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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 http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/daily.... 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. 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?

                1. Personally, I found out years ago that SIV and I don't share the same taste (not to say that she isn't knowledgeable about certain kinds of food) after trying many of her recs not long after her reviews came out. In fact, if it wasn't that I still get home delivery of the LA Times, I would not go out of my way to read her reviews. They remind me of something my mother would write.
                  However, to treat anyone that way, critic or not, was just rude. Making her wait 40 minutes and then taking what amounts to a mug shot was classless.
                  Obviously Red Medicine is getting a huge amount of publicity from this, but would they have done something like this 10 years ago, when there were many less options to find out about a new restaurant and The Times influence is on the wane? I doubt it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: BubblyOne

                    I find her hilarious, and could never pinpoint why "something my mother would write" is close, though, plus her desperate attempts to be seen on top of things (I chug a virtual Jell-O shot every time the word "hip" or "hipster" appears in one of her reviews) She likes to swoop in early; always kind of unfair. And she usually appears to me more interested in running up a big expense account than covering where real people actually eat. .(One meal for her could feed Jonathan Gold for a week).

                    That said, if she actually was able to preserve her anonymity, I must sincerely applaud her for that. It's easy enough to find what many food critics look like -- hell, Elmer Dills used to give reports on TV -- and some bush-leaguers even make arrangements in advance, to be comp'd on their meals.

                    1. re: Muskrat

                      " She likes to swoop in early; always kind of unfair." Not true at all; her methodology is scrupulously fair. She visits several times before writing a first impression, and then several more, after a decent interval, before writing an actual starred (or not) review.

                      Your remarks about some other reviewers are too often true. The few restaurant critics in Nashville are working in a small town, and anonymity is all but impossible, but at least they strive for honest appraisals nowadays. However, there was one guy thirty or so years ago who would bring in an entourage, mostly female, and demand free meals for everyone or else he'd give'em a bad writeup. And some restaurateurs, equally venal, would happily go along with the gag.

                  2. Although I've referred jocularly to her in the past as "F. Sirene Verbalabuse", I do respect her critiques, whether I'm inclined to agree with them or not, and believe she tries very hard to be both honest and fair. But the point here is that she was subjected to a vicious, humiliating attack, and for what? For DOING HER JOB. Period.

                    "Free publicity"? Sorry - I can't imagine why anyone would want to patronize a place run by such an jerk. So maybe he's got a good kitchen, so what? If he's been known to keep anyone waiting, deliberately, then mistreating and expelling him or her - doesn't matter who - that is not someone to whom I want to give my money.

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      "But the point here is that she was subjected to a vicious, humiliating attack, and for what? For DOING HER JOB. Period. "

                      There are at least several (dozen probably) restaurant owners who feel the exact same way about Sherry...

                      1. re: Servorg

                        Beside the point. A restaurateur is in the hospitality business; if he's willing, even eager, to be deliberately inhospitable, he deserves his inevitable failure. And the statement you quoted is as far as I'm concerned all one needs to know.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Evidently it's anything BUT beside the point to some of those who are trying to stay in business after investing their time, money and soul in a labor of love.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            Yup, looks to me like a case of love, yessiree. Disembowel the nasty girl critic for all to see and crow about your victory. Ever so smooth …

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Well, Sherry draws her pay from the LAT's no matter if someone's restaurant and life savings goes down the tubes, or not...and losing one's shirt can engender a lot of ill will.

                              1. re: Servorg

                                sure but you lose your own shirt SIV doesnt take it. The LAT doesn't do a full review until month 3+ and comes back 3-4 times.

                                She mostly has a lot of respect inside the biz even if people don't always agree with her. There's a lot more at stake than a restaurant, reputations are on the line. That is currency in this business.

                                1. re: AAQjr

                                  Well, she definitely helps pull it (your shirt) off at times...

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    I'ts still on you as the restaurateur. She puts a magnifying glass on what exists. If that aint good well . . .Pull up your big boy pants and fix it Don't blame someone else customers don't want to hear it

                                    1. re: AAQjr

                                      "If that aint good well..."

                                      The question is about one person telling the world about "that"...One scathing opinion about how (in this case) Sherry didn't like your "that" and the world may not beat a path to your door. And if you live by the (verbal) sword you may end up getting run through by it (and the photo bullet) too...

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        True, but the LAT guidelines are more than fair too restauranteurs IMO. No review for 3 months, 4 visits with 4 people each. Including scouting and first looks she's prolly eating at a place 6+ times before the review comes out.

                                        SIV will experience a momentary period of adjustment. She has plenty of good will in this town and will be fine. The people who read her will read her and those that don't won't. This won't be a game changer for her in the least.

                                        I don't think short term it will help or hurt Red Medicine in the short run. They will continue to be filled by people there for the scene and when they disappear to the next new trendy place RM will succeed or fail on the quality of their food and service. Nothing travels faster than bad news about service at a restaurant.

                            2. re: Servorg

                              I respectfully submit that poor business acumen has a lot more to do with a restaurant not succeeding than a newspaper review. And it sounds like the RM people have that to spare.

                              1. re: Akitist

                                Razor thin margins make every seat and dollar count.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  And can sometimes provoke one into foolish decisions . . . or, at least, decisions handled in a manner that most would deem smacking of intemperance. The pressure of the business is quite intense. I do wish that the establishment had handled it with more diplomacy, and with much less fanfare, but I've seen what the venture can do to one's equilibrium.

                                  I would forgive the owner more readily simply because he was *doing*, while the critic is merely *judging*. (I do not use the word 'merely' lightly.) The former is so much more difficult to be objective about, but being objective is the latter's job description.

                                  The establishment concerned seems to be silent at this point, while the critic twitters in a manner that implies that she has little . . . what? gravity in the exchange, despite the outcry? She seemed to be enjoying the episode. I doubt the staff of that restaurant are, of this moment.

                                  1. re: onceadaylily

                                    >>>The establishment concerned seems to be silent at this point, while the critic twitters in a manner that implies that she has little . . . what? gravity in the exchange, despite the outcry? She seemed to be enjoying the episode. I doubt the staff of that restaurant are, of this moment.<<<

                                    Unless Red Medicine has cleaned up its Twitter stream, they began high fiving it on day one.

                                    I won't be visiting the restaurant. They handled it exceedingly poorly.


                                    1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                                      Maybe I just couldn't view the comments that smacked of a 'high-five'? There was a mild statement or two concerning the matter.

                                      I just can't seem to regard this episode with anything other than bemusement. The only thing that would keep me out of their restaurant is food not to my liking.

                                      1. re: onceadaylily

                                        Well, I believe you mentioned that the critic has little gravity in the exchange, perhaps even enjoying it. I don't see this on Virbiia's Twitter stream:


                                        Twitter does allow you to edit. But watching their Twitter feeds from the day in question, it was Red Medicine that seemed to be relishing their "victory". Just as they were by publishing Irene's photo, name and phone number, all of which came down.

                                        I think their behavior speaks for itself.

                                        1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                                          "I think their behavior speaks for itself." Agreed.

                                          I think their behavior was just what happens when someone reaches a boiling point (amid a group mentality) that is fed by a sense of helplessness. In the grand scheme of such instances, this is, to me, harmless, and a bit comic.

                                          RM was not opting out of 'critique' in general, just that single reviewer that they had a previous relationship with. It is not beyond considering that they might fear a lack of objectivity on her part, given that critics *are* so often accused of playing favorites.

                                          I have to admit though, if they were publish her phone number, that would be out of bounds. But my suspicion is that it was the fake number she used to secure the reservation, which causes her no trouble at all, beyond securing a new fake number. Okay, she gets extra points for having to call the phone company, because no one likes to do that.

                                          Her 'anonymity' is not a sacred object. Outside of my home, I can get my picture taken anywhere, at any time, and have no recourse, unless I am in a changing room or a public toilet. She is different why? Other critics have been outed, and they've dealt with it without anyone supposing that it was worthy of a lawsuit (as some here have wondered).

                                          And Virbiia tweeted the coy question of now having to hire a body-guard, which is silly, unless she truly felt threatened. She fed the fire.

                                          Honestly, what I would like is an innocent third-party witness accounting of the transaction between the two parties. Until then, I just think this has been very entertaining.

                                  2. re: Servorg

                                    Opening a restaurant featuring an experimental cuisine in a high-rent district during a recession. Not what I'd call a sound business plan. Likewise, razor-thin margins aren't conducive to staying open very long, in any business.

                                    They can't afford to alienate anybody if they want to fill those seats.

                                    1. re: Akitist

                                      no one will remember in a week and a half

                                      1. re: celfie

                                        What were we talking about? ;)

                                  3. re: Akitist

                                    Right you are. They are just plain stupid and/or arrogant!

                          2. I will never eat in Ellis' place. Although I usually don't find myself in agreement with SIV, at least I know where she stands foodwise and it helps me make a perhaps better informed judgement. I'm not a fan of hers, but I think this guy Ellis is a major jerk and I don't plan of helping him along. There are plenty of good eats in L.A. so I won't miss his place. I feel sorry for his staff, because he sounds like a real bozo.

                            1. What happened to Red Medicine's website? Apparently, it has been suspended.

                              "This site is currently unavailable

                              If you are the account holder, please contact customer service. Our customer service center is available 24x7 via phone, chat, or email:

                              Email: support@inmotionhosting.com
                              Phone: 888-321-4678 (213-258-4422 Int'l)

                              We cannot disclose any information regarding this account if you are not its owner or authorized party.
                              For the security and privacy of our customers, all account requests are verified prior to the disclosure of account information "



                              5 Replies
                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  It's working just fine.

                                  I'm very much intrigued by the menu. Much more intrigued than I was with any of the Momofuku restaurants in NYC (didn't care for much of the food either). Don't really give a shit about the controversy. If it's good, then it'll stand on its own merits.

                                  1. re: E Eto

                                    Indeed it is, except it takes forever to load. Her photo is gone, now, or, at least I can't find it.

                                    The menu looks okay to me--it has that "we're really trying hard to impress you and we're exceedingly clever, too", which is fine, as long as the food really is good.

                                    I'd like to say I don't care about the controversy, but to be honest, I wouldn't go there if I lived in LA (which I do not, so, my point is completely hypothetical). I would be afraid they might commit an aggressive act against me if, say, I sent a dish back to the kitchen for some reason, or complained about something.

                                    Really, once someone has shown they aren't against publicly humiliating one human being--premeditated, by the way--what's to stop them from humiliating me or any other? Putting up my photo and whatever personal information they have about me in an effort to harm me? My credit card number? The phone number I gave when I made my reservations? Call me a bitch as they apparently did her?

                                    I can see the captions now:

                                    The Dairy Queen, bitchy bad tipper.
                                    The Dairy Queen, table manners as if born in a barn. And bitchy, too.
                                    The Dairy Queen, impatient and bitchy after waiting 45 minutes for a table...
                                    The Dairy Queen, bitchy and demanding about water refills

                                    No, I don't think I'd want to risk that kind of attitude and hostility. I've had my share of great banh mi, chicken dumplings, duck. That kohlrabi is kind of calling my name, but obviously, I'm sure I could live without it.

                                    Most of all, though, I'm distressed you didn't care for the food at any of the Momofuku restaurants. More places I haven't visited (but actually might, if I were to visit New York, which I do sometimes, but not often). I have his cookbook and the recipes look interesting to me (naturally, I haven't had time to cook any of them). I suppose you've posted about your experiences on the Manhattan board for me to go read? Hmmmm...disappointing.


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Agree with your comments Dairy Queen. This is a most interesting thread.

                                  2. Who cares critics are dead IMO. They were important when there was only the printed word but in this day and age with boards and blogs ...they all irrelevant.

                                    16 Replies
                                    1. re: chris2269

                                      I would say less relevant, not irrelevant-depending on the critic.

                                      1. re: chris2269

                                        Yes, just as thoughtful politicians, public intellectuals and all those other tiresome, boring relics of the past must now give way to the bellowing passions of the unlettered but SINCERE masses.

                                        I'm having fonder and fonder thoughts about elitism …

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Well said Will Owen! This may sound silly but I wonder who was the one who recognized her and raised the alarm. Sort of how they never mention who was actually steering the Exxon Valdez. Perhaps the finger pointer didn't like Ellis or the critic involved and is laughing diabolically now. Just sayin'.

                                          1. re: givemecarbs

                                            Captain Hazelwood was helming the Exxon Valdez while intoxicated, apparently. I went as him for Halloween and my wife went as the oil spill lo, those many years back.

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                Thanks for the link Servorg!

                                          2. re: Will Owen

                                            yeh cause being a paid critic dosn't smack of elitism...I get paid for + my opinion so its more justified. NO its just your opinion.

                                            1. re: chris2269

                                              Well, speaking as a former reviewer (not food; let's call it books), my opinion is just my opinion. Still, (and presumably others) come with more experience than most folks, and if I'm halfway good at what I do, can put my observations in a context that my readers (or listeners, or viewers) can be guided by.

                                              If I say, for instance, the new Cleopatra biography is worth reading, I should be able to back it up by comparing it to other biographies in terms of historical accuracy, readability, and other factors (would more pictures make it a better book?)

                                              In San Francisco once, looking for something to do at night. I read a review of a show that the reviewer detested -- offensive, bad taste, too broad, whatever. From what this person said, I decided that the show (which I'd never heard of) was right up my alley. I went and enjoyed it tremendously. Was I "right" and he "wrong"? Of course not; our tastes are different, and he was good enough at what he did to guide people both toward and away from it.

                                              I could never review food -- allergies prevent me from eating sea food. But on the rare occasions I read food reviews. I try to read almost between the lines. Is the bad service the result of an "off" night or the owner's policy? Are portions "small plates"? I'll stay away. And so on.

                                              Oh -- I should mention that the show was "El Grande de Coca-Cola," which went on to have a long life, with companies touring the world. But it certainly wasn't (and isn't) for everybody.

                                              1. re: Muskrat

                                                Very well said. But again opinions paid for or not are just that. Yes you can bring history or and biography of the chef or cuisine in to it but at the end of the night the movie, book or food I Iike...regardless of any one's opinion is irrelevant

                                                1. re: Muskrat

                                                  What In am trying to say is listen to a voice that follows your own. There is no right or wrong on opinions. I do not care if someone who has lived in China for 30 years tells me my favorite Chinese restaurant sucks. Why would I give that kind of power to anyone? If you do ...your a sheeple.

                                                  1. re: chris2269

                                                    I didn't make my point clear. Would you place more value in the opinion of someone with a limited background, or someone who's (say) eaten a lot of pho, in many places, and describe why s/he prefers one over another. What one person finds "yummy," another person might find too salty...or not salty enough.

                                                    That we're on Chowhound in the first place shows that we're taking advice from total strangers; in some cases those who post something on the order of "the best waffles are at Sam's Place in Bakersfield", with little or no other qualification.

                                                    One of my favorite S. Irene pieces had her admitting (this is several years ago) that she didn't even know what chili cheese fries were; then she went on about the ones in the relatively high end place* she was reviewing.

                                                    * as if she reviewed anything else

                                                    1. re: Muskrat

                                                      I remember that review, and my immediate reaction was utter disbelief: how could an adult, living in Southern California, not know what chili cheese fries were, let alone someone who eats professionally? From that day forward, I never fully trusted S. Irene unless she was reviewing an Italian restaurant (the one cuisine I think she really knows), but understanding who she is, I can also evaluate her opinions and use them accordingly. I also think that she, like any other paying customer, deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy - something the juvenile owners of Red Medicine obviously lack.

