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LA Times Restaurant Guide... yawn

My eyes went straight to Eagle Rock as a test of what they decided to include in their "guide"... ONLY Casa Bianca and Mia Sushi? ONLY? And then to Pasadena, since I'm most familiar with it, and the list was full of chains and a number of boring places.

After a couple years of reading the food section I was starting to have my doubts about our city's newspaper as a place to read about chow... but this list is getting me convinced that they do little more than scratch the surface of what's going on in L.A.

Or maybe they're just biased against the East side.

Yes no care to comment?

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  1. When the restaurant reviews spend 70% of their copy on items other than what is on the space, or gush about a restaurant only to give it a single star, one should know that the Times is not serious about food.

    1. I haven't read it yet, but in prior years, with few exceptions, I have found them to be pretty useless. Even in the Weds and Thurs reviews, Virbilia tends to stick with Westside restaurants.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Bon Vivant

        the LA times is a complete loss!!! add them to the list of FOX news and such... it's all about the advertising dollar


      2. A full page on the tastless Kobe burgers of Ketchup -- the magazine lost me at that point.

        1. Westside centric, for as long as I've been reading them.

          1. Haven't seen the paper today, however, I believe the "guide" you are referring to was published in the "West" magazine today. You might want to note, as part of the recent reshuffling at the Times, I believe "West" will no longer be published weekly, they seem to have given up on it, (long after I did). So this may be the last L.A. Times annual resto guide we may see for a while. Don't these "restaurant" issues, no matter what the publication, always seem to be full of fluff and of dubious value?

            It will be interesting to see what other cut-backs may occur down the road at the times, I'd hate to see them lose someone like Russ Parsons, who gets kudos in the NYTimes this week for his most recent book on fruit.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ChinoWayne

              I don't know if you recall David Karp, AKA the Fruit Detective, but he in my mind was by far the most knowledgable expert on the subject of just about any fruit I could think of. I was lucky enough to converse with him often when he lived in Venice. A few years back, when the LA Times first started their cutbacks, he was targeted, told that he needed to crank out four times as many articles with a fractional increase in pay. He of course declined, and is now freelancing elsewhere. I believe he has regular articles in Gourmet magazine, NY Times, and of course his expertise is sought by many other publications and appears KCRW's "Good Food" on occasion as well.

              I would hate to lose Mr. Parsons as well. He seems to be one of the few people in this section who truly knows what he is talking about. But given the track record of the LA Times over the past few years, it's almost like the playing out of that short story, "The Lottery." Who's next? As far as the LA Times goes, does it matter?

              I don't know if Virbila is just Westside-centric. She seems to like Chinese in SGV as well, so my guess is she reviews either what she likes to eat, as well as what is convenient for her. But all in all, she pales in comparison to our Westside homeboy, Jonathan Gold. By his measure, the rest are just emerging from Basic Foodwriting 101.

              1. re: ChinoWayne

                I, too, fear for the future of the L.A. Times. Since I live down in OC, I don't pay too much attention to their restaurant reviews, but their Wednesday food section has always been great reading and very informative; I almost always come away from it learning something new and/or wanting to try a new recipe or technique (unlike the food section in the OC Register, which is pretty boring and predictable).

                I really hope they don't try to make the food section more "marketable" by playing to the lowest common denominator, the way West has done (remember the good ole days when the Sunday mag used to have long, thought-provoking investigative features instead of endless fashion layouts?)

                I don't know which would bum me out more, losing the food section in its current form or losing Steve Lopez (come on, we all know he'll either be offered a buyout or realize that he's working for a bunch of losers and bail out on his own). But I'm really disappointed in the direction the LAT has been taking as of late.

                1. re: Piglet

                  If the Times lost Steve Lopez, we would all be the losers in that deal.

              2. They should call it what it is ... an advertisement supplement.

                1. I've learned to just use Gold in LA Weekly, and even then it's just as entertainment and never as a primary resource (for that, I still use Chowhound).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: SauceSupreme

                    I really hate to say this, folks, but - get used to it. And get used to more. I work for a smaller paper in the L.A. area, and we don't know if we'll be here in a few months, or in what capacity. The L.A. Times is going through the same thing. Sadly, in the world of talkies (the Net/tv), we're the Silents, and destined for the same fate.

                  2. I was just thumbing through Virbila's "Fresh" picks... what an arbitrary theme for this uninspired and lazy list. She lists some very good restaurants, but what's up with the categories? Tea lights for Celedon? Placemats for Bin 8945? Last time I checked, tea lights didn't make or break a restaurant for me.

                    Everything else seemed far too repetitive and unnoteworthy. How many times do we have to hear about Kerry Simon's dessert platter? Um, he cooks other food as well. And how about we wait until Bastide's actually open before we start singing their praises for having great outdoor dining?

                    What a weak restaurant issue.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: FoodieMcFood

                      I am so glad you fellow Chow hounds said these things...I live in the South Bay(no food jokes, please!!) so I never expect any thing remotely resembling a write-up on anything in my 'hood.....but this was the weakest effort ever....I do believe that as the other fellow said, serious print journalisim is soon to be a thing of the past..

                        1. re: aurora50

                          Sorry...you certainly are...my apologies

                    2. I too am tired of the jaded, yet predictable reviews from the LA Times. There are so many restaurants in Los Angeles that have amazing food and have never even been mentioned by the Times. The "Food" section is supposed to be about.... what else Food. It's not supposed to cover the latest, trendiest restaurants that have junior agents flocking to make reservations.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: LaLa LaLa

                        I could not agree more. Virbila is not food critic, she is a social commentator at best. She knows how to gush, and has some sense about interior decoration, but she either does not care about serious restaurants, be they taco trucks, or classical French haute cuisine. But she can spot a "hot spot."

                      2. I live on the Westside, so I don't mind the Westside-centric focus of the Times' restaurant reviews (I guess it all depends on your perspective), but I found the whole restaurant issue to be a big, fat joke, as some of the most middling restaurants on the Westside were listed as noteworthy.

                        And as a former journalist, I thought the writing was bad and the tone puerile. It is really sad what is happening to the Times. Oh well, I guess we have TMZ (although it only shoots celebrities outside of restaurants and doesn't provide any actual information about restaurants). In a market economy, the people get what they deserve, and I guess we deserve TMZ, not a serious city newspaper.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: omotosando

                          It's not so much the Westside bent that gets to me... it's that the reviews more or less blur together. It's either some aesthetically pleasing, expensive-ish, Cal-French spot around the Westside (and have you all noticed how she never fails to mention the presence of svelte females giggling somewhere in the restaurant?) or a dim sum place in the San Gabriel Valley, at a 90:10 ratio. Her opinions are so predictable, I can almost guess what "unctuous" item she's going to swoon over, or apple cobbler that will not live up to some supposed hype.