Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

LA Restaurant Critic’s Secret Identity Made Public

Los Angeles, California, USA
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This is an interesting article about how the LA Times long-time restaurant critic Irene Virbila was outed and ousted from a new restaurant in Beverly Hills.

Apparently, she wasn’t there to review but to eat and check it out with friends. The restaurant is Red Medicine. What the hell kind of name is that for a restaurant? Red medicine makes me think of overly sweet cough syrup that I gagged on as a kid.

Virbila has gone to great pains to be anonymous by making her reservations in a different name and using a credit card and phone number that could not identify her. Why the anonymity? Because Virbila’s experience should be like every person’s experience and because not everyone will be catered to like a restaurant critic.

Remember Ruth Reichl? Ruth was another restaurant critic for the New York Times and before that, the LA Times.  She wrote about her many wacky and exhausting disguises in the highly entertaining book, Sapphire & Garlic.

But back to the public outing and photographing. I think it’s all a publicity stunt. What better way to get media attention than to violate Los Angeles’ premier food critic? This is Hollywood after all, not St. Louis.

While a good restaurant review is grand — a publicity stunt is better. People who never heard about the oddly named Red Medicine will be piqued to at least check out the website, marvel at the menu, and applaud the audacity or criticize the moronic ploy. People will have opinions. After all, everyone is a critic.

Guilty as charged. The website states:

“By the age of 23, Jordan Kahn had already achieved more culinary success than many chefs twice his age. Frank Bruni of The New York Times compared Jordan to Jackson Pollock, and the New York Observer likened his dishes as Salvador Dali paintings.”

And the menu…looks different but deliciously different.Lemongrass pots de creme is made with Red Bull.

Red Medicine is a “Vietnamese canteen” and somebody doesn’t know how to use apostrophes on the menu or perhaps that is purposely typo-ed.

There you have it. The LA Times will probably review Red Medicine but until they do — the publicity drum keeps beating, making its own noise.

  1. The comments on the LA Times article were mostly negative towards the chef owner, saying they would never go there because of the way he behaved.

    I think it’s stupid in this day and age, when print reviewers don’t have as much power as they once did, to throw a hissy fit. But you’re right, he’s going on the all publicity is good publicity principle.

    You’re right, the restaurant’s name is disgusting.

  2. Apparently, it’s a fly by night location with a lot of turnover. It could be the next big restaurant for a few months and then it will fall out of favor and run out of money.

    People are fickle, restaurants come and go, and chefs are petulant ego-maniacs; not all of them of course. I do know some pretty cool chefs.

    My friend who sent me the article in the first place said he never heard of the restaurant but now was curious to try it.

    Here is what Irene Virbila looks like:

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