                                                      1. re: Jack Flash

                                                        I am only marginally aware of what chili cheese fries are - assuming they must be fries with chili and cheese, right? - and have certainly never had any. But then I've been here only 10 years …

                                                        Until Mr. Gold, the Sterns and their ilk hove up on the horizon, people who "eat professionally" seldom if ever found themselves within the vicinity of such items, even in LA. People who DINED OUT, as opposed to those of us who grab some grub now and then, would never have expected any establishment with such a menu to be reviewed, except as an exercise in slumming. If a hamburger showed up in a review, it would of course be one offered by a tony joint (at elevated prices) just to tickle the fancy of someone who had a yen for the Simple Life all of a sudden. And if they mentioned chili, it was of course Chasen's.

                                                        I give kudos to SIV for having admitted her ignorance, or even for having mentioned chili cheese fries in the first place. But then I've never considered her uppity anyway, unlike some.

                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                          LOL re: chili cheese fries. I guess there was some point in my childhood when I had yet to sample chili cheese fries; however, by the time I ever got around to ordering them, I had surmised that I should expect a plate of french fries topped with chili and cheese. Wat amused me about this particular review was not just that she hadn't heard of them, but that she had been unable to make the assumption you did! I have no idea what else she could have possibly expected, but whatever.

                                                          She's not my favorite food critic, not by a long shot, but she deserved to be treated better; and people who open Hollywood/westside restaurants with lots of buzz and publicity shouldn't do so if they don't want the city's major publication to come review the place. I can almost guarantee that S. Irene wouldn't show up at their place if they were in Glendora. Or Encino.

                                                          1. re: Jack Flash

                                                            If truth be told, it took me a minute before I realized y'all meant chili made with beans and hamburger and maybe tomatoes in a thick brownish-colored sauce. When I see the words "Chili" I automatically think of chili sauce and cut chilies or vinegared chilies and such, i.e. various preparations of certain Capsicum varieties. :-)

                                            2. re: chris2269

                                              Clearly, the owners of RM don't think critics are irrelevant.

                                            3. If a restaurant owner recognizes a food critic, is she obligated not to disclose the critic's identity?

                                              1. I think that the fact that new Red Medicine restaurant in L.A. refused to serve and kicked Irene Virbila out and published her photo online is not only outrageous, but is the height of arrogance. Whether or not you like Irene V., she is the Los Angeles Times lead restaurant critic and when she visits and reviews restaurants, she is doing her job. I have disagreed with her many times, but she is doing what she is paid to do. To refuse to serve her is, in my opinion, unbelievably arrogant, and to out her (even though many people recognize her) is just mean-spirited and outrageous behavior. Red Medicine may serve the best food on the planet, but I for one, will not honor them with my presence!

                                                11 Replies
                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                  What would you do if you owned a business and were aware of someone spying on that business? Especially someone spying that has the potential to do harm? Virbilia uses a fake name to reserve, a fake name on her credit card, and gives a fake phone number in case the restaurant calls regarding the reservation. She got caught.
                                                  I actually think the effect of people knowing what she looks like has more to do with people that read her reviews than with restaurant owners. Everyone reads the reviews and has some fantasy idea about Virbilia. Who is she, is she like me, is she a hipster, does she really use the word swanky that much, what does she look like, etc. Now we know.

                                                  1. re: thebigjelly

                                                    so any prolific reviewer is subject to get booted out of a restaurant?

                                                    what next, Rick Bayless kicking out Streetgourmetla?

                                                    " Virbilia uses a fake name to reserve, a fake name on her credit card, and gives a fake phone number in case the restaurant calls regarding the reservation. She got caught. "

                                                    The flip side of that argument is that the critic doesn't want the restaurant to know they are there so that they don't get special treatment. That said, WHY DOES IT MATTER IF IT'S FAKE INFO?

                                                    I'm not going there out of principle, booting out food critics that's ridiculous.

                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                      A restaurant is a private enterprise and isn't required to put up with a person pretending to be someone other than who they are. It's true a restaurant may serve better food to a reviewer they know is reviewing their restaurant but the readers of that review are still able to decide for themselves regarding the food. If a restaurant were doing such a thing its patrons would stop going as soon as they found out, and they would find out. People act like Virbilia is doing some kind of public service, she isn't, she is doing a job, getting paid to eat and bringing readership to the L.A. Times. A good review may be good in the long run, it may overwhelm a restaurant in the short run, and a bad review can ruin a good restaurant forever.

                                                      1. re: thebigjelly

                                                        Well put, thbigjelly, well put.

                                                        1. re: thebigjelly

                                                          let me paraphrase some of what you're saying here

                                                          the only reason she got kicked out was because she was using a fake name?

                                                          because if that's it then that's BS. She got kicked out cuz she's a food critic. Whether she uses her real name or fake name (in the context of why she got kicked out) doesn't matter.

                                                          1. re: ns1

                                                            You aren't paraphrasing, you are distorting what I said. If Virbila made a reservation using her real name she probably would have been asked to not come in. We wouldn't be reading about this now.

                                                            1. re: thebigjelly

                                                              Do you really think they would have acted the same way if the kitchen wasn't 40 min in the weeds.

                                                              1. re: thebigjelly

                                                                then the bottom line is the same: restaurant banning a reviewer from a restaurant is what I'm not down for.

                                                        2. re: thebigjelly

                                                          Critics are spies? Bizarre analogy.

                                                          A critic's anonymity is used to preserve a semblance of objectivity (i.e. so the restaurant doesn't treat them differently from any other patron). A spy's anonymity is used in order to extract information that can be used to benefit a competitor. The LA Times is not in competition with Red Medicine. If the Slanted Door, on the other hand, snuck in one of their staff into the RM kitchen to see what they were making...that would be a form of espionage.

                                                          1. re: odub

                                                            "A spy's anonymity is used in order to extract information that can be used to benefit a competitor."

                                                            Sometimes the spy may simply do harm to the entity that they spied on with the information they extract...

                                                          2. re: thebigjelly

                                                            A food critic, or a movie, music or any other kind of critic, is not "spying" by any definition of the word.

                                                        3. i cannot stand people who say things like people in the hospitality business ought to behave like so and so. the world is full of reviewers/critics - they are succubus profiting from other people's work. i am so fond of chowhound because it has democratized reviewing and it has eliminated the paid leach. there's nothing that bothers me more than a person paid for their opinion. it figures that she is so old, near the end of her life with nothing better to do than act like a high brow snob telling people how to behave.

                                                          23 Replies
                                                          1. re: celfie

                                                            I am an old person, and perhaps also an old-fashioned person, but what you call "democratized" I call "dumbed-down". Formal criticism is not simply "some egghead's opinion", it is the considered judgement of a person who almost certainly knows more about the subject than I do - whether it's music, painting, dance or food. And whether I ultimately agree with that critic or not, I enjoy reading what he or she has to say, and (knowing his or her attitudes) will add that review to my store of knowledge about the work in question. Your rejection of the validity of professionalism is offensive to me, and I think symptomatic of the sort of "Tea Party" yahooism that is poisoning our larger culture.

                                                            Here's a fact for you: Virbila was not there to write a review, she was there to check the place out. Most people who post "reviews" of restaurants on these boards (me included) do so on the basis of one or two visits. She does not, nor does any other credible critic. It's flattering to me when someone else's experience seems to validate mine, but that doesn't make my opinion worth as much as a professional critic's.

                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                              I completely disagree. The critic is someone who can articulate their impressions well. The idea that they are somehow tuned into something beyond the comprehension of the average person is completely bonkers. In fact, once the critic is advanced in her career, she becomes such a prisoner to her own subjectivity that one should pay them no mind

                                                              1. re: celfie

                                                                The idea that they are somehow tuned into something beyond the comprehension of the average person is completely bonkers

                                                                Thank You..well said

                                                                1. re: celfie

                                                                  "The idea that they are somehow tuned into something beyond the comprehension of the average person is completely bonkers."
                                                                  It's not the comprehension of the average person that is in question - if it were, critics needn't bother writing because no one would understand them anyway. The value in a good critic is in understanding and explaining the context of what they experience and evaluating it with that context fully in mind.

                                                                  An example from another art form - the end of the Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun" is a satirical send up of doo wop music. I learned that because a critic pointed it out for me. At the time, I wouldn't have recognized a doo wop chord progression from 12 bar blues (at least not in a way I could articulate). Did the critic's opinion of the song ultimately matter much to me? No - I don't even remember how they liked it. But it enhanced my appreciation and also probably made me a better musician, as I started noticing doo wop progressions everywhere after that.

                                                                  You can't know everything about everything. That's why it's nice to read someone who has studied what they're writing about (we'll put aside for the time being the issue of lazy or unqualified critics). How well they liked it is ultimately just their opinion, but if that's all they offer, they're not much of a critic.

                                                                  In my view, a little bit of respect for critics (at least the good ones) is nothing more than a sign of humility and curiosity.

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    pointing out the technical merits of a song is a purely academic exercise. other songs with similar structure would certainly not be considered exceptional by this critic. so then what are exceptional foods or exceptional songs or exceptional paintings or books? My friends in the avant-garde would certainly disagree that happiness is a warm gun is exceptional. Reviews are pointless, subjective and should not be given power. Criticism and interpretation are certainly useful but that's not what mainstream food critics do.

                                                                    1. re: celfie

                                                                      "pointing out the technical merits of a song is a purely academic exercise."
                                                                      If you mean that it has value in education, then I'd agree. But is your tone dismissive? I can't tell. I hope not - I fail to see why that's not worthwhile.

                                                                      I think you're wrong though that the technical merits of a song have no bearing on whether a critic (or non critic) likes said song. In fact, that strikes me as a nearly nonsensical. Every aspect of a song can be broken down to technique - it's the difference between a housecat walking on the keys of an off-tune piano and a professional musician playing a song. This even applies to the avant garde - the techniques and intended effects are just different.

                                                                      In food, technical merits are important in an even more obvious way - you order a medium rare steak, and you want it cooked medium rare, dammit. Does it not matter to you whether roast chicken skin is crispy, sauces are smooth and silky when they're supposed to be, seasoning is precise and not out of balance or uneven? These types of things have no bearing on your enjoyment of a plate of food?

                                                                      I admit that some of these aspects are subjective. So what? You seem to think subjectivity implies pointlessness. Why on Earth would that be?

                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                        Many songs have technical merit yet some critics would dismiss them as derivative. The package: proficiency, originality, etc are nothing without opinion. There is nothing technically impressive about the Ramones for example, yet they are one of the most influential rock bands ever. Rush on the other hand are very impressive, technically, but plenty of people would spew their dinner if made to listen to them (I love rush fyi).

                                                                        Your initial argument hinged on this point that the specialized knowledge of critics allows one to better situate the sensation one is experiencing. However, as I've pointed out, the context is as subjective as the experience. Sure, historical influences are interesting, but I needn't buy an LA Times to find out if the food is good or not - Chowhound is good enough for that. If the reviewer thinks her hamburger bun is a tad too sweet (actual review), who gives a damn - her experience and specialized knowledge has contributed nothing.

                                                                        1. re: celfie

                                                                          Perhaps you have the time and money to explore essentially every restaurant in your hometown. Most people do not. The reviewer does and perhaps most significantly, represents a consistent palate and sensibility at each of those many restaurants.

                                                                          I read the big paper reviews in my hometown because I've learned the bias and expectations of the reviewer. I can use the reviewers comments effectively to guage his/her reviews against my own preferences. For example, your dismissive comment about the reviewer's criticism of a too-sweet bun would, in fact, be very important to me. I abhor sweet with meat and I would welcome a heads up about a restaurant that serves a sweet bun with its hamburgers. I might use that information to order the hamburger without the bun, order a meal that doesn't involve the bun, or inquire about the availability of savory bread. I don't think that the critic's specialized knowledge contributes to her feelings about a bun, but her experience dining there before I do sure would be welcome intelligence to me.

                                                                          1. re: Indy 67

                                                                            i agree that the ideal is most often informative but the weight ascribed to weekly reviewers is disproportionate. if a restaurant does not wish to subject themselves to this sort of criticism then it is their right. populist reviews are not entirely fair either since often, on this board, criticism becomes vendetta. however, the real time format of internet reviews allows one to get the skinny without the fat from bloated LA Times style reviews where objectivity is forfeited in favour of maintaining the reviewers undeserved lifestyle - we don't get the luxury of expense accounts so at least our vendettas are personal and not sensational

                                                                            1. re: celfie

                                                                              "if a restaurant does not wish to subject themselves to this sort of criticism then it is their right." And if GM doesn't wish their cars to be tested by automotive journalists, they'll drop their press fleet, right? Fat chance! Car reviews, movie reviews, music and art and dance reviews, these are what keep the brands out there in the open and the public informed. If a manufacturer's rep declines to give me access to a press fleet car, it'll be because my publication is deemed unimportant; if I worked for Road & Track (or the LA Times) they wouldn't dream of turning me down. Because they're smart, not because they're pushovers.

                                                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                Automotive reviews use an extensive list of standardized criteria that are independent of the person writing the review. They use, mostly, quantitative criteria. Food, art, music and books use criteria that is established by the individual reviewer. Next shall we compare literary criticism in peer-reviewed journals with the that in the New York Times?

                                                                                1. re: celfie

                                                                                  "Automotive reviews use an extensive list of standardized criteria that are independent of the person writing the review." Look, it depends on who you're writing for. You just described a Consumer Reports review. For a major commercial magazine it's road impressions, track testing (all largely subjective) and a data panel. At the local-paper level, or for a small magazine as I do, it's strictly driving impressions of the vehicle in daily use, plus some spirited back-roads boogeying. If we're lucky we can do a road trip, but we report on how comfortable it is, how easy to use, how well it handles and what kind of manners it has. Restaurant reviews follow a similar pattern, except the "data panel" is only stuff such as hours of operation, price range and whether they sell booze.

                                                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                    For a major commercial magazine it's road impressions, track testing (all largely subjective) and a data panel

                                                                                    Track testing is not subjective. Things like, track times, skidpad, 0-60, brake distance are objectively measurable criteria.

                                                                                    Now when a reviewer says "this things handles likes it's riding on rails" or "the ride is a bit squishy" then the subjective quotient is definitely present.

                                                                                    But if the R&T or MotorTrend or CAR track tests results are published and compared, most of the data points are generally objective measures of the car.

                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                      You're right about those, though "Automobile" made big waves at its introduction by ditching data panels period. My point was that a newspaper auto writer functions about the same as a newspaper restaurant writer - apples to apples, okay? - with most of the hard data being supplied by the manufacturer or the restaurant. So just as Dan Neil (whom I deeply miss) felt free to tell his readers what a stupid car XX is and why, Virbila sees herself as having the same duty when a restaurant can't seem to make the meal happen properly. And I think they're both right.

                                                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                        Dan Neil is over at WSJ. I still read him regularly. If only SIV was 1/10th of the critic and writer that Neil is.


                                                                          2. re: celfie

                                                                            "Your initial argument hinged on this point that the specialized knowledge of critics allows one to better situate the sensation one is experiencing. However, as I've pointed out, the context is as subjective as the experience."
                                                                            I realized I never responded to this. And it's actually a very good point, worth responding to rather than jumping in on the argument further downthread. Have no fear though - we still disagree.

                                                                            You've hit the nail on the head as to why my impressions of a place might be different than that of a reviewer, or a native of some other country, or random person off the street, or you, etc. But the value in a decent critic is in judging fairly within the frame of a specific context that I might get to know well enough to make my own decisions (whether I might like a restaurant in this case) based on that. The reviewers at Yelp, great bastion of democratized food review that it is, seldom are seen often enough to get an idea of the context from which any one reviewer evaluates. What's more, most of them don't seem to realize that context matters, that they have biases - I have never seen so many irony-free examples of the old Woody Allen joke - "the food was awful, and such small portions!"

