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Posted at 9:37 AM ET, 12/27/2010

Story pick: Guess who's coming to dinner

By J. Freedom du Lac

Restaurant critic goes out to eat. Restaurateur recognizes critic. Restaurateur doesn't care for critic's criticism; takes photo of critic, declines to seat critic, posts critic's photo online in an effort to out critic.

That's the quick and dirty summary of what transpired last week when S. Irene Virbila of the Los Angeles Times went to a new Beverly Hills restaurant, Red Medicine. She wasn't served, but she was photographed -- and within hours, her picture was all over the Internet, thanks to Red Medicine's owners. "Virbila's anonymity, which she'd guarded through 16 years as this newspaper's restaurant critic, was a memory," the Times reported in a piece headlined, "Food critic outed and ousted."

There was plenty of ensuing debate over what Red Medicine's owners did (they explained that they'd merely wanted other restaurateurs to be able to recognize Virbila so that they could decide for themselves whether they wanted her reviewing their offerings). But a side debate also emerged, centering on the question of whether a critic's anonymity matters at all.

Reading comments in the Times and elsewhere, I couldn't help but think of Ruth Reichl's famous review of Le Cirque, published in 1993, shortly after she landed at The New York Times. It's actually two reviews, reflecting Reichl's distinctly different dining experiences at Le Cirque -- before and after she was identified by the owner Sirio Maccioni, who knows from bifurcating clientele. It's a truly delicious read.

By J. Freedom du Lac  | December 27, 2010; 9:37 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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Red Medicine's attack on Los Angeles Times critic Irene Virbila is deplorable. Many are now boycotting the restaurant as a result, and the restaurant's ratings on many review sites are going down to 0.

The food at Red Medicine has small portions and is overpriced by about 4 times and is very far from delicious, authentic Vietnamese food, which you can fortunately get everywhere in the nearby town of Westminster. The service is also terrible as well, with many having to wait long past their reservation time and general bad attitudes by the staff and management.

This restaurant will probably close soon due to their self-inflicted stunt. The location has been very difficult for previous restaurants. Obviously they were too afraid to let the food speak for itself.

Posted by: chinaman1 | December 27, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

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