And then I went to Pahrump, Nevada where Mom’s is regarded by many as the best place in town to have breakfast.  It took a little finding but a local pointed me in the right direction, “It’s up the hill by the jail” and so it was.

The breakfast was good, the place was friendly, and those potatoes you see below were a knockout. 

However it was the men’s bathroom that I’m really going to remember. It looked like this: all custom cars, and a fake (perhaps homage to) Von Dutch. 

I know there’s a widely held opinion that if you don’t like the look of a restaurant’s bathroom, you’d definitely better not see the kitchen.  Sounds reasonable.  But I really liked the bathroom at Mom's, and if there’s as much attention to detail in the kitchen as in the bathroom then I think Mom’s is onto a winner.

Anyway, this Mom’s business has been on my mind recently, partly because I’ve been listening to music by Carl Stone, not least an album of his titled Mom’s, released in 1992.

Carl Stone, should you need bringing up to speed, is an American, avant-garde, electronic composer who uses sampling, looping, musical fragments that go in and out of phase, repetition, and endurance.  The overall effect is amazingly, sometimes mystically, uplifting and transporting.  I gather he divides his time between California and Japan, where he’s on the faculty of the Department of Media Engineering at Chukyo University.

But here’s the psychogourmet part: a lot of his compositions are named after restaurants, many of them from Los Angeles.  The compositions on the album Mom’s are titled Banteay Srey, Gadberry’s, Shing Kee, Chao Nue, and of course Mom’s.

I’ve been trying to research these restaurants, and my research is admittedly patchy, but I’ve not been able to find a Los Angeles restaurant named Shing Kee – though there’s certainly one in San Francisco.  (In fact I discover from Mr Stone himself that the Shing Kee in question was in New York's Chinatown, but the restaurant is gone). And there are a lot of places around the world named Banteay Srey (it being a 10th century Cambodian temple) but again I haven’t been able to track one down in the City of Angels.  Internet know-it-alls may be able to help me out here.

On the other hand I do know that Gadberry’s was a barbecue joint in downtown LA, on Broadway, though it’s long gone.  And Chao Nue was a northern Thai restaurant on West 9th Street, though I can’t find a review later than 1990.

However Mom’s Bar.B.Q is still there on the Imperial Highway in Westminster.  Hurrah! It doesn’t look exactly the same as in the album cover image (which is hardly surprising given the passage of time), but it sure looks like the same place.

I claim no acquaintance with Carl Stone beyond Facebook, but I do find his postings there more interesting most, since they consist largely of photographs of his meals, many of them eaten in Japan.  This kind of thing:

And I also just found on Facebook (and it didn’t take much finding – Stone himself put it there), this quotation from Jonathan Gold:  "Spicy Asian cooking is to Carl Stone what the Immortal Beloved was to Beethoven, what opium was to Berlioz - an eternal source of inspiration."

Carl Stone’s latest album (and I’m not trying to come off like a big shot but I yes, I have it on vinyl, signed by the man himself in both English and Japanese) is Electronic Music from the Seventies and Eighties.  Thanks to liner notes by Jonathan Gold I now know that at least two of the titles refer to Los Angeles restaurants – Gold also makes a comparison between sampling sounds and sampling food (sounds coherent to me).  

The two restaurants are Dong Il Jang – Korean, and Shibucho – a sushi place, both still very much in business.  Below is chef Shigeru Kudo of Shibucho with Ron Wood.  Music and food make for some strange bedfellows, but I suppose we always knew that.

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