                                                                            Back to my initial point - the value in a GREAT critic is in understanding the context from which a restaurant might be best appreciated and conveying that context to me in a way that heightens my enjoyment of a meal, maybe of a whole style of cuisine. That is what the combination of training, research, and writing talent can help a critic achieve. Do you have to be a pro to manage this? No. The best reviewers at Chowhound manage it (yelp, not so much, though I'm sure there are some good Yelp reviews somewhere out there). But the easiest way to keep someone with these talents training and work ethic around long enough to adjust to them is to pay em.

                                                                            Thanks for pointing out how much context matters, and how fickle it can be. That's ultimately the greatest value in a critic.

                                                                  2. re: Will Owen

                                                                    Will...thank you for stating my views perfectly. Age is irrelevant...intelligence is not!

                                                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                                                      i'm with you Will. This entire younger generation reminds me of, well our generation when we were young and thought we knew everything.

                                                                      Unfortunately they now have all sorts of stuff to make them feel powerful. Heck we had to wait til monday to find out what people did. Now with tweeterdee here and twitterdumb there it allows for instant gratification, and information..."@bigboy, at pizza joint, yo bro no mo do for pies, LOL, WTF w chef?" That's their review.

                                                                      Wonder if were that bad when we were young? Man I hope not. :-))

                                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                                        You're absolutely correct, Will. Much clearer and more eloquent than I could have expressed it myself.

                                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                                            Will Owen, glad to know someone like you on chowhound. i always find your opinions to be so insightful. merry holidays to you and the mrs!

                                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                                              You don't have to be of a certain age or generation to agree with you Will Owen.... I can attest to that.

                                                                          2. i've never heard of s. irene virbila, red medicine, noah ellis, or michael mina. why the animosity? what restaurants tanked after a bad review? who lost their jobs? how much of it was virbila's fault?

                                                                            1. I am not shocked in the least bit by the chain of events that ensued. The majority of people know her from her reviews; however, for those in the business, we know her differently. She lost her anonymity years ago. I’ve witnessed, first hand, behavior that I can only describe as embarrassing. Let me just say, I’m not a fan. That said, this speaks to me more about the state of the professional critic. Let's face it, many of our customers no longer rely on the local newspaper for dinning advice. Sources and the flow of information have greatly altered how we get info. I may be in the minority, yet I strongly feel professional critics will become a rare breed. The restaurant world is adapting to this change. I can safely gestimate that about 30-50% of customers are either blogging or writing about their dining adventures somewhere on the interwebs. I continue to be amazed by the number of patrons that snap photos of their food and wine. This shift in information will continue to evolve and imho, ultimately result in the demise of the professional critic save for a few. I've seen this trend in the beverage industry already, where wineries and breweries are eschewing the professionals and seeking feedback and comments from their customer base. I am both thrilled and curious about the dawning of a new era.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Gregg Greenbaum

                                                                                also, people want real time reviews
                                                                                the once per year is outdated and uninformative

                                                                                  1. re: Gregg Greenbaum

                                                                                    Good points. That said, the person who writes a food blog or Tweets about fave places is probably aspiring to have a bigger audience follow them. When you see a restaurant target a reviewer that has "voice," it makes the place look bad, even if one might not like that particular commentator.

                                                                                    In other words, when a restaurant starts preemptive strikes against mainstream media critics, aren't they also showing their teeth against any of us who might write opinions on here or other sites?

                                                                                  2. just wanted to link to the other thread on the topic because it's now unsearchable within CH since it's locked:

                                                                                    1. Are people at all a little troubled by the fact that SIV still intends on reviewing Red Medicine even though the restaurant does not want to be reviewed by her?

                                                                                      In a way, isn't this sort of like "restaurant rape"?

                                                                                      Regardless of whether you think Red Medicine was right or SIV was wronged, doesn't a restaurant have the option -- perhaps even a "right" -- not to be reviewed?

                                                                                      16 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        LAT I believe did not say it would be SIV, only that they would review.

                                                                                        1. re: BubblyOne

                                                                                          Same question. What if Red Medicine simply does not want to be reviewed by the LAT?

                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                            I don't think they said that...their beef seems to be with SIV.

                                                                                            1. re: BubblyOne

                                                                                              I'm just asking, "what if a restaurant -- any restaurant -- simply did not want to be reviewed"?

                                                                                              Shouldn't a restaurant have such a prerogative?

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                well you're the legal expert here ipse, you should be telling us! seriously though, as long as the review is factually accurate, i don't see how a restaurant could legally prevent it - aside from refusing service much as they did to SIV - without getting tangled up in First Amendment issues.

                                                                                                i guess you could ask the same question about whether someone has the right to refuse to have their book, film or newly released CD reviewed...or even a concert performance or art show. i don't see it happening.

                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                  Not really asking about a legal issue.

                                                                                                  I'm just wondering if a restaurant should have a right to be free from a restaurant critic.

                                                                                                  I don't know. Just reading these responses it's hard to gauge whether the outrage is more directed at Red Medicine's sort of juvenile approach to the issue, or whether it's just directed at Red Medicine's obstinate stance on being reviewed.

                                                                                                  In other words, would the reaction be different if Red Medicine simply said to SIV, in a very courteous and professional manner, "We prefer not to seat you and your party because we understand you are the restaurant critic for the LAT and we prefer, at this time, not to be the subject of your criticism, be in good or bad."

                                                                                                  (Re: books, films, etc. In many ways, some movies and books do avoid review by not releasing advanced copies or advanced screening to critics until AFTER the book or film is released.)

                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                    In other words, would the reaction be different if Red Medicine simply said to SIV, in a very courteous and professional manner, "We prefer not to seat you and your party because we understand you are the restaurant critic for the LAT and we prefer, at this time, not to be the subject of your criticism, be in good or bad."
                                                                                                    i can't speak for anyone else, but yes, *my* reaction would have been different. i'd still question WHY they were resisting, but i wouldn't have been disgusted by Ellis' behavior.

                                                                                                    and as for movies, books, etc, they may be *delaying* reviews, but they're not preventing them. the reviews still happen once they're released...much in the same way a restaurant is reviewed once it's open.

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      The quality of the vast majority of books, movies ect that don't release pressers is horrible.

                                                                                                      For me It's the aggressive hostility she faced. Even if you don't want someone in your restaurant there are nice ways to do it. Even MPW would have a table cleared of everything including salt pepper, plates, table cloth ect and invite them to leave. At least they didn't have to pay ;)

                                                                                                      Who cares if you don't want to get reviewed.? You have NO choice in the matter. Even if you can get the LAT to agree to it you'll get yelp'd or LAW or chow'ed

                                                                                                      If you are confident in your product put it out there. SIV doesn't do gotcha peices.

                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                        A host of a private dinner, in a home or a private club, to which admission is available only by invitation does have an ethical right to refuse being reviewed.

                                                                                                        But a restaurant that is open to the public cannot ethically refuse to be reviewed. People have an ethical right to have opinions and to share those opinions with others, even when the opinions are of experiences at restaurants. The fact that some people profit monetarily from having and sharing those opinions is immaterial.

                                                                                                        1. re: racer x


                                                                                                          Very well said - it is just that simple!

                                                                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                        Simple answer, no. It's the real world, you open your doors and you take your chances, just as I do when I open my door and hit the street.

                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                          Should a movie, a book, or for that matter a celebrity have such a prerogative? IMHO, once you decide to put your product, service or self out in the public to hopefully derive a living ($$) from them, you in essence have given the public at large the right (legal, moral, or otherwise) to scrutinize whatever you hang out there in the public. That's the street deal that I see being struck here. They want to make money off of us - we have the right to review, read reviews, express our opinions, read other's opinions on said place if they are offered. If they don't want the exposure, move to some unpopulated place and try to extract dust from the wind.

                                                                                                      3. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                        And Madoff don't want his scheme be known to the world? Would LAT or any other news paper honor his wish and not report his activities? A newspaper is a news source. They report what they want, not what the subject of the report wants.

                                                                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      Of course not. SIV didn't have the right not to have her picture taken and posted either. It still wasn't right. Same goes in reverse

                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                        I disagree. I think that a free press is perfectly entitled to comment and yes review anything it wishes. It's naive to think that should the L.A. Times want to review R.M. that it is unable to do so; there are many other reporters they could send there to do it. Also, a reputable news organization should allow the recipient of an unfavorable review to respond on it's pages. The Times has done this many times. I still think that it's not only rude, but stupid and unbelievably arrogant for any restaurant to keep anyone waiting for 40 minutes for a table, and then kick them out. I for one will never want to eat in such a place!

                                                                                                      2. I was interested in checking out the place but after this incident ... not worth my time.

                                                                                                        They should have turned her away politely rather than resorting to public humiliation. Reminds me of some previous hyped up establishments with self-righteous, holier-than-thou proprietors. Virtually all have folded within 2 years, most under 1 year... Real victims are restaurant chef and staff they supposedly were trying so hard to defend. Insecure owners just trying to protect their overinflated egos and inability to take any potential negative criticism....

                                                                                                        Quite pathetic really, owners are supposedly experienced restaurateurs. Did you seriously expect to open a high buzz place and not expect to have to deal with LA Times critics?!?!??! Like opening in SF or NYC and not expect SF Chronicle or NY Times critics to drop by... IDIOTS...probably going to leave a long lasting impression on future potential investors for their next gig when red medicine folds.

                                                                                                        Word of advice for Jordan Kahn and rest of the crew, time to cut your losses from the fatal wound your sorry owners inflicted and find a new establishment and more worthy proprietors to associate with.

                                                                                                        1. "Sirene" Tweets:

                                                                                                          sirenevirbila Just realizing what an exciting job I have via Red Medicine. Now taking applications for bodyguards (meals included). May see action.

                                                                                                          sirenevirbila Candidate shld enjoy truffles, Barolo, innards and nettles. & be prepared to face off punk restaurateurs w vaulting ambition & littl sense.

                                                                                                          1. Thats bizarre and paranoid behavior on the restaurant's part as far as Im concerned. Why in the world would a restaurant owner do such a thing unless they had no confidence in their food. What other reason could there be? A food critic is a spy? thats a retarded comment. and these days, since we are all food critics now, what would prevent a restaurant owner from booting anyone who likes to photograph food and post comments on the Net. I was in a pizzeria on La Brea a couple of years ago,its no longer in biz, by the way, and i was taking fotos when one of the owners came out and told me i was making him nervous. OK, but why would that be unless the pizza sucked? which it did. I wouldve been embarrassed to serve someone a pie like the one I was served that day. I dont care if you agree with her reviews, disagree or totally ignore, that was a mean spirited act in any book...and so close to Xmas too...

                                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: lapizzamaven

                                                                                                              So much HATE aimed at Red Medicine,
                                                                                                              know the FACTS, this reviewer has previously
                                                                                                              published 2 negative opinions/reviews of the
                                                                                                              owners dishes, which she has a right to do,
                                                                                                              the owners of Red Med disagree with her previous "opinions"
                                                                                                              of their food and they now choose not to serve her
                                                                                                              at their new establishment. That's their right and they know
                                                                                                              the consequences. I applaud their controversial stance.
                                                                                                              They are not afraid of reviewers, they just have a bad taste left over
                                                                                                              from her previous 'nasty' reviews of what they do. Her reviews favor
                                                                                                              restaurants that are NOT ASIAN, NOT LATIN, NOT ETHNIC.
                                                                                                              Red Medicine's offerings, and I really have eaten there, are definitely
                                                                                                              different, edgy, unique and not for everyone.

                                                                                                              1. re: NumeroUnoEat

                                                                                                                applauding their stance is one thing, but do you condone their behavior/the way it was handled? i think that's the real controversy here.

                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                  YES, I condone their behavior,
                                                                                                                  they have history with this nasty, out-of-touch reviewer
                                                                                                                  and they acted accordingly when she showed up
                                                                                                                  under her fake reservation to start her review process.
                                                                                                                  The owners accept responsibility for their actions,
                                                                                                                  let the chips fall as they may, it's their right to refuse her service,
                                                                                                                  she was given a dose of RED MEDICINE.

                                                                                                                  1. re: NumeroUnoEat

                                                                                                                    okay then, that makes one of us. i may not like SIV's reviews, but i still don't agree with the way the Red Medicine folks handled the situation. fortunately we're all entitled to our opinions :)

                                                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                      I agree with you. the restaurant handled it like a group of immature entitled whiners. If I lived in the area it would not be a place I would leave my money.

                                                                                                                      The idea that you only want reviewers that rave about everything in every review will lead to people totally discounting any review, unless of course you want a group of lemmings as customers.

                                                                                                                      I may not agree with every review the NYT posts out here, but i read it every week for their POV.

                                                                                                                    2. re: NumeroUnoEat

                                                                                                                      People who are that immature and imbecilic do not deserve to succeed in their business. Their restaurant will be closed within a year, and then good luck to them finding investors for their next venture. Perhaps someday they will grow up.

                                                                                                                      Ms. Virbila did not have a "fake" reservation. She had a real reservation.

                                                                                                                      Perhaps someday, whey you grow up as well, you will understand the need for objectivity and professionalism, and therefore anonymity, on the part of a professional restaurant critic.

                                                                                                                  2. re: NumeroUnoEat

                                                                                                                    The FACT is that the owners of Red Medicine need to grow up and become responsible adults before starting a business.

                                                                                                                2. The restaurant staff are well within their rights to deny her reservation, restaurant critic not being a protected class, and they could politely decline the review, though that would be akin to telling a ravening wolf not to go behind that door marked "defenseless baby sheep".

                                                                                                                  The posting of the photo was unnecessary, because anyone likely to be a target of an S. Irene Virbila review would know who she is and make sure her table and those around her got the class-A treatment.

                                                                                                                  The posting of the name and telephone number used on the reservation was unethical and a serious misstep on their part. That is the reason I will never dine there; what's to stop them, as TDQ said, from posting my information? Our privacy laws in the US are weak; in the EU, that posting would be illegal.

                                                                                                                  As for the relevance or irrelevance of a restaurant critic, while I love Chowhound and even Yelp, the Achilles' heel of sites like this is the inconsistency of the quality of the reviews; it seems as soon as I get used to a person's taste on here, they're gone. While I disagree with Virbila on occasion (and I think her range of restaurants for review reflects my retired aunt's taste rather than mine), I can gauge my likely reaction to the restaurant due to her long tenure and my knowledge of her tastes as expressed in her reviews.

                                                                                                                  While I thought SIV's tweets were funny, my initial reaction was for her to stop being such a drama queen; I'm sure she wasn't in any physical danger, and it seems like she's milking the event for dramatic purposes. That needs to stop, too.

                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                    I agree completely with everything you've said.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                      Yes, they had a right to deny her reservation, but then why keep her and her companions waiting 45 minutes? If they didn't know the pseudonym she used, they evidently recognized her right away and apparently only waited for a clearer photo op, and for that, they were rude not just to her, but to her entire party...what were those other people, chopped liver? They were probably pretty hungry by then.

                                                                                                                      If they had any class, they would have told her that they knew who she was, that they'd seat and serve her party after their (not just her) lengthy wait, but that any future reservations would be refused (and since Times policy is to base a review on three dining experiences, that would have effectively precluded her reviewing it; the Times still plans to review the place).

                                                                                                                      Some restaurant menus state that they have right to refuse service to anyone . . . anyone who's rude, abusive, dressed inappropriately, etc. But if they refuse just based on your profession, or because they don't like you, where does that leave us when some petulant restaurateurs decide we're personae non grata? And how would you feel about their not informing you till you'd been standing there for 45 minutes? And having your photo taken and posted online without your permission, for the disingenuous reason that the restaurateur wants to help his colleagues recognize you?

