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Restaurant outs LA Times critic


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Right - though we've discussed the merits of critic anonymity here before, and I find myself swayed by the argument that the anonymity is a farce anyway (after all, this restauranteur knew what she looked like enough to recognize her in line).

ETA: Here is a topic where we had that discussion in the past. A few differing opinions in there, of course!

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Refusing to serve her, the antithesis of hospitality and totally bush league.

Yeah, that's the part of the story I'm having trouble with. Of course the restaurant is within its rights to refuse to serve someone, and maybe they have a legitimate beef with this reviewer, but to me this part of the story reeks a bit.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Quick poll everyone: does this make you more or less interested in eating at this restaurant?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Makes me familiar with the name. Six months from now if I see "Red Medicine", I probably will recognize it but no idea why and be likely to consider the place because I heard something about it.

Present day - outing the critic makes me more interested, refusing to seat her, no longer interested.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

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Quick poll everyone: does this make you more or less interested in eating at this restaurant?

Wouldn't want to eat there, myself. As long staff and management are giving things their best shot and staying polite, I can even deal with unexpected disasters (the fingernail in the ice cream, the soup in the lap, the waiter having a weeping meltdown for half an hour, etc.). Although it's comprehensible, chucking someone out because you hate their reviews is rude, not to mention unprofessional and pointlessly self-destructive.

I've never read her reviews, but I've certainly read others that crossed the line into pointless abuse, so I can understand his anger and frustration, but I'd say he shot himself in the foot over this one. Why sink to her level, if she's so awful?

If he'd come out from the back, politely said 'Oh, I recognize you, you're Irene Virbila, enjoy your meal, and by the way, smile, we're taking your picture to remember the occasion by' (and posted it online; I can understand doing that), I would have been seriously impressed, and would definitely want to check the place out.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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This strikes me as petty, and also inhospitable. This is a hospitality business; if the restaurant only serves friends and family, it's not a restaurant, is it? And if the restauranteur might berate you for something he thinks you wrote or said, how comfortable can you be?

I also think it's unfair to Virbila, whom I have found on several occasions to be more than gracious, who is a remarkable writer, and who has a job to do. LA is lucky to have a fine and extensive food desk; the paper is famously troubled, and LA should be enjoying this era of food writing while it lasts.

Finally, this puts the LA Times in a very awkward spot in reviewing the restaurant and, indeed, reviewing the management's future ventures. I very much doubt that her visage is really a mystery to those who really want to know; she's been on this beat for years, she's among the top food writers in the nation. She doesn't even use a pseudonym.

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I suspect that if she has been a food writer for fifteen years, there are probably more than a few restaurateurs and servers out there that know what she looks like. While taking her picture and posting it anywhere without her permission was inappropriate, refusing her service based on the suspicion that she MIGHT say something negative is just wrong. What's to stop this loon from refusing service to others because he didn't like their religious beliefs, political alliances, or sports team?

I've not read any of Virbila's reviews (as I don't live anywhere near LA), but IMHO, her point of view is important because of her anonymity (as much as it can be guarded). I know that I personally wouldn't want to read reviews of restaurants where the reviewer is obviously getting special treatment and/or free food.

I wouldn't step one foot inside Red Medicine.

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Quick poll everyone: does this make you more or less interested in eating at this restaurant?

Much less interested. The owner sounds like a schmuck. I picture it being the kind of place Gordon Ramsay has to go fix up (and curse out).

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They aren't getting a lot of support. The GM worked for Michael Mina in the past, and MM was quoted as saying "what was he thinking?". All this apparently because SIV didn't like some of the chef's deserts at XIV Mina's trendy Hollywood place. Relationships are really important in this business you should think before you start burning bridges.

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Quick poll everyone: does this make you more or less interested in eating at this restaurant?

I would not let the incident affect my decision to go or not go; but if something were to go wrong during the meal, I already know there would be no interest from management in fixing it. Customer satisfaction doesn't seem to be high on their list.

What I found interesting was the comment about people losing jobs because of past poor reviews by the critic. Perhaps someone the chef knows was one who lost a job and now has exacted payback?

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Virbila rated Mina XIV's desserts quite poorly. I don't know if it affected his job, but the pastry chef of Mina XIV at the time was Jordan Kahn, chef/partner of Red Medicine.

ETA--when I read the blurb on Red Medicine's website this morning, her phone number had already been removed. At this time (4:12pm, central time), the entry has been removed in its entirety. Unfortunately for Red Medicine, the entry (including the picture) has been reproduced many times over online, so they cannot claim it never happened.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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One thing I haven't heard -- do people in the LA food scene think Ms. Virbila's reviews are, in fact, "unnecessarily cruel and irrational?"

I haven't read any of her reviews.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Quick poll everyone: does this make you more or less interested in eating at this restaurant?

No change.

She wasn't "outed". She was known to those who needed to know her. The restaurant has the right to refuse service, and if the critic is responsible for the types of things they say, good on them for standing up to a bully. I haven't written any unnecessarily cruel reviews of anyone involved with RM, so I don't expect they'd kick me out. Unless they make a habit of tossing folks, I don't see how this incident should make much difference to anyone.

On the whole, this strikes me as just another power struggle between old and new media...in that regard, I really couldn't care less.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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I have read her reviews, religiously, for years. I save them. Unfortunately, I rarely get to the restaurants in question because she primarily covers LA, and I live in Orange County. However, within my limited experience, she has been spot on.

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Finally, this puts the LA Times in a very awkward spot in reviewing the restaurant and, indeed, reviewing the management's future ventures. I very much doubt that her visage is really a mystery to those who really want to know; she's been on this beat for years, she's among the top food writers in the nation. She doesn't even use a pseudonym.

A reviewer's obligation is to his readers - not the restaurants. If an honest review means torpedoing someone's life work, well, that's journalism.

In theory, a stunt like this could actually be a major boon to the restaurant: in a highly competitive environment like LA, all publicity not involving health code violations is good publicity. However, the restaurant - in my opinion, not unreasonably - may be unofficially blacklisted, and never receive any mention in the press.

Either way, in the long term, the restaurant is just plain screwed.

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I don't think this will make much difference at all.

I'd bet that the vast majority of folks won't even have heard about this, much less care. The ones that have, and do, likely will give the place a try so that they know what all the fuss is about and can comment; as in: "Well, we went last weekend and we think...blahblahblah."

But the bottom line, I feel pretty sure, is that if the restaurant is putting out great food, they'll succeed. And if they're not, they won't.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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