Restaurant critic for the LA Times has been outed! Her feelings about food are no longer secret!
S. Irene Virbila, the L.A. Times’ restaurant critic for the last 16 years, was visiting Red Medicine restaurant in Beverly Hills when the manager took her photo, and ordered her and her 3 companions to leave the restaurant. In Beverly Hills! An LA Times Reporter!
Ellis [from Red Medicine] said he was intentionally trying to take away Virbila’s anonymity because he does not like her reviews: “Our purpose for posting this is so that all restaurants can have a picture of her and make a decision as to whether or not they would like to serve her. We find that some her reviews can be unnecessarily cruel and irrational…”
Kevin Roderick, of LA Observed, responds:
Geez, dude. Just shut up, man up and make your restaurant better. If you’re afraid to have your place independently reviewed, that tells me all I need to know.
I disagree! He has every right to decide who goes to his restaurant and to toss out people who he feels might harm it in any way; restaurant writers are kind of sneaky, aren’t they? On the other hand: he should never have taken her photo. That’s an invasion of privacy, even as Virbila came in under an assumed name: Fred Snow! So this is a nice piece of drama.
I met Irene when I did the restaurant cartoon for the LA Times, called Daily Special ( now running in many other papers). We agreed to meet for lunch at a restaurant on Sunset – I think it was called Dome. I was so anxious and excited about meeting her that I spent too much time getting ready for my big opportunity, and was 15 minutes late. I was ready to kill myself! Fortunately, she was even later, and so the event continued.
She ordered at least 2 choices for each part of the meal, and I still got to eat what I wanted. We had plates full of food left before we had gotten to dessert, and I whispered to her, “What will they think of us?” I never forgot her reply: “They’ll think we’re ladies who lunch!”
I had a great meal, and got to take home all the leftovers, because she said she hated to see food go to waste. As I recall, her review was pretty good for the restaurant. The whole experience was thumbs up for me. :)
She’s not my favorite food critic, however: that’s reserved for Ruth Reichl, former LA Times reviewer, and then editor of Gourmet til it folded. I miss her Reluctant Gourmet (her husband!) I don’t see how Irene can continue doing reviews at the Times, however…and that’s wrong, to ruin her career like that.
- Beverly Hills restaurateur outs LAT’s Irene Virbila (laobserved.com)
- LA Times: Online journalism ‘contaminated’ by web format, says Flipboard chief (blogs.journalism.co.uk)