                                                                                                                      If that were really his goal, there are likely private restaurant communities online where he might have circulated it, or even circulated it in private email, without destroying the woman's privacy.

                                                                                                                      I would never want to patronize any business run by someone with so little regard for other people, no matter what they do for a living.

                                                                                                                      1. re: nowhereonearth

                                                                                                                        oh please, they didn't refuse a construction worker or a stripper
                                                                                                                        it was a restaurant critic that they had a beef with

                                                                                                                        plus considering america's (and LA especially) obsession with celebrity is it really such a crime to post a picture of a woman who writes influential reviews for one of the biggest news papers in the world????? LA is the freaking paparazzi capital of the world!

                                                                                                                        1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                          Just because L.A. is the paparazzi capital of the world doesn't mean it's right, ethical or to be recommended as a course of action.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                            if she wants to be a minor celebrity in a tough town, that's what happens
                                                                                                                            i don't really think this is an ethical issue
                                                                                                                            if victims of crime can have their picture published by the LA times, why can't their food critic be posted on the internet

                                                                                                                            1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                              You don't think paparazzism is an ethical issue? It doesn't matter if it's an actor or a restaurant critic, it's still not ethical. Have your moral compass checked.

                                                                                                                        2. re: nowhereonearth

                                                                                                                          You've obviously never eaten at Sushi Nozawa, where the owner is famously touchy about his food and will throw people out because he doesn't think they're ready to appreciate his art.

                                                                                                                          Did you read the post on RM's website? They spent a while doing the "is it her? hm... maybe... is it her? I think it's her... can't be sure..." dance. Remember, her name wasn't on the reservation. I can imagine it took them a while to notice; perhaps they were tipped off by another diner.

                                                                                                                      2. I had said this in an earlier, closed post: Many people have careers in which they make decisions or pass judgment on the works or behaviors of others including judges, police officers, auditors, inspectors, other kinds of critics, and in actuality, anyone who is a teacher or who supervises anyone else in a professional capacity. They each have the right to do their jobs, regardless of whether we like what they say, or what we think they will say. To try to ruin someone's ability to do her job, simply because you think that she will give you a bad review, or a bad grade, or a traffic ticket, is unredeemably vicious and uncalled for.

                                                                                                                        A restaurateur's revenge should be succeeding in spite of a bad review, not trying to destroy the reviewer in advance of the review....

                                                                                                                        I actually live within walking distance of Red Medicine. I have eaten at every other restaurant in this location and I have an expense account. But, no thank you, Noah Ellis. I will eat there after you fail.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. With all the drama, we forget, folks: she's a lousy reviewer. She looks exactly like I thought she would.

                                                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: vnehring

                                                                                                                            no one has forgotten anything. several of us have remarked that we don't necessarily care for her reviews, but we still might choose to treat her witha modicum of class, maturity and professionalism. and i'm not sure what her appearance has to do with anything...

                                                                                                                            1. re: vnehring

                                                                                                                              I have never read her reviews, couldn't care less what she looks like and do not give a hoot if she uses a false name, a false address or a false name on the CC as long as she shows up and pays.

                                                                                                                              But what I do care about is the way they treated her, which was dispicable. And if she were "out to get them" and she already had 2 reviews about them (neither of which I can find on the internet) then she was probably there to give them another chance. And the ownership took defeat from the possible jaws of victory and then doubled-down by saying that anything written about them are biased.

                                                                                                                              I am glad you voted with your feet...that is the power of a review, and it is the review she never wrote that has become the most powerful piece in her career..

                                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                  I may be wrong, but I believe the prior SIV reviews were of the individual people involved currently with the Red Medicine venture. One of them was a prior Michael Mina disciple (incl. at XIV in Los Angeles) and another has had several ventures in Los Angeles, incl. BottleRock and Vinoteque, as well as Umami Burgers, if memory serves me correctly.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                    I believe the reviews that raised the ire of the restaurant owner are the following links:

                                                                                                                                    Umami Burger - http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                                                                                                    XIV: http://www.latimes.com/features/la-fo...

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jwsel

                                                                                                                                      wow...and they did not want a reviewer who wrote these in there restaurant. even more of a hair scratcher.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                        She gave two stars to Michael Mina's place, but she was really harsh about the desserts of Jordan Kahn, the pastry chef of XIL, who's the chef/partner of Red Medicine. At one point, she wrote Kahn " is trying too hard to top what came before" and that one of his desserts stood out as one of the worst desserts she's ever had.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                      Agreed. And to those who say that any publicity is good publicity, think about this: Most of us reading this thread live nowhere near LA and will never have the opportunity to eat at this place if we even wanted to, but we can certainly start reading S. Irene Virbila's reviews.

                                                                                                                                      The clear winner: S. Irene Virbila.

                                                                                                                                  2. Critics are useless...except in the following way. I'm going to relate this to movies because I use critics there more...well two of them. Are they the best critics? No idea, but they reflect my tastes. They are a guide nothing more. Do I agree with them 100% No, but 90% +. Putting any more worth or trust in a critic is IMO idiotic. I would wager that in five years critics and for that means newspapers will be as relivant as a model T.

                                                                                                                                    1. Let's face it, you can either say good night Irene & go egalitarian, mingling with with hoi polloi on chowhound, yelp, zagat & the like, or go elitist and suck up to Irene & her ilk. Your choice.

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: bernardo

                                                                                                                                        Can't I just read a critic without sucking up to her? I had no idea this was what I was doing.

                                                                                                                                        Bizarre dichotomy you paint there, seeing as those of us here defending critics are also OBVIOUSLY already reading the more egalitarian reviews at Chowhound. There's nothing about respecting a professional critic that prevents one from also reading and contributing to forum reviews.

                                                                                                                                        Unless you're revoking memberships.

                                                                                                                                      2. So what's next? News media reviewers kicked out of plays and films?

                                                                                                                                        Looking at the photos of Ellis and Virbila on the eater.com site and reading Ellis' comments, there is a whiff of sexism and age arrogance. Mr. Ellis, work out your mother issues with your own mother, not with someone who is doing her job.

                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                                                                          Ha ha ha! Awesome comments Discerning. Was hoping this thread would still be open. Chowhounds are the best!!!!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                                                                            "So what's next? News media reviewers kicked out of plays and films?"
                                                                                                                                            Why not?

                                                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                              because america is based on varying opinions, the ability to espress those opinions, the power of the brain to discern and make decisions based on varying opinions. A review is an opinion, a point of view, one data point.

                                                                                                                                              How boring life would be if the only point of views we heard were our own and people who agreed. Haven't those philosophies caused some pretty ill-conceived situations?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                You answered a question that I didn't ask. It's not about whether there's value in diverse opinions. It's about whether a business has any obligation to let a professional reviewer through their doors. We're talking about one business refusing to do business with another. A professional review is not merely an opinion - it is an article meant to sell newspapers, relying on a codependent relationship with the industry being reviewed. If the industry in question feels that relationship is being abused, I see no reason for them to continue playing ball.

                                                                                                                                                I understand people saying RM was too harsh or childish or whatever in how they handled this situation. But a lot of you are acting like SIV had an absolute right to be seated BecauseThisIsAmericaGoddammit. And that's just silly.

                                                                                                                                            2. "Critics are useless"
                                                                                                                                              "you can either say good night Irene & go egalitarian, mingling with with hoi polloi on chowhound, yelp, zagat & the like, or go elitist and suck up to Irene & her ilk. Your choice"

                                                                                                                                              I couldn't disagree with these pronouncements more.

                                                                                                                                              The notion that all reviewers are elitists who believe their job is to grade restaurants against some inviolate standard to which readers must adhere, or that one must choose in seeking information on restaurants between the reviews of yelpers and chowhounds on the one hand and the reviews published by professional journalists on the other (as if these two kinds of reviews must be at odds rather than complementary), is ridiculous.

                                                                                                                                              Read Robert Sietsema of The Village Voice, for instance. He doesn't rate restaurants by stars. But he does describe the foods served with, as Will Owen wrote above, "the considered judgement of a person who almost certainly knows more about the subject than I." Take his recent review of a NYC outer-borough Chinese restaurant
                                                                                                                                              The review was not of a high-end restaurant with an extensive wine list. AFAIK, the restaurant is not owned by celebrity chefs or frequented by the glitterati. The menu doesn't pay homage to French haute cuisine traditions.

                                                                                                                                              From reading the review, I've gotten a very good sense of what a visit might be like ("the place seems like a clubhouse, and many of the patrons are middle-aged men, who drop by for an evening meal and then sit for hours discussing business affairs and reminiscing about the past over a beer or two. Printed on a series of loose pastel pages, the bill of fare is simple and incredibly cheap, with most dishes costing $6").

                                                                                                                                              In fact, the review has given me a much better sense of the food than simply reading the menu would have provided, were it possible to find a copy of the menu somewhere online ("The assortment [of lamb innards in the 'lamb innards soup'] was different every time we tried it, but one evening my crew and I disinterred liver, heart, and little lamb kidneys, which might have been dissected by some ovine pathologist, so easy was it to discern the renal pyramids, arterioles, and other anatomic details").

                                                                                                                                              And because Sietsema has a large body of reviews of many restaurants I've tried dating back many years, when he says a dish was really spicy hot, I have a much better sense of what that means than when some random yelper or chowhound uses that term in her or his review.

                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                Right below this posting, in the list of other discussions on this board, was one entitled "Yelpers making threats to get comped?". And that, boys and girls, is why we need professional critics who go out of their way to preserve their anonymity.

                                                                                                                                                As I have mentioned either on this thread or on the one that got locked, there once was a "critic" working the restaurant beat in Nashville, whose modus operandi was to show up with an entourage, announce who he was and what he was doing, and then demand comped meals for him and his posse OR ELSE. A few equally venal restaurateurs went along with this and got glowing reviews. Now, this is what is called CORRUPTION. It is unequivocally a con game played on the suckers who actually thought those "reviews" were objective and honest. THIS kind of "critic" is the one who's the leech, the parasite, and he encourages his collaborators to be the same.

                                                                                                                                                An honest critic, on the other hand, tells us what she thinks is good and what she thinks is not up to snuff, and why. If we know her work, and know what she likes and doesn't, we can decide either to accept her recommendations or to take them lightly, since maybe she hates whole-wheat pasta and we think it's just ducky. Or whatever. But the point of the anonymity thing is that if her identity does go undetected, then we'll know that she was treated exactly like any other schmoe that walks in the door, given no special favors, cut no more slack than I would be. And I find that as valuable a thing as her take on the sand dabs …

                                                                                                                                                1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                  Actually the Sietsema review you cite, was another one of his copy-cat reviews he does ex Chowhound. At least five from me as well as from a couple of other CH'ers he has done over the past couple of years. Note that the online Village Voice does not have any photos of the food at Henan Fengwei. Why? Because they stole the photos from my CH review as well! Take-down letter forced them to remove them from their website. The matter is now in the hands of my lawyer.


                                                                                                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                    Well, that's ... interesting.

                                                                                                                                                    I'll just say that I was reading Sietsema's reviews long before there was a Chowhound, back when territory that Chowhounds routinely cover today was completely ignored by all print reviewers other than Sietsema.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                      Odd too, in that Sietsema has admitted he was one of the first ever CH'er's. I guess after 17 years at the VV he has gotten a tad lazy.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                    Mea culpa for being somewhat snide about sucking up to "professional' critics of any sort, truth be told, many of us just couldn't care less one way or another. Because any one person's opinions about anything are far from statistically significant nor do they provide insight into variability, often a key factor in selecting a service of any type (statistical significance approached at 30 samples for a normal distribution but conventional wisdom says 100 desirable). When dozens of folks deem the pink sauce to die for and that assessment persists to this day, I get motivated, who cares what critic X thought one single day Y months ago?

                                                                                                                                                  3. I was in the restaurant business in Los Angeles when SIV became the critic replacing Ruth Reichel. If you have not spent the last 16 years reading her reviews of your friends blood, sweat and tears, it is almost impossible to understand the vitriol she engenders.

                                                                                                                                                    I've been in the business or related business in L.A. ever since and seen countless reviews that feel "uneccisarily cruel" because I know the people she is writing about personally. This is almost impossible to explain becuase the comments are very nuanced in terms of the restaurant business but when it began to happen so regularly, it became completely clear, she loved her bully pulpit and was going to use it be, well, a bully.

                                                                                                                                                    Though this isn't a perfect analogy, I will try to describe what this feels like. You go into a review of your job performance and the boss sprinkles in things like, "this report is incompetent," "you were a failure this year," "everyone else is better than you." Now, you may say, that is the cold hard world of business. But isn't a lot of this thread about how she should have been treated with more respect? More nicely? She deserves to be able to do her job? Let me re-write the above comments, "this report was not up to the standards we expect," "you didn't meet any of the goals we set this year," "your performance ranked you at the bottom of the company based on these standards." This says exactly the same thing without being "unecissarily cruel."

                                                                                                                                                    So understand, these are nuanced aspects that read like she is being snarky at the expense of the venue and its employees as opposed to just sticking to why she didn't care for the food (there is enough evidence in the thread to dismiss this as just the way the industry reads her writing). AND, this can get you fired. How many of you have your jobs in jeapordy from one independent and annonymous review? What about your entire business? And what if you know that person is LOOKING for everything you do wrong and apparently DELIGHTS in saying what you've done wrong? Oh yeah, and it is all done in public.

                                                                                                                                                    What might happen is then you decide break the mold and say, I am not going to allow this to determine my job, business or career. I'll leave this to everyone else but that person. And if I get a chance, I am going to treat that person with a similar amount of respect that I feel I, my colleagues and friends have been treated with. It might not work, but likely the ONLY way it does, is if I am actually good at what I do, becuase in the long run, if the food is good, people will come.

                                                                                                                                                    Now, understand, this took marbles the size of the sun. It could totally backfire. And there aren't many restaurantuers who even consider it let alone actually go through with it. But she is just a food critic--she doesn't work for the DEA. The annonymity of a food critic is merely part of a loose social contract that suggests if they remain unkown as diners, they might be able to write a more balanced review. I know personally, as noted above a bunch of times, SIV hasn't been "annonymous" since as early as 1999. If a restaurant really wanted to know who she was, there were ways to find out.

                                                                                                                                                    It is all this history that 1. Informs why they chose to do what they did 2. Surprises me some one hasn't done it before 3. Will really make little difference in her ability to review restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                    Gotta go get me some Bahn Mi.

                                                                                                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gregg Greenbaum

                                                                                                                                                        Thank you ipsedixit and Gregg.


                                                                                                                                                        I started to put together quotes but for the sake of this thread, let's leave this between us and if you want to communicate privately I'd be happy to further clarify my point. As I said, it is nuanced and I may not have been as clear as I could about it. It is clear you post a lot and spend a lot of time in restaurants so the offer is open.


                                                                                                                                                      2. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                                                                                        "So understand, these are nuanced aspects that read like she is being snarky at the expense of the venue and its employees as opposed to just sticking to why she didn't care for the food... And what if you know that person is LOOKING for everything you do wrong and apparently DELIGHTS in saying what you've done wrong? Oh yeah, and it is all done in public."

                                                                                                                                                        As someone not familiar with SIV's body of work, I wonder how her tone differs from that of other food critics. Is it a matter of intent or just degree? It has always been the critic's prerogative and delight to rip into the occasional venue for its perceived faults - it's more fun to read, and frankly more honest as long as it's balanced by championing venues that are worthwhile or exceptional.

