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Mar 26, 2001 01:21 PM

LA Times food critic

  • s

What's the deal with S. Irene Virbila? Isn't she suppose to be the restaurant critic for Los Angeles? Why did she have a review of the Commander's Palace in Las Vegas in yesterday's LA Times magazine section? In her First Impressions column she has sometimes had reviews of New York and Paris restaurants. Could someone explain?

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  1. I was wondering about that myself, sweet. WTF?

    1. the problem with living in la is that there are not enough new or noteworthy restaurants to review. i dine out a lot, but am stuck going to the same old restaurants for the past 10 years for the most part. there are not a lot of new restaurants that stick around.

      unfortunately, a high end restaurant critic in la should be a part time job.

      9 Replies
      1. re: john guerin

        I can't say I agree with your assessment. There are scores of "high end"-ish restaurants in this city that I've never seen reviewed-not by the LA times' current reviewer or anyone else for that matter. Most new restaurants only become "noteworthy" after someone bothers to take some notes. Besides, who said that only high end restaurants are worth reviewing? In a city as diverse as LA, one would think the times could stretch beyond reviewing strictly French or Italian places, with the occasional hyper expensive Japanese or "fusion" place thrown in to show how multicultural they are. J. Gold has proven that this town is full of amazing places for sophisticated palates to satiate themselves-without paying $100 bucks a head for a tasting menu (which often fail to excite, might I add). Besides, how much journalistic courage does it take to give rave reviews to Commanders Palace anyway?

        Well, this is just one hound's opinion.

        1. re: JustinRush

          i would love to know what restaurants you are talking about. i keep relatively current with the restaurant scene and can't think of any.

          re jonathan gold, yes there are a lot of tasty places he reviews that are quite inexpensive/moderate, but they don't provide a lot of ambiance/wine list/service. they might have great food, but little else (ie. soot bull jeep/la seranta/phillips bbq).


          1. re: john guerin

            Knew you'd nail me on that "scores of restaurants" comment, and I'm glad you did because I was asking for it, bro! I only mean that I often read of "high endish" sounding places on this board that I've never seen reviewed elsewhere. Your point is well taken, though, it seems as it it is quite lonely for restaurants at the top in this city.

            thanks for your clarification. I of course meant no detriment to your houndish credentials!

            peace and grub.

            1. re: JustinRush

              Aww, Kevin, don't give up so easily. Los Angeles is, I firmly believe, still the best single food city in America, lacking only perhaps a quorum of ultraluxury French restaurants for completeness--and l'Orangerie is certainly on a par with La Caravelle if not necessarily with Daniel.

              America's finest Korean, Japanese and Italian restaurants are in Los Angeles, and the Chinese restaurants are among the best in the hemisphere. Spago, which is certainly the most influential and most consistent of restaurants serving New American cooking, is still going strong, Border Grill is arguably the best Mexican restaurant in the country, and places like Vida, Xiomara and Belvedere would be worshipped if they were anywhere else in the world. Campanile is the very model of a modern California restaurant.

              But if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, it does not necessarily make a sound. And since Ruth Reichl left the L.A. Times half a dozen years ago, many of the finest chefs have indeed gone utterly unremarked. Like a baseball team made up of ex-Dodgers, a restaurant scene made up of L.A. refugees, including Eberhard Muller, Thomas Keller, the current Campton Place chef whose name I'm blanking out on, Traci Desjardins, Jody Denton, and the late Patrick Clark among others, would be even more of a world-beater.

              1. re: pepper

                Were you responding to me or Kev? Yeah, yer right, I shoulda stuck to my guns-but I do stand by my comments.
                By implying that only French, Italian, or "California" places are the only ones worth reviewing-let alone spendy places in other cities(not all of us can afford to jump on a jet and fly to paris for a weekend meal) the LA times shows its classist, and dare i say racial, bias when it comes to food, among other things.

                Service, wine lists, ambiance, these are all important in their own ways. But I just want good food. Thats what its about for me.

                Peace and grub for ALL angelinos.

                I'll leave this topic alone now and concentrate on the chow. Good, now for more rioja.

                1. re: JustinRush
                  Adrian Hopkins

                  JustinRush - I totally agree with your approach. I think in the end, it's only the food that really matters.

                  For service, how much do you really need? As long as I get seated within 10mins of my reservation, my order gets put in accurately, my waiter is attentive and helpful, that's all I really need. As such, I don't think that 'high-end' restaurants have service that's superior to other, more humble places. If anything, it's usually even worse. I find the typical 'high-end' LA waiter more of a pretentious snob, who's nowhere to be found most of the time. It would be much easier for me if these places offered self-service as an option.

                  Sometimes, it's the snob waiter who ruins the whole dining experience, regardless of how good the food is!

                  1. re: Adrian Hopkins

                    That is so true. While the best service I have ever had was at Checker's, the best consistent service was at Lunaria and the best service at an inexpensive restaurant was at Sherash in the Van's shopping center in Marina Del Rey. When we walk in we are seated, I am brought champagne and my wife's tea is started brewing. She is brought plain yoghurt as she is allergic to cucumber. All of this without asking. We go there about once a month or less but that doesn't matter, they always remember.

            2. re: john guerin

              Brasserie De Artiste in Beverly Hills, Adriano's in the LAX Hilton are a couple that jump to mind. Both are worthy of notice but never written up. Give me a minute and I will think of a couple more.

            3. re: JustinRush

              I totally agree. Los Angeles may not have the sheer number of high-end truffles and foie gras type restaurants as New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, but I believe we more than make up for it in the excellent number of choices in diverse multicultural cuisine.

              If Los Angeles Times and their critic believe that there aren't enough restaurants to review in the second largest city in the US, then they are sorely lacking in knowing how to serve their readers. I believe that know how to snoop out good restaurants in out of the way places, rather than only reviewing celebrity restaurants, shows much more journalistic talent.