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Dec 22, 2010 10:18 AM

Red Medicine Boots S. Irene Virbila Out of Restaurant


Evidently, SIV from the LA Times was thrown out and photographed.

  1. This will probably wind up being a case of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

    I don't even read her reviews anymore because she is such a terrible critic; that being said, this type of place would really benefit from a strong mention in the Times and I'm fairly certain that's not going to happen now.

    1. The L.A.. Times' own blog commented on this incident at Whether the food is wonderful or awful, playing paparazzi and outing an influential veteran restaurant critic is nothing short of stupid on Noah Ellis's part. If he had a brain in his head, he would have seated her and her party in his minimalist restaurant (done by a Hollywood set designer), and provided the best service, wowed them with great drinks, and seen to the best presentation and the best "experimental French Vietnamese fusion" food (in one LA food blog's words) the kitchen could produce. Instead, he shot himself in the proverbial foot. Coming from the Michael Mina empire, he certainly should know better.

      1. This is actually a stroke of genius by Red Medicine.

        All that free publicity for Red Medicine, deserved or not.

        In essence, they got reviewed without ever having their food sampled. They're like the "Jamie" (née Top Chef All Stars) of the restaurant world.

        11 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I have to respectfully disagree and suggest that this was PR of the worst kind. The idea that "any publicity is good publicity" only applies in certain instances. It works for entertainment because even "bad" entertainment can be "good".

          But, in my opinion, eating out is not primarily about entertainment. I've never heard some one say, "wow, that meal was so bad it was good!" Likewise, when it comes to customer service, you never hear people say, "I was treated like shit and boy, was that fun!"

          RM managed to put their name out there but for the worst of possible things: their treatment of customers (even if their customer happens to be a critic. The rest of the people in her party were not). It has nothing to do about the food because they didn't even wait until enough people had a chance to try it before making their owners seem like a bunch of thin-skinned juveniles.

          A new restaurant, in order to succeed, ideally needs three things these days: 1) grassroots support from local patrons, and/or 2) a good review in a well-read publication, and/or 3) good word of mouth via sites like this one or aggregate review sites like Yelp.

          So let's see - RM just opened the other week and it's a fusion concept restaurant in Beverly Hills. I don't think they can depend on local patronage as their sole customer base - too competitive of a neighborhood and they're not serving "neighborhood food". There goes #1. They just pissed off the LA Times, inarguably the most popular/powerful food-related publication in the area. So there goes #2. And without anyone knowing anything about their food, they've managed to broadcast to the mass public, "we're dicks who keep people waiting 40 minutes THEN throw them out." The Yelp reviews are brutalizing them down to 2 stars and from what I've read amongst Chowhounders, it's not much more welcome for them here either. So that's #3.

          No doubt, this controversy might bring them some customers that may not have come otherwise but you have to compare that with the possible number of people who *might* have come but will opt not to. Unless RM's financial backers are patient enough to wait for public memory to fade (which, in all honesty, probably won't take *that* long), it's going to be tense there for a while and unnecessarily so.

          1. re: odub


            I don't exactly know that I necessarily agree with you, but your post brings up an interesting point.

            How many people do you think actually pay attention -- and then follow -- the critiques of a restaurant reviewer like SIV?

            Personally, I read SIV (and others like her) more for entertainment than for information. I can't think of one time in the past 5+ years where a review by SIV either persuaded or dissuaded me from patronizing a restaurant.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              There is a large segment (not as large as it used to be I will admit) that gets its information from the newspaper. That same segment doesn't do Chowhound or Yelp or what have you. At least with Internet sites like this one you get competing voices. For higher end restaurants the LAT's has one voice.

              1. re: Servorg

                I'm curious how large a segment you think that is?

                Even my parents (well past the Social Security Income age), no longer relies on the LAT for their source of info, much less actually subscribe to the actual print edition. While they don't peruse Yelp or Chowhound, they do Google a restaurant and will click on Yelp or Chowhound if the results merit doing so.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  It's difficult to know how large it is now. But again, when you run through reviews on Yelp or here you get a lot of differing views.

            2. re: odub

              When I last checked, most of the poor Yelp reviews were from posters than had only 1 review (RM) and some were just saying that they would never eat there-not that they had. Even some of the supposed actual bad reviews seemed a bit fishy.

              1. re: BubblyOne

                Yelp is not where anyone serious about anything would give credence to anything posted. What BubblyOne touches is on is the sheer number of people who will post on Yelp a completely negative "review" and admit to never trying the establishment, just responding to some hype. It's the lynch mob mentality of Yelp.

                Same thing happened about a week ago when the "Tabatha Salon Takeover" show featured the "Christopher Hill" salon in Brentwood. The owners turned out to be clueless/arrogant USC MBA's who couldn't manage their way out of a wet paper bag. The last time there was a "review" on Yelp had been last September, then after last week's airing, the Yelpers were out in force, slamming the salon, not because of any personal experience, but what they saw on TV.

                1. re: ChinoWayne

                  Yelp will filter out reviewers who have never been to an establishment. LAT also has online edition, so it's not just the printed paper.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    Sure, Yelp will filter out reviews from non-patrons, and then mysteriously some highly favorable reviews appear in their place, It's the mob mentality of Yelp, whether the lynch mob, the mobs of "savvy diners" trying to shake down restaurants for comps, or an organized crime crime like mob on the Yelp payroll trying to sell "protection" to business owners.

                    1. re: PeterL

                      They're taking their sweet time, then. I and others have called them out (with varying levels of privacy) on it and the fake reviews are still multiplying and still remaining.

                2. re: odub

                  I think you underestimate curiosity as a motivating factor.

                  It's much easier to make money off infamy than obscurity.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. I don't like that they took the picture, refused to delete it, and then posted it online. Purposely ruining her anonymity so she can't perform her job. What next, getting Harding's friend to break her jaw so she can't eat?