                                                                                                                                                        The problem with the job performance analogy is that unlike the company you work for, the critic has no vested interest in keeping you around or playing nice in the first place. She is beholden to her paper and readership, not to the restaurant she is reviewing. So what I'm wondering is whether SIV is worse and more cruel than most other critics or if it is just critics in general that frustrate you (and apparently the fellas at Red Medicine).

                                                                                                                                                        Do you (or anyone) have any examples of her being needlessly cruel or unfair in her judgments?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                          As noted, it isn't a perfect analogy. And in my above response to Jack, I did start compiling things that were written in a way that seemed "unncessarily cruel." But I realize, that wasn't exactly the point of my post.

                                                                                                                                                          It is more that she has managed to say a number of things over the years, that at least to us in the industry, seemed oddly cruel or out of place in a review, and that is why this happened. In my experience, restaurants all over the world have generally umcomfortable relationship with critics, but there is an aspect of grudging respect that usually prevails--or at least accpetence. She hasn't seemed to been able to achieve that in LA the way other critics have in other cities. Mind you there are only a handful of relevant annonymous critics in the U.S.

                                                                                                                                                          While incredibly tempted to start posting past reviews, I fear that would become a mess. When she writes "And while I'm at it, how funny is it that they are cooking Northern Italian cuisine at a place called Roma?", it won't seem like much to you. It would take me a lot of time to explain why that is very insulting to Agostino Sciandri. But it is. And it would then degenerate into a discussion of sentence construction, how things are read, Beverly Hills restaurant history, business strategy etc.

                                                                                                                                                          SO, my post was really intended to be a note on why this might have happened as opposed to a defense of it. Though it must be clear I don't really mind.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                                                                                            The quote you've shared from one of SIV's reviews was interesting. At first, I was inclined to agree with SIV. My husband and I travel extensively and if there's anything we've learned about Italian cuisine it is all regional. A pan-Italian menu in Italy is a pretty good sign of a tourist restaurant with all the prejoratives you can associate with that label.

                                                                                                                                                            Curious, I did a little digging. From the "About" web page on the web site, I'm inferring that the name of the restaurant was inherited from its previous incarnation. But here's where it gets a little murkier; the menu isn't even what the owner claims it is. Yes, Emilia Romagna (Fettucine alla Bolognese) and Lombardy (Milanese di Vitello) are Northern Italian regions, but Campagna (paccheri) is southern and Tuscany (Minestrone and Pappardelle al Cingale) is central Then, there are the menu items that aren't Italian: spaghetti and meatballs is Italian-American and the Caesar salad was invented in that well known region of Italy, Mexico City. (At least the meatball dish offered in the antipasti course is authentic. Meat and sauce. No pasta.)

                                                                                                                                                            Why would the text on the web site make claims that the menu doesn't back up? Write something charming about "the specialties of regions of Italy." That fits the menu. If the prices currently appearing on the web site menu and the restaurant's address are any indication of the demographic of the folks eating at this restaurant, plenty of the people have visited Italy. Why use language that is simply lame to folks who know Italian food?

                                                                                                                                                            But wait. There's more. If SIV want to be snarky about the authenticity of the cuisine, she ought to get her facts right.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                                                                                              "SO, my post was really intended to be a note on why this might have happened as opposed to a defense of it. Though it must be clear I don't really mind."
                                                                                                                                                              Your post was helpful. And I wasn't trying to argue, really. I was actually just looking for more perspective on whether (or to what extent) SIV has actually abused her critic privileges and license to Snark from someone more familiar with her work, being too lazy to search out and sift through her reviews myself.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                                                                                            I understand your point(s). Nevertheless, from a business perspective, I can't imagine this being a smart move. They have ticked off many people in addition to IBV, and I'm pretty sure that they've lost many more potential customers than they've gained.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                                                                              I took it as a "Network" moment of the "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." vein. I don't think the owners were thinking about potential customers at that moment so much as something much more visceral...

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: ellaystingray


                                                                                                                                                              Since you have been around for a long time and have seen her reviews, May I ask a few questions, since i am an east-coaster and have no skin in this game other than learning.

                                                                                                                                                              - Would you fire someone on your staff because of a review written by this critic
                                                                                                                                                              - if you know of places that did fire a chef, whether sous, pastry or otherwise because of a bad review was this an isolated instance or was there a pattern which the critic exposed
                                                                                                                                                              - are there restaurants in LA that she wrote a scathing review that went under within a year
                                                                                                                                                              - does she rate restaurants on some scale like the NYTimes. And if she does is there data to support someone's assertion that she does not like ethnic and other types of food.

                                                                                                                                                              Just curious.


                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood


                                                                                                                                                                -I, thank god, have never been in the position of firing some one as a result of a review. All my friends worked in nicer restaurants than I did. We just paid for our reviews in the places I ran by comping the critics who do it for a free meal--they tend to speak highly of you. ;)

                                                                                                                                                                -In my experience, it is always done in a way that isn't directly about the review so it gets messy.

                                                                                                                                                                -Yes, but there are also places she has written reasonable to good, in one case great, reviews of that went under within a year. So it is difficult to say her review put some one out of business. The concern is more marginal business--how much more would you have made with a good review? How much less with a bad review? How much more/less do you make without a review and a certain amount of bad publicity (that could end up being good publicity) is clearly the equation RM is working with. But those are a lot of variables.

                                                                                                                                                                -Yes, 4 star system like the NYTimes. I don't think certain cuisines get rated any better or worse because of a bias. I think that post might have been suggesting RM didn't want her review becuase they are percieved as being Vietnamese when they are serving more of an interpretaion of that cuisine and she would use that against them. Not as irrational as it may sound, but I am not sure it would make a difference.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks E.

                                                                                                                                                                  We have a similar situation with the NYT reviewer in CT. They just gave the second "Dont Miss" of the year to a restaurant and they normally give 1-2 per year.

                                                                                                                                                                  Four years ago she gave an "Excellent" to a place in town (she lives in town as well) which neither me nor anyone I know who has a good sense of food would go to after numerous bad meals.


                                                                                                                                                                  Look at her words:

                                                                                                                                                                  - "quick to correct mistakes, as when a rack of lamb, ordered medium-rare, arrived overcooked"...lamb arrives overcooked, that's an immediate ding to an "excellent rating"
                                                                                                                                                                  - "Another time, the rosy, beautifully seared mignon of pork came with scalloped potatoes instead of the polenta stated on the menu. Our waiter noted the mistake and was back in five minutes with a side dish of piping hot polenta. Bad enough it is served wrong, but FIVE MINUTES?
                                                                                                                                                                  - "the three sauces for a generous filet mignon were missing, but a word to the busman immediately brought three tiny pitchers of red wine, peppercorn and blue cheese sauces"

                                                                                                                                                                  Can't make this up...It folded within a year of her "Excellent" rating. Go figure.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                    Maybe the server had brought scalloped potatoes that had been intended for another table and left the polenta in the kitchen -- the polenta was just sitting there waiting to be brought out?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                                      the place seated 40ish and was the size of a minute. It should have taken under a minute, 5 was an inordinate amount of time. If it was so minor why bring it up at all and if you bring it up you CANNOT give the highest rating unless this was the only minor gaff.

                                                                                                                                                            3. Just curious, how else could you punish a poor critic? I understand she's doing her job, but if her job interferes with your business, are you supposed to just take it? Especially if she's somewhat suspect as an unbiased revierwer? What if she has the reputation of being malicious? I don't live in LA and I don't read her reviews but when I see a strong reaction, I suspect there's a reason for it. Bits of information are trickling in. It's downright stupid to jump to conclusions without all the facts.

                                                                                                                                                              23 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                                You decline her reservation and post a surreptitiously taken picture at the host stand with instructions not to seat that person. You don't splash her photo all over kingdom come and post the name and telephone number she posted with some sanctimonious claptrap about saving other restaurateurs from her poison pen.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                  But why would a restaurant provide such a courtesy to a reviewer?

                                                                                                                                                                  Certainly SIV never reciprocates such a courtesy to a restaurant she reviews, does she? If she receives (what is in her opinion) a bad or sub-par meal, does she call up the chef and ask for an explanation?

                                                                                                                                                                  At least even on half-reality shows like Top Chef, when the judges call out one of the chefs, the chef can at least defend himself on why or why not the dish did not succeed. No such opportunity with restaurants vis-a-vis restaurant critics.

                                                                                                                                                                  So why should a restaurant extend any type of courtesy to a critic?

                                                                                                                                                                  As an aside, wouldn't it have been ironic if SIV was dining there as a private citizen? Y'know, girls night out sort of thing. Eating out qua "normal person" and not qua restaurant critic. Now, that would've been tragic.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                    She may have been writing a "first look", but she certainly wasn't reviewing them. LAT guidelines say three months open before the review cycle begins.

                                                                                                                                                                    If they didn't want her in the restaurant, they could have removed her party with much less drama. This wasn't about them not wanting the review. This is clearly about animosity toward her. If Miles Clements or Linda Burum or Thi Nguyen had been there instead (not that RM exactly qualifies as a "Find"), would they have booted them out too?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                      But is animosity in this case really that outrageous? SIV makes a living out of a sometimes-antagonistic relationship with the restaurants she writes about. I'm not one who thinks this makes her a bad or useless person, but if a restaurant decides to play a little hardball with her - to make her professional life more difficult - might we just consider that a job hazard for any critic who delights in negative reviews?

                                                                                                                                                                      Personally, I think RMs actions seemed like minor overkill (or a clever way of getting their name out and creating intrigue). But so has the reaction and vitriol of many on this thread. They didn't do anything THAT outrageous in the grand scheme of things.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                        Concur with both cowboyardee and Servorg.

                                                                                                                                                                        Red Medicine has absolutely every right to treat ANY patron -- be they Joe Blow or SIV or anyone else -- in ANY fashion they want.

                                                                                                                                                                        It's totally their prerogative. Maybe it will be bad for business to be the "soup Nazi" or maybe it won't. But if that's their business MO then so be it.

                                                                                                                                                                        Like the minority on this thread, I simply don't understand nor can I really appreciate the vitriol directed against Red Medicine.

                                                                                                                                                                        Maybe they overreacted, maybe they did not.

                                                                                                                                                                        Ever have a taskmaster of a teacher tell you to your face that your child is "just not very smart and can't keep up with the rest of the class"?

                                                                                                                                                                        That's EXACTLY how it feels as a restaurateur and/or chef to have a critic blast their restaurant and/or food.

                                                                                                                                                                        Maybe they should have thicker skin, and maybe parents should as well. [shrug]

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                          I really don't understand the idea that as long as an action is legal, people should not direct any vitriol against it. Based on the following quote (and some others in this thread), I have three problems.

                                                                                                                                                                          Red Medicine has absolutely every right to treat ANY patron -- be they Joe Blow or SIV or anyone else -- in ANY fashion they want.

                                                                                                                                                                          It's totally their prerogative. Maybe it will be bad for business to be the "soup Nazi" or maybe it won't. But if that's their business MO then so be it.

                                                                                                                                                                          Like the minority on this thread, I simply don't understand nor can I really appreciate the vitriol directed against Red Medicine.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. I don't think it's OK for a restaurant to treat a customer in any fashion they want as long as it's legal.

                                                                                                                                                                          Let's take a hypothetical case where a Joe Blow (not a reviewer) comes into a restaurant and the GM, who doesn't like him (possibly for a good reason), recognizes him, and turns him away. The GM then gleefully announces to the world:

                                                                                                                                                                          "Today I had a jerk I don't like in my restaurant. I had him wait for 40 minutes and then threw him out. Served him right."

                                                                                                                                                                          My guess is that most people would question the maturity and professionalism of the GM. Some would see no reason for the vitriol since, technically, the GM had a right to throw him out. I'm just hoping that people who think that the GM's action is OK have no affiliation with the Service Industries in any way, shape, or form (even as a customer).

                                                                                                                                                                          2. I don't think it's ethical for a business to try to stifle a free discussion about the quality of their products and services avilable to the public.

                                                                                                                                                                          Sometimes, a movie is released without a prerelease screening for the critics -- usually a good sign that it's a turkey. I have no problem with that. But what if a production company tried to ban critics from entering movie theaters after the movie is in public release? What if a company tries to prevent Consumer Reports to get their hands on one of their products that's available to the public? I would say that there might be some kind of problem, with the business ethics as well as common sense.

                                                                                                                                                                          3. I don't believe in the idea that restaurants shouldn't have to put up with potentially critical reviewers that might hurt their businesses (as long as the reviews are in good faith).

                                                                                                                                                                          The restaurant business is a tough business. Getting reviewed by the likes of "Anton Ego" is a normal part of that business and if you can't handle it, maybe you should look for another job. And in this day and age of Yelp, food bloggers, etc, getting riled by the presence of a dead-tree-media reviewer seems especially pathetic.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                            Seems to me that there's a good balance between the Virbila haters and the Red Medicine haters posting here.

                                                                                                                                                                            Red Medicine may have a right to treat anyone in any (legal) manner they please, but the public has an equal right to comment on how they do that.

                                                                                                                                                                            And, guess what? There are kids who aren't too bright and can't keep up with the class. Just as there are bad restaurants. And bad cars. (I assume you wouldn't mind a warning not to buy the modern equivalent to a Yugo.)

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Akitist

                                                                                                                                                                              "I assume you wouldn't mind a warning not to buy the modern equivalent to a Yugo"

                                                                                                                                                                              Or, as they became more popularly known "You-No-Go" ;-D>

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Akitist

                                                                                                                                                                                >>Red Medicine may have a right to treat anyone in any (legal) manner they please, but the public has an equal right to comment on how they do that.<<

                                                                                                                                                                                I've always been in the "let the market decide" corner, where that is between the two major groups I don't know. But at the same time, I deplore places/people/companies that openly and willingly treat people with arrogance,
                                                                                                                                                                                hostility and demeaning behavior and actions. Civility is a cornerstone to a successful and respected society. Critics/reviewers will always do what they do - good or bad. But I think with this highly publicized move, RM opened themselves up to a much higher level of scrutiny and criticism than SIV could ever have potentially unleashed upon them. My first question to myself was, "what the hell are they so afraid of?" All who are interested will be looking for it now...

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                  "My first question to myself was, "what the hell are they so afraid of?" All who are interested will be looking for it now..."

                                                                                                                                                                                  From the outset, my thought was that the actions of RM was motivated by retribution toward SIV. It never struck me as them being afraid of a review, but they didn't want that particular reviewer (who they believe has no accountability in her work) in their restaurant. These actions remind me more of the Jet Blue flight attendant who gave an overgrown child of a customer a dress-down and made a dramatic exit, than anything else. Impetuous? Sure, but it must have felt good to stick it to someone who they felt was sticking it to them. I'm curious to see how this all plays out if the LAT wants to review RM. They'll have to send someone other than SIV to write the review, which I believe was their objective in the first place. My impression is that they would welcome a review that wasn't SIV's.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: E Eto

                                                                                                                                                                                    By sheer coincidence I was talking to someone who had been (until recently) employed at the LA Times working on their website edition dealing with restaurants and she said that the information they had was that RM took a calculated gamble to generate publicity for themselves. She also said that in her opinion Sherry is a big girl and she (the former employee) wasn't surprised about this happening.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                                        Gee, a shocker! Given that the Times is on the wane and there are so many more outlets for info, it's hardly an act of courage on RM's part..... As I said upthread, 10 years ago, this never would have happened.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: E Eto

                                                                                                                                                                                        Your thoughts also came to mind, but I wonder if any critics of her status (in terms of exposure and readership) have much if any accountability? I personally enjoy J Gold's style, in that not only is he a first class writer, I don't recall him using his pen as a flamethrower - something that a lot of critics might aspire to.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                          Personally I think J.Gold is a great story teller but not that great a reviewer. I wish he would be more critical. It seems like he loves every place he reviews. I still read him

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                                                                                                            I feel he's a strong critic, not in the sense that he is going to lay down a determined thumbs-up or down, but he gives his strong impressions of a place and its food, yet lets you decide if it's your cup of tea. And reading through his prose is a joyful ride in itself. Here's a paragraph from a recent review that shows his depth of knowledge (in this case Korean cuisine in K-Town), a sense of his first hand experience, and given in descriptive form like no one else can do.

                                                                                                                                                                                            >>But the restaurant's other famous specialty is gool bossam, a simmered pork-belly dish served here in its most rustic version (a more elegant take is at Kobawoo over on Vermont Avenue) — which is an elaborate, communal course ideally suited to a night of serious drinking, a fatty, spicy, highly flavored thing that leans into your second bottle of soju like a motorcyclist grinding into a curve.<<

                                                                                                                                                                                            I totally got what he was attempting to convey, and it's stuck with me now for almost four months. I can't remember one quote or specific impression from SIV from last week. But after reading her review, you get the sense that she is the classic restaurant critic, and one will get a strong impression of whether she approves or not. Why RM would feel so strongly about her and take the actions that they did still leaves me wondering why. Do they think that she just might not "get" their style of food? She's no expert on Vietnamese cuisine thereby couldn't comprehend any extention of it and would slam them just as a reflex response? I'm still wondering. Since Hounds chiming in have divided into one of two camps on this issue, I wonder if the general dining public is doing the same? If so, I would think those in the pro-SIV camp are going to either boycott this place or be hyper-ultra-critical of RM during their visits...

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                              In case we hadn't noticed, the few mentions this place got on the LA Board before the SIV flap were uniformly dismissive. "Meh" seems to have been the consensus …

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                                                                                                                Hey Will, thanks for bringing that up - I recall a relatively luke-warm mention about this place. At the same time, I think it has its place in this part of town. I just don't see the average BH-centric diner-types heading out the North OC or SGV and hitting up even the more well-appointed places - too "out there" in many ways for those attracted to a place like RM. I just looked up RM on Yelp, and saw these posts supposedly by SIV herself - can this be real?


                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Not a chance. Anyone can register a fake account. But don't believe me—ask her yourself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks, DU - I don't know squat about Yelp except for the fact that it's good for finding basic info and pics of particular eateries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                      And just like that (seven days' worth of *snap*) the contributions by "Irene V." and all the reviews that are quite obviously fake and contain no direct reference to having eaten there are gone. Took bloody long enough, since I doubt the Yelp LA staff were unaware of the problem...

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The restaurant has gone from 2 stars to 2.5 stars; the number of reviews went from about 110 to 58.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                The "press" runs the gamut from those pesky paparazzi right on through reviewers to the vultures who stick their cameras in the faces of people who've just suffered some unimaginable tragedy to ask them "How do you feel right now?" - I have absolutely no sympathy for Sherry getting turned away from the restaurant or having her photo plastered on the Internet.

                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                Maybe it is different in the non-restaurant world, but when I go to a large customer (my equivilent of a reviewer) i make sure everything is perfect beyond belief. Here they had the chance, sub-rosa, to make a great impression with her. And if they recognized her immediately, why on earth would they make her party wait 45 minutes? They were not sure, probably. Then there is that "what do we do" moment...

                                                                                                                                                                                Couple of managers call the owner if not on site, chef gets involved, he is in the weeds and pissed and yells "NO SOUP FOR HER!!!" Some yutz then comes up with the stupid idea..."Hey let's out her!!!" snowball continues downhill...another person says, "we made her wait 45 minutes, we're screwed"...another one says "let's throw her out and out her" snowball continues....another one states...."she got my friend fired"....snowball continues.... "I have a camera."


                                                                                                                                                                          2. Outrageous. I will not eat at the restaurant. My view is that other diners should boycott it. Restaurant owners should not censor critics' opinions about their restaurants. Diners, not restaurant owners, should decide whether a particular critic's opinions lack merit. If it were up to restaurant owners to decide that question, then we'd end up with only positive reviews, and we'd no longer have reliable information to guide our dining choices. The fact that this restaurant stifled a review before it was even written tells me all I need to know about it.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. I don't read Virbila's reviews closely but haven't seen the level of snarkiness/vitriol that some posters have alluded to. My sensibilities may not be sensitive enough, I guess. (Wondering why a restaurant featuring pan-Italian cuisine is called Roma? Saying one chef's desserts are over-the-top? Doesn't budge the needle on my Snark-o-Meter.)

                                                                                                                                                                              However, if it's actually the case that she's a bully the restaurateurs have mostly succeeded in casting her in the role of victim, no small accomplishment. Not sure that's what they wanted, though.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. I actually DO read SIV’s restaurant reviews. I’ve both agreed and disagreed with her opinions but if nothing else, she offers a knowledgeable point of view.

                                                                                                                                                                                Who of us has the time or funds to try all the restaurants and all the dishes that critics do. While I’d be willing to give it a go, isn’t that what critics are for? Cut through the wheat and the chaff to sort out the basics of a dining experience. How else does one make an informed decision when money is dear, most advertising is hyperbole and word of mouth is often incorrect or non-existent.

                                                                                                                                                                                Similar to a theatre reviewer, the restaurant critic offers vital information. In Virbila’s (and her fellows) case, it’s the kind of food, the kind of atmosphere, the level of pricing and service one might encounter, stressing “might”. If you hate T.S. Eliot and felines, it's really useful to know what “Cats” is all about. Same-same with a dining establishment.

                                                                                                                                                                                I think most of you will acknowledge, the best critic is the one with whom you agree. That unique relationship affords you the opportunity to dodge a lot more bullets than the average bear.

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Steve2 in LA

                                                                                                                                                                                  "I think most of you will acknowledge, the best critic is the one with whom you agree." The EASIEST critic might be the one whose tastes perfectly coincide with mine, but as those are next to nonexistent I'll stick with the ones whose judgements are carefully and honestly rendered and whose quirks and crochets, if different from mine, I have learned to take into account. There was a critic in Nashville, not the jerk I mentioned elsewhere but a woman of taste and integrity, whose major shortcoming in our opinion was her refusal to eat any meat that wasn't a skeletal muscle. No heart, liver, tripe, kidney or chitterlings for her, and she tended to avoid even reviewing any places where such items could be gotten. We frequently lobbied to be brought along with her to assume that responsibility, but she never took us up on it, dammit …

                                                                                                                                                                                2. As a live theater performer for many, many years, our local "big" paper seems to be notorious for hiring people who almost seem to hate every production on some level. "Oh no, Mary's in the audience tonight." "Did you hear that Mary's coming tonight?" "Oh no." I think it's just how some reviewers are. The subtle snark that "could" be handed out with a softer hand and still get the point across has closed down hundreds of mine and my fellow actors' plays earlier than perhaps necessary because people read the bad review and decided not to come. I myself have read reviews of plays, with people I know in the cast, and have decided not to go after a bad review because I can't spare the $100 night out for 2 tix and a couple of drinks, if it's going to only be a mediocre play. So I understand the perspective on both sides. However, I think it's just part of the deal, and if the play is really good, and thus, if the restaurant is really good, it overcomes the bad review and goes on to do very well. Sometimes the reviewer just scratches their head forever going, I don't know why so many people liked it, but I didn't. And that's the best kind of play to be in.

                                                                                                                                                                                  But we would have never evicted a reviewer from the theater. Never. Talk about him or her backstage in nasty, hushed tones? Yes. Be nervous that they were out there? Yes. Make a mistake you might not have otherwise made if you weren't trying "extra hard" because you knew they were sitting out there? Sure. But I cannot imagine the gall of just deciding that you don't want to be subject to them potentially giving a negative review. Even if I were the director whose plays always gets a negative mention, I still cannot imagine coming out and throwing the person out for doing their job. It just seems wrong to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                                                                                    I think as much as it may hurt to hear or read a mediocre to bad review of anything for those involved, a critic is one of many standards that hopefully keep those being reviewed on their toes - a certain higher bar to shoot for if you will. And as long as the critic is consistent in their views - always negative or otherwise - regular readers/listeners know how to read between the lines, as mentioned many times throughout this thread. SIV has a reputation for being pretty tough, and with a strong emphasis particularly with Italian, so if a place passes muster with her, it could probably meet the standards of the vast majority of her readership (except our beloved more respected Chow folk).

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Eh, who cares. The critic and the restaurant can both live by the sword and die by the sword.

                                                                                                                                                                                    SIV can go in disguise or give up the pretense of being incognito.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Personally I will join the hoipolloi at Yelp. Neither LAT nor Chowhound contribute much of value toward my dining options in the hinterlands of Long Beach/Lakewood. I find the LA area Chowhound to be just as Westside focused and elitist as the LAT, and populated by the same clique of 5 or 6 reviewers who rarely recommend anything new..let's see, Long Beach that would be Enriques or Jongewaards and nothing in between, right? Yelp has pointed me toward chow worthy places like El Pollo Imperial and away from stinkers like Sipology Red.

                                                                                                                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mlgb

                                                                                                                                                                                      I don't know if LA Chow is so Westside-focused. I am a Westsider and feel a lot of the attention goes more toward other areas, and maybe those in those other areas feel the same way as I do about their areas not having so much focus. But I'd also add that if you feel that Long Beach/Lakewood is neglected, help out the rest of us by posting your impressions about Chow-worthy places in those areas. I have a mouthful of sweet teeth, and really enjoy Sweet & Saucy Shop on Stearns in Long Beach. If you're familiar with this place, please post your thoughts on the LA Board. If not, I hope you get a chance to try them out. I just started a post in hopes of generating a list of gastropubs in the general LA area (Long Beach/Lakewood counts!). Maybe it's time we see a list of particular eateries in your 'hood that deserve added interest on our board. Good eating to you...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                        I've added a Long Beach gastropub from my neighborhood to your list, Bulavinka.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Of course it doesn't register as a link on CH and I have no understanding of the new format, which is another reason I don't come here any more, but you can find details on Yelp.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks and best wishes. Not familiar with Sweet & Saucy shop but need to stay away from that stuff anyways. Our local is Alsace Lorraine Bakery.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mlgb

                                                                                                                                                                                          Hey, mlgb, thank you very much for your post... Here's a short-lived thread that really needs a jump start - maybe you can post Alsace Lorraine Bakery on it and also give your thoughts on what is not to be missed here? TIA


                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, we need deets on Alsace Lorraine.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                              Just the name alone gives me pause to think I've really been missing out on a hidden gem...

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: mlgb

                                                                                                                                                                                        Uhh, you are kidding about LA board being westside focused and elitist right? I frequent that board and live on the westside. I actually feel that there isn't as much info on the westside as to other parts of the city. I actually have to save up all the tips I glean from mid town to east side.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Also not sure what clique you refer to, sure there's some fairly vocal ones. Some whose tastes I disagree with, some who matches mine. But out of the westside recommendations, I see a fairly even distribution between high end and casual/hole in the walls. As I prefer casual dining, I've actually have had good success with the numerous finds on the board on westside dining.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I'd love to see more south bay recommendations. We find fighting traffic down to the south bay a lot easier than going to mid town or eastside during evening hours.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Jase

                                                                                                                                                                                          I'd love to see more south bay recommendations. We find fighting traffic down to the south bay a lot easier than going to mid town or eastside during evening hours.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Have you been to Ma N Pa Grocery for their burgers? Great great burgers. Dunno if it's worth fighting traffic, but if you ever find yourself in the Long Beach area, it's worth the detour.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                            I have not. But I'll file it away, thanks! Looking at their hours, no way I can make it down there after work anyway. It'll have to be if I'm in the vicinity.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. I think what they did sucks. Her anonymity is part of her job as a critic -- what if the LAT fires her because her cover is blown? Would they feel good about that.

                                                                                                                                                                                        It's one thing to go up to her and say "We know who you are, and you're not welcome. Please leave." and another thing to make her and her party wait for 40 minutes past reservation time, then take her picture and blow her cover so she can't do her job properly anymore. The picture was a big invasion of privacy -- I wouldn't be surprised if she sues them for invasion of privacy, publishing her photo without consent, and emotional distress.

                                                                                                                                                                                        21 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                          "I wouldn't be surprised if she sues them for invasion of privacy, publishing her photo without consent, and emotional distress."
                                                                                                                                                                                          I would be surprised if she did, and downright SHOCKED if that lawsuit was successful.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                            SIV was in a public place. She has no right of privacy under just about any jurisdiction, even in celebrity-sensitive CA; otherwise TMZ would be out of business.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Arguably, she might have a cause of action if RM was using her image or photo for commercial purposes, but simply posting it on Twitter most likely does not rise to the level of "commercial use" necessary to make out a sustainable cause of action. Again, if it was TMZ would be out of business.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                              Hey Ipse

                                                                                                                                                                                              Many of the posters have stated that RM is a private establishment and can admit or dismiss anyone at will, other than in violation of discriminatory rules. And now you state it is a public space and therefore she had no expectation of privacy.

                                                                                                                                                                                              This confuses me as I somewhat agree with you that it is a quasi-public space like a mall, but do not think she should have any expectation of privacy. Yet I am extremely troubled by them posting her photo on the net as a quasi invasion of privacy and basic social coutesy.

                                                                                                                                                                                              How do you rationalize this a public place and their ability to dismiss her. Not trying to be snarky but you post very cogent responses and I am always interested in understanding a different point of view.


                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                I am not a First Amendment expert, but generally speaking ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                Re: privacy rights. You generally only have a right to privacy (and thus a cause of action for invasion of privacy) when you have an expectation of privacy. At a restaurant, esp. in the waiting area or bar area, there is no legitimate expectation of privacy. Compare that with being in the ladies' room at RM. There, you would have an expectation of privacy, even though you are still at the restaurant. So, RM could not sneak into the bathroom stall and take a picture of SIV and post it on the Internet, but it could do so if SIV was simply standing in the dining room area of the restaurant. Comes down to the "legitimate expectation of privacy" -- not necessarily whether a place is a public or private establishment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Re: discrimination. A business establishment (or to use legalese, a place of public accommodation) may not discriminate against an individual based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc because of various state and federal civil rights and anti-discrimination laws. Those same establishments may discriminate based on other things -- e.g. "no shoes, no shirt, no service". In other words, if RM had a policy that said "no service to anyone with long hair" then it could refuse service to SIV based on her long flowing locks, even if she was African-American, crippled in a wheel-chair, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Hope that helps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sorry for the confusion Ipse but I have the privacy and discrimination under control, but am trying to understand the idea that either (a) this is a "public" place and therefore RM should not have any right to throw someone out or (b) this is a "private" place and they had the right to throw her out but she should have a higher expectation of priacy, which was violated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Absolutely a grey area and probably the subject of some con law students over a beer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Me, i think that a restaurant is a quasi-private with some expectation of privacy, but the owners have some rights of refusal of service for a good reason that has occured versus an anticipatory reason. For example, if someone who has a concealed weapon that is fully licensed to have that weapon as a bodyguard for someone enters a restaurant. Does the restaurant have the right to throw the bodyguard out. Again, very grey

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I recall at least one restaurant in LA kicking out OJ after the acquittal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't think they discriminated against her at all. But I do think they invaded her privacy. It's not legal to take a picture of someone and profit it from it without their permission. I would think that the publicity that RM is receiving from this incident , both negative and positive could be considered profit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                                      "It's not legal to take a picture of someone and profit it from it without their permission."

                                                                                                                                                                                                      That's going to thin out the ranks of the paparazzi considerably...

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Pictures of celebrities are taken with implied consent. Part of a celebrity's "job" is to be seen in public, doing promotions, etc. In SIV's situation, there was no expressed or implied consent, and some could argue that there is a reasonable amount of privacy expected in a restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think the restaurant realized they screwed up by making her wait 40 minutes post reservation time, and needed to do something to cover themselves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I don't think there is any such legal concept at work here. If you are out in public and someone snaps your photo you have no legal right to keep them from putting that photo on the Internet. Now, if you are in your home and someone is snapping your photo through your window, or climbing up a tree next door and shooting you sun bathing "au natural" in your backyard, then you can bring suit. Otherwise you are SOL...

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                                            We can argue back and forth til we're blue in the face on the principle of the matter and it wouldn't make the least bit of difference as to whether a lawsuit would stand a chance. Implied consent has little or nothing to do the the legal merits of an argument on SIV's behalf.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            There's nothing California specific in that overview. There seem to be arguments you could make for SIV in which she would almost have a case, but they are a stretch to say the least - there's no clear-cut and obvious 'wrong' perpetrated by RM, at least in the legal sense. Beyond that, there's a great deal of precedent for taking pictures of a person in a restaurant or other places considered 'public.' Not only of celebrities but of other food critics and even less public people (the news and 20/20 style expose' shows do it all the time).

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Pictures of celebrities are taken with implied consent. Part of a celebrity's "job" is to be seen in public, doing promotions, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Uh, no.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Yet I am extremely troubled by them posting her photo on the net as a quasi invasion of privacy and basic social coutesy."
                                                                                                                                                                                                        I believe Ips (and myself) were only talking about what's legal, not about what's right or courteous. And basically, it's legal due at least as much to precedent as to principle (I realize that strictly speaking 'legal' is the wrong word here, but you know what I mean).

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't think what RM did was very nice. But SIV would have no case were she to take them to court. Anonymity is not a universally afforded right - rather it is only protected in very specific circumstances and this is not one of them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yup, I agree that there are two issues, a critic may try their darndest to stay anonomous, but can fail. But that is a one way street, once outed, always outed. And legally I would bet she would lose in court as well. And I am glad we all agree that what RM did was at least "not very nice".

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks to you and Ipse for the discussion. Have a great holiday and glad to see the two coasts have some discussions while we are post-blizzard and you are soaking up the sun. Man am I jealous.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Happy Holidays.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Raining cats and dogs here in L.A. all day long :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: silence9

                                                                                                                                                                                                              In the words of an acquaintance from Ohio who now resides in Malibu, "Hate all of this rain - I'd rather be shoveling snow than shoveling mud..."

                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Her anonymity is part of her job as a critic -- what if the LAT fires her because her cover is blown?
                                                                                                                                                                                                    that would never happen. and if it did (which it wouldn't), she'd have one hell of a wrongful termination case against the paper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    critics get outed all the time, it's beyond their control. there are ways to continue to do the job even when every decent restaurant in town has your photo posted in the kitchen - Ruth Reichl used to wear elaborate disguises. but even without going to such extremes, Frank Bruni still managed to do his job at the NY Times after people knew what he looked like, and the current NYT critic - Sam Sifton - had his photo published online last year, but he's still plugging away.


                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                      J. Gold was an anonymous face until Pulitzer pulled the drapes, and he still seems to be hanging on... :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                        haha! i've seen J gold at europane before and he's got the kind of "look" you can spot a mile away. let's just say the man doesn't look subtle and yes, he is still hanging on. i just imagined him trying to disguise himself and it would take a hollywood makeup artist to change his distinguished looks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: trolley

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Considering the types of places that he typically reviews, the owners couldn't care less who he is, let alone even know who he is. And prior to his face being plastered everywhere upon receiving news of his Pulitzer, I'm guessing most folks in general hadn't a clue who this guy was either. SIV has been outed now - she typically goes to high profile eateries where images of critics and VIPs are posted in kitchens and by work stations. Will she feel that she can objectively critique a place ever again? We'll just have to wait and see I guess...

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                                                                                            J. Gold's column in this week's Weekly addresses exactly this, discussing his outing, Virbila's outing and whether it means diddley. He seems to think maybe sorta diddley, but not too much. Not that he was ever that much of the shrinking violet; seems to me his appearance with Shirley Corriher in a very public program at Cal Tech was pre-Pulitzer, though I could be wrong about that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  4. A few points:

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Because some (apparently many high end places) know what SIV looks like, they have a substantial advantage over those establishments that do not. This entire drama about her anonymity is therefore turned on its head.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Many readers apparently view SIV as someone who fawns over some big names. My own view is that she really appears to favor some restaurateurs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. SIV has often been mean-spirited, although less so in recent times. For instance, in two separate reviews, she described food as tasting like "sawdust".

                                                                                                                                                                                                    4. Anyone who thinks that the LATimes reviews have no relevance are wrapped up in the importance of their own blogs. The LATimes can still make and break restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    5. Restaurants are generally small businesses. Is there some reason the reviews aren't limited to those with favorable evaluations? Gourmet magazine used to do that. Why should a small business live in fear of a bad/unfair review from one person? I understand that the "explanation" is that only places that are already very popular really get slammed. But it sure doesn't seem that way. Restaurants are not huge corporations, like motion picture studios or auto makers, that can withstand bad reviews; and in the case of large companies, there are literally hundreds of critics nationally that offer reviews. I doubt any business, any sole proprietor, or any professional, pleases all their customers. The LATimes should re-consider how it covers restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    49 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                      If you're referring to her review of Ado, she wrote, "Warm baby artichoke and crab salad is just awful. Turned out of a cylindrical mold, it has the texture of wet sawdust."

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                        That is the most cogent and accurate analysis of this issue that I've read in this thread and agree completely. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                          #1. It makes no difference what so ever if you know what she looks like or not. The staff is hired, the menu is set the purveyors are set. You can try and make sure sure she gets a better waiter and the food comes out as intended but thats about it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          #2. She's never been afraid to give big names mediocre reviews. There are not that many LAT 3+ star restaurants out there.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          #3. If something has poor taste and texture it's her job as a critic to say so. If the sawdust label fits, then it's accurate not mean.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          #4. Agreed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          #5. Yes there is a reason why reviews shouldn't be all favorable . Gourmet was a National Magazine and the LAT is a local newspaper, the readership and scope of each is very different. As a foodie mag Gourmet's job was to high-lite the best from around the country, Who is up and coming or new trends. The LAT is a local newspaper, the job of a critic is to evaluate something critically, in this case how does this restaurant measure up to the best restaurants in the country. The Critic performs an important function for readers and for the industry by setting a high bar for excellence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I disagree that the critic sets a high bar for excellence. Those that want favour with the traditional food critic must abide to an unwritten but exacting standard. This approach is rejected in our post modern world. People want local flair, character, uniqueness. Old biddies like SIV don't belong in the new world. Sure there's a class of asian businessman and old man wasp who might fit the SIV mold but fine dining has been turned on its head this decade. There's no room for this woman's standard or really any of these printed critics. they are all so self important and it's quite sickening.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                              You haven't read many of her reviews have you? It may be fine and dandy to say that about a reviewers in general. But this is a specific person.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                My wife and I had a long conversation with one of the LAT's former reviewers who was well known for being partial to certain chefs and to whatever restaurant they moved to. I asked him for a local recommendation toward the end of the conversation and he said that he was a long time, very good friend with one particular chef/owner and he recommended his place highly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Now, this was a place that this guy had previously praised to the skies more than once during his tenure with the LAT's without ever disclosing that "bit" of information. My wife and I both wondered how a) he was ever allowed to review this place by the paper (even the Chowhound standard is tougher than that) and b) we both were thoroughly disabused of any possible former notion that we had that the system wasn't totally rigged (kind of like I feel about being a small investor in the stock market these days).

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh, it's the "the old rules don't apply, the game has changed, it's a brave new world, yadda, yadda, yadda" BS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sorry. The old rules DO apply. And for a restaurant, it's simple: Is the f*&#ing food good to eat?! Is the service at an appropriate level for the venue, and is it simply good?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                You prefer Jonathan Gold's critical style-- or, Flying Spaghetti Monster save us all, Yelp-- to SIV? Fine. Vote with your "feet"-- er, mouse clicks. But like I said: If the critic's criteria are clearly stated and consistent, you should be able to pull enough clues from a review to determine if YOU would still like to go there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I can't help but think that all the venom is being directed at SIV because she skewered a few sacred cows of the LA restaurant scene. So she doesn't like a place you love? Get over it. She gave a place I love a "nice try" review with guarded, not effusive praise; I'm not sitting outside her house ready to scream at her, because I'm an adult and she's entitled to her opinion, and her criticisms were grounded in experience (and I STILL love the place). Are her tastes a bit pedestrian? Maybe, but so what? Cross-reference her critiques with those of Jonathan Gold's and make up your own damn mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Of course it's unwritten and exacting. That's why she's the restaurant reviewer and not, say, Richard Hammond.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, people want local flair, character and uniqueness; they also want great food and great service, and those are the unwritten, exacting standards you're complaining about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ooh, sounds like someone got their widdle delicate petite-flower feelings hurt by a mean old critic...!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Your complaints reflect some ridiculous notion of the world as a "post-modern", "post-criticism" paradise where everyone gets a gold star if he or she is doing his or her life's passion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We are NOT all seven-year-olds waiting in line for our T-ball trophy. Like it or not, someone who puts his or her life's passion out there for public consumption needs to be brave enough to subject him- or herself to public scrutiny. And it is perfectly fine to point out when someone falls short of high marks. I think Picasso was a better artist than Jeff Koons will ever be in fifty lifetimes; although I am fairly sure I'm not alone in this opinion, it's just that: MY OPINION. Jeff Koons put himself out as an artist, so he should welcome criticism. And he manages to make a living at it, so my opinion isn't hurting his sales.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As far as ageism, I'm 46 and proud of it. I'm also proud of living in the real world and not succumbing to hipsterist post-modern douchebaggery.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So in sum, you need a person with the weight of academia or an arbitrary tradition to inform you of what constitutes art. Moving on, dining out is not the same as appreciating the implicit value of art. I'd motion that art criticism is even more useless than restaurant criticism. Dining out has two main purposes-1. to fulfill your biological requirements and 2. to experience aristocracy. The critic is not focused on the implicit value of the food (as should an art critic) itself but whether you are personally elevated to a status worthy of the price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Completely missing the point. I don't need ANYONE to tell me what is or is not "art" in my life experience. However, when I anticipate paying a fair amount of money for ANY experience, I might-- just might-- want to have advance word of what the hell to expect. Critiques, combined with word of mouth, allow me to discern if a given venue is worth my time. YMMV.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And I don't dine out to "experience aristocracy"; beyond the need to feed, sometimes I want to be spoiled. I don't aspire to social status, I just want a good meal I couldn't prepare myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          i'm of the same mind - i love to eat out because i want my expectations dissolved and to have new experiences - that doesn't necessarily require a hefty bill though. With restaurant critics however, it is not about the food - a bad dish is more of an affront, a slap in the face if you will, to this person's elevated position. restaurant critics don't deserve to be restaurant critics - these aren't people who are trained in the culinary arts, and probably not even experts in the cultures whose food they are representing. they are fortunate people holding on to dear life to their privileged positions. this is why i can't take them seriously. the whole anonymity business, too, is just a tactic to shield them from scrutiny. it lends importance to their title. there's no objectivity to having your senses titillated by servants and alcohol. this whole episode is hilarious. who cares if they kicked out a critic. c'est la vie.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "With restaurant critics however, it is not about the food - a bad dish is more of an affront, a slap in the face if you will, to this person's elevated position. restaurant critics don't deserve to be restaurant critics - these aren't people who are trained in the culinary arts, and probably not even experts in the cultures whose food they are representing. they are fortunate people holding on to dear life to their privileged positions."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In how many ways is this total hooey? How can you possibly assume that a critic takes a bad meal as "an affront … to (his) elevated position"? How can you possibly make the sweeping statement that a critic is not trained in the culinary arts? Some are not, but more than a few are, and so what? I knew what good food and good service were long before I'd gotten beyond making scrambled eggs and oatmeal cookies; knowing as much as I do about cooking now gives me insights I'd otherwise lack when regarding a dish I've been served, but it's nothing I had to go to school for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This mannered contempt for working professionals, even for the very concept of "working professional", must be either a display of wilful ignorance or an attempt to get old guys like me to test the efficacy of their blood pressure medicine. If the latter, I must say it's working.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              the restaurant staff are the working professionals-the critic is someone who somehow schemed their way into a writing gig with benefits and power. they're lame, get over it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              the only type of food criticism i like is the sort of paneled criticism on top chef - but even that can be so arbitrary and proves nothings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Objectivity is beside the point and useless when discussing art. Or food. Enjoyment is what matters to me. It's totally subjective. And I appreciate multiple voices in advance opinions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Reviewer anonymity is beside the point too. The reviewer can be treated like royalty, but he or she still has EYES and EARS to see how other patrons are treated. If there is a vast difference, it is his or her job to note it in the review. NO good restaurant in a world-class city (and, like it or not, Los Angeles is a world-class city with a uniquely casual but vibrant food scene) would let that happen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And no good restaurant would risk the PR disaster of ejecting a patron, then letting the public know they did so because he or she was a critic. Even early on in the life of the place, and even if there WAS history of a bad review from said critic, one doesn't do that. It suggests that the restauranteurs DEIGN to make their food available to the "right" people-- those who won't dare criticize them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Snotty, bratty attitude. I have a sister-in-law for that-- I don't need it from a restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ' these aren't people who are trained in the culinary arts, and probably not even experts in the cultures whose food they are representing. they are fortunate people holding on to dear life to their privileged positions.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                really? you think being a journalist is a privileged position? I don't know where you're from but where I live (Los Angeles) a journalist is just that. i think it's also misguided to shun the critic as "not deserving" the position. have you ever gone to a restaurant then tried to review the food? or have you listened to music with no lyrics and then tried writing a review? it's pretty difficult and takes a pretty decent seasoned writer to successfully convey food/tastes into words.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                a critic is not necessarily from the old culture. they've been around for a long time. to discuss, to write, to critique is part of the human aesthetic. the medium in which it's presented may have changed but i think the critic is not dead at all. in fact i think everyone is now a critic. those who post horribly written review on yelp is now a critic too. i can start a blog tomorrow and after a few posts, hey look at me! i'm a critic too!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: trolley

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  of course the critic is in a privileged position. for the average person, dining out is a role reversal where the self reliant and obligated enjoy momentary grandeur as they are served and catered to. dining out is ephemeral, a cherished activity for most. the restaurant critic is afforded this experience often. acclimating to any circumstance inevitably generates certain expectations. i just don't see professional restaurant reviews as a valid form of criticism since the reviewer is slave to her expectations from not experiencing the activity as one typically would. the issue is not anonymity but perception and the critic dines through a different lense, and the criticism is usually trivial and non-constructive. finally, i believe that the enjoyment of eating out is separate from the food. i think it is most excellent feeling to be served and treated well by strangers...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "Dining out has two main purposes-1. to fulfill your biological requirements and 2. to experience aristocracy."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm sorry, but this is bollocks. Aristocracy? No offense to Sergio, but when I eat at Mariscos Chente I'm there because he makes awesome fish, not because I think I'm Sir David Huffington Huffington de Farquhar-Huffington Vanderplaats of the Riding of Mermaidshire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I read and value restaurant reviews because it gives me some sense of what a restaurant is like and, since my funds are necessarily limited, to choose a place I've never been with at least a stab at an educated guess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What makes a restaurant reviewer's talent worthwhile is ability to write fluently and more in-depth knowledge of food than your average person. It's what differentiates a professional review from someone on Yelp or CH who is trying, say, Spanish food for the first time is a solid base of knowledge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "they are all so self important and it's quite sickening."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This could describe the vast majority of Yelp reviewers in your post modern world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Of course, you're completely wrong. Standards still exist. Proper cooking, seasoning and service still matter. It's not suddenly OK to put rotted produce and spoiled meat on a piece of cardboard and serve it, and call it fine dining; yet, that is the exact implication of your rant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bad food will always be bad. Incompetent service will always be incompetent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. It makes a huge difference when a restaurateur knows a critic is present. To suggest otherwise is silly. If you've ever been a "regular" at any restaurant, you know that the experience is very different. The same would be more true for a recognized critic.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. The point is not that she can give big names mediocre reviews, it is how often she fawns over apparent favorites.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. No food needs to be described as sawdust. I just googled "virbila" and "sawdust" and it was three restaurants, not two.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            4. Glad you agree.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            5. As to Gourmet, I was speaking of the monthly column on NY restaurants, which was always favorable overall. Jonathan Gold (who used to write that column and is revered by nearly everyone in LA) doesn't have unfavorable reviews in his column. The LATimes can set the bar for excellence by focusing on excellence and foregoing reviews that talk about food as sawdust.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Let's zero in on one point: "No food needs to be described as sawdust".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Overcook a turkey and take a big bite of breast meat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              That's the very epitome of food that you WILL describe as being "sawdust".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If a particular menu item's combination of flavorlessness and unpleasant, dry and mealy texture evokes sawdust, then I'm delighted to see it described as such. Would you rather SIV substitute "magical air-flavored fairy powder"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                When's the last time you gobbled down a big mouthful of sawdust? When do you suppose Sherry last had a bowl of it? Would either of you know that the mythical turkey tasted like it? Probably not. So why bring the hyperbolic simile to the oh so erudite LA Times review page, other than perhaps trying to prove how very witty (and passively aggressive) one can be.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Let's see: Ever use a chain saw without a facemask?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Funny thing: When a chain saw cuts into wood, it creates....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Wait for it...


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And when you don't wear a facemask, you'll get a good mouthful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I know whereof I speak. And any fool in the world who's ever, oh I don't know, been around power tools working on wood might know what sawdust tastes like.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Don't set up such a silly strawman rebuttal. "Well, since you couldn't really know what sawdust tastes like, your entire criticism is nullified. QED!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Come on...!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When you have someone's livelihood in your hands then it's probably not a bad idea to take a little care with the words you choose. You seem to think that you know what eating a bowl of sawdust would taste like. Your idea was met with incredulity on my part. If you want to start talking about eating a strawman I'll be glad to take that idea up next.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You just don't get it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Appreciation of the difficulty of running a restaurant is BESIDE. THE. POINT.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I do not patronize a restaurant as a shareholder. I'm looking for good FOOD, not good dividend yield. If you run a restaurant, you know that reviews can let you know what's succeeding and what's not-- and you can make effective changes that will make things even MORE successful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If the food is actually unpleasant, as a potential patron I want to know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And yes, for the last time, I KNOW PERSONALLY what a mouthful of sawdust actually tastes like (having just finished a house reno). And I would NOT like to pay for a server to present me a vertical construction of sawdust with Tuscan salsa verde over parmesan polenta. Or whatever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Appreciation of the difficulty of running a restaurant is BESIDE. THE. POINT.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Actually, it isn't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Read just about any restaurant review - SIV's included -- and they always make mention about the pace of how dishes are plated, as well as the general service. Those things go directly to how a restaurant is operated and run, incl. the difficulty of doing so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There are many times when I've resisted going back to a restaurant simply because the service has been atrociously bad, even though the food is exemplary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Right you are. One of the reasons reviewers for major media outlets normally don't visit in the first month of opening is to give the restaurant sometime to work out those difficulties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I wasn't talking about SERVICE and FRONT OF THE ROOM OPERATIONS. Of course those are part and parcel of the dining experience and not at all beside the point. They are generally central to a review.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm talking about MANAGEMENT. Specifically financial considerations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't think I was at all unclear in that focus. Misreading what I wrote-- well, it's almost being deliberately obtuse. Sorry, but it's choosing a very shallow reading.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            People are indulging in irrational Schadenfreude-- "Sherry got booted from somewhere?! GOOD! She had it coming!" and I don't get why. Is it because she's PAID (not that handsomely, but hey, it's a job!) to go out, eat, and write about her experience, and we're just slamming away at our keyboards here on Chowhound for free...?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Full disclosure: Although I don't know SIV at all, I do know a colleague of hers at the LA Times (who writes in a different department now, but did write for the Food section at one time). I have no personal skin in this game, but I do see someone being treated very poorly because of the nature of her job. And again, I note that SIV was NOT going there that night as part of her review process, but simply to check it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Note that she gave Ludo Lefebvre a righteous slam when he was at Bastide, but she asserts that she's looking forward to the next incarnation of Ludobites in today's Times:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think she's more blunt that she needs to be sometimes, but she doesn't sound unfair and she seems to genuinely like the LA food scene. Truth be told, the SIV hatred here is SO vehement and universal, I go out of my way to read her reviews just to see what the fuss is about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I don't have any sympathy for Sherry. She has showed she can dish it out. Now she can show if she can take it. That's restaurant lingo and karma all rolled into one neat package.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                SIV can take it. She's still writing about the LA food scene. I dare say she will be writing about the place that will eventually take Red Medicine's space on Wilshire Blvd. too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm in agreement with someone upthread who could not see the vitriol and snark in SIV's columns that so many of her haters are attributing to her. It is almost non-existent to my eyes. But I'm not a thin-skinned Culinary Artiste (tm) whose precious snowflakes-- er, masterpieces of the Food Arts-- might be subject to those mean food critics despite operating at levels beyond the comprehension of the hoi polloi, boo hoo hoo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Give me a frickin' break.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Give me a break!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Give me a break of that Kit Kat bar...!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oops-- low blood sugar talking. I think I'll go grab something at Red Medicine...!


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I realize that the fun in taking the Mickey out of a restaurant must be heady stuff. Hilarity ensues when they shut their doors and all those folks are looking for work and trying to keep a roof over their heads and figure out a way to feed their families. Now THAT is some funny stuff alright. Yes sir. Funny, funny stuff...I am willing to bet that low blood sugar beats a low bank balance any day of the week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Now your argument is turning ridiculous.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I doubt that ANY restaurant critic purposely writes a bad review JUST to see if it causes the venue to close.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And I am sorry, but if the venue in question can't get its act together over three separate occasions to serve something good, AND can't use criticism constructively to improve matters, then it deserves to fail. End of story.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    All this restaurant has done is (a) make SIV a noble victim (especially because she was NOT going there to review it, but simply to check it out) and (b) make it look like they have something seriously wrong to cover up. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You seem to like to say that those who disagree with you have ridiculous or strawman arguments. Since I never said that the any critic PURPOSELY writes a bad review JUST to see if it causes the venue to close, how would you characterize that particular style of argument? Sherry gets paid at the end of the month, whether the recipients of her criticism are still extant or not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Restaurants fail for more than one reason. But if they are teetering on the edge of the cliff and Sherry (or someone of her persuasion) comes along and gives them a sharp elbow as they stroll by, then I can understand the depth of the feelings that someone might hold for her in that situation. I see Sherry as an adult with the power of the press on her side. I don't see her as a noble victim, but as someone who ran into a little karmic payback. Paybacks a bitch at times.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Is it because she's PAID (not that handsomely, but hey, it's a job!) to go out, eat, and write about her experience, and we're just slamming away at our keyboards here on Chowhound for free...?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sometimes I wonder if you haven't hit the nail squarely on the head... Come to think of it, with the partial exception of Jonathan Gold and even more partial exception of Sam Sifton, I can't think of an incumbent restaurant critic who's had positive press on this board. Once a newbie takes over, people start moaning for the predecessor, but...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Servorg

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You don't have to be a wood worker to expect that something described as sawdust might be dry and mealy. You don't have to chew rocks when a Chablis is described as being 'gravely'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Also: On the last point, AAQjr makes an EXCELLENT observation: Gourmet and JGold in the LA Weekly are highlighting excellent or unique eats in a given metro area that otherwise might not get attention. The LA Times is providing reviews of eateries that are either new or have something new and notable to offer. In a city whose citizens can choose among thousands of restaurants, a bit of qualitative analysis should be welcome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I beg to differ. Gold and Gourmet frequently write (wrote) about high-end well known places. If the LATimes wants to slam a place, they should at least have multiple reviewers, or some other means of increasing fairness. Why does a large media outlet need to critically slam a small enterprise? It doesn't happen in any other business, except perhaps Broadway shows--an example which proves my point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Again-- different goals. Gourmet and JGold are highlighting "don't-miss" types of places-- the former as a national publication, the latter for the benefit of a middle-class, younger readership that frankly is not that well-heeled in the majority.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The LA Times doesn't go out of its way to slam restaurants-- they are potential future advertisers, remember. And I still reiterate a very important point:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Appreciation of the difficulty of MANAGING a restaurant vis-à-vis back-office operations such as purchasing, payroll, personnel/HR, facilities, etc. is irrelevant to a fair review of the front-office operations, i.e. food, service, hosting. Some 99.999994% of the time, I'm not going to a restaurant to become a financial backer. I'm going there to MF-ing EAT A MEAL.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As for your theatre simile: Most new shows on Broadway DO fail to make a profit. And here's a newsflash: Most of those failures are CRAP. Not all of them are timeless works of theatrical art-- but some are. I used to work in theatre-- I appreciate all the hard work and blood, sweat and tears going on behind the scenes AND up on stage. It doesn't mean I have to willingly waste 2+hours of my time with a bad show that, with advance notice, I could avoid. Theatre critics help me decide what is worth my time (and money, although on rare occasions I can get comps).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I understand the dynamics of Broadway...it is not a newsflash. (Your style of writing might qualify you for the LATimes.) You seem to put a lot of stock in critics. But, tell me, does every Broadway failure doomed by critics deserve failure? Does every success buoyed up by critics deserve success? Since you are apparently part of the theater world, do you base your opinion on critics, or people you know who have seen the shows?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I would say there is a difference between a review and criticism. The LAT very rarely slams a place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            XIV is a great example. Even if SIV said some tough things about about XIV, she also had quite a bit of praise as well and ultimately gave the place a 'very good' **. Ultimately the restaurant tweaked their concept and gone on to do well. Which is how a pro handles a mixed review.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Not sure how often large media outlets slam small restaurants. Few people want to waste their time reading a negative review of some hole-in-the-wall place they never heard of and probably wouldn't visit anyway. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle has a policy never to publish a bad review unless the restaurant is sufficiently high profile that a bad review may be in the public interest. A low profile place either gets a positive review or no review at all. On the other hand, a place like Morton's Steakhouse is considered fair game and recently received zero stars for food. I think the policy is fair. If you want to run a high-profile restaurant, you had better be prepared to get reviewed. If you run a small neighborhood place, you have nothing to fear since a review can only be to your advantage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                High profile does not necessarily equate to large or well funded. Ever hear of Momofuku Noodle Bar? That place was originally about as big as my living room.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Large media outlets just want to review places that are relevant. There is no real regard for whether those relevant places are large or well funded.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But there is a higher correlation of large/well funded restaurant being reviewed in large media outlets than of a poorly funded/smaller restaurant. Well funded places have press/marketing agents that make sure their restaurant opening is known in every news media available.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: funniduck

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I know that. And it makes no difference to the actual argument. Nocharge seemed to argue that small places don't ever get reviewed in larger media outlets (unless that review is to be positive) and have nothing to fear. Which is simply not true.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: martan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I had a tamal chapin yesterday that was so dry that "sawdust" was EXACTLY the word I would have used to describe it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And Servorg, anyone who's ever done anything involving wood and saws knows exactly what sawdust tastes like. It's damn near impossible not to get any in your nose or mouth, even with a mask on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I see you had the good manners not to say where you ate this sawdust tamal chapin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Russ Parsons has an article on this topic in the Times today:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't quite get the SIV hatred here. But that's me. Critics share their individual points of view. If their criteria are clear and consistent, that's good enough for the reader to study the review and see if they agree or disagree, and then decide if the venue is worthy of a visit. Some things SIV likes I do not, and vice-versa; sometimes her tastes align well with mine. Her well-known takedown of Ludo Lefebvre's infamous Bastide tenure was sharply-worded, but her rationale was expressed well-- and made it sound like a menu *I* would not have enjoyed. I would also note that SIV was actually going to Red Medicine NOT as part of her review process (LAT policy starts that some 3 months after open), but simply out of curiosity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Parsons says something very telling:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "When we were establishing the criteria for judging restaurants, we started with the assumption that L.A. was a world-class city and its restaurants should be able to stand alongside those of anyplace else. It would be insulting to the restaurants to do anything less — to judge them 'on a curve.'"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Restauranteurs are supposed to be adults as well as artisans and/or businesspeople. If they put themselves out in public as offering a notable product/service, they should be willing to undergo public scrutiny. A critique is simply a formal, wide-release "word-of-mouth" opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Another thing: Yes, restaurants are expensive to run, with razor-thin margins. But most restaurant patrons are NOT exactly rolling in dough either. When we go out, we want the experience to be worth the money. If a restauranteur cannot be bothered to address problems in his/her menu or service, dammit they deserve to fail. Why the hell should bad food be rewarded with our business?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        NOTE: Not that the food at Red Medicine is bad. No telling, really. Given their snotty brat-fit here, I doubt I'll darken their doorway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hi rjw_lgb_ca (man, that's a handful to type),

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I just wanted to say thanks for saying everything you've said on this thread, because since I don't have the guts to get involved in the debates, I just end up cowardly yelling at my computer screen when I read comments that irk me (to say the least). But then you show up and say EXACTLY what's on my mind, only you say it more eloquently and succinctly and intelligently than I ever could. You probably don't need it, but I just wanted to say thanks, I appreciate reading what you have to say.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. This seems to be a very specific reaction for a particular group of people against a SIV the person, not to be applied to all critics in general. The people at RM feel that SIV has been excessively hurtful and has too much power. They have friends who have lost their jobs because of her reviews. They also feel they have no power against her reviews. A restaurant does not have the option to opt out of a review if they feel the critic is underqualififed. At best they would get a 2 star review from her that would not really help their business. There is more potential for her to hurt their business. BTW, I like their food. Some hits. Some misses. Seems like their trying to model Ma Peche in NYC. The dessert alone is worth of a trip. The service is friendly and very down to earth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: peppermonkey

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            After watching friends and family work their fingers to the bone in commercial kitchens for practically no pay and then have their work slammed by reviewers who just don't happen to like what they do or were feeling grumpy that day, let's just say I'm NOT going to shed any tears for SIV.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That said, I'm no SIV so I can say whatever I want. As much as I like their moxie, I ain't ever going here, because it's too LA for me. and I don't wanna eat Viet food made by big white guys, just sayin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: choctastic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Best post of this thread for me-thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: choctastic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "After watching friends and family work their fingers to the bone in commercial kitchens for practically no pay and then have their work slammed by reviewers who just don't happen to like what they do or were feeling grumpy that day. . . ."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                But what if your friends and family did make a mistake? And a dish isn't as good as they believe? Then what? Should the reviewer ignore it? I'm just playing devil's advocate....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. It seems like everything there is to be said on this subject has already been said, and now the conversation is just going in circles, and growing increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock it now.