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[Updated] Unmasked LA Times Critic Virbila Responds to Red Medicine Fracas

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Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 10:03 AM

Update: Yesterday, December 23rd, shortly after we posted Virbila's response, her photo and the explanation of why she was booted from the restaurant were removed from Red Medicine's Tumblr site.

click to enlarge FROM RED MEDICINE'S SITE.
  • From Red Medicine's site.
Since we broke the story yesterday that Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila was unmasked by one of the owners of Red Medicine, who kicked her out of the restaurant then posted her pic on their Tumblr site, the story has gone national, and the internet has been abuzz with reactions.

But up until now, Virbila herself has remained mostly silent on the matter.

We managed to get hold of Virbila and ask how, if at all, she believes the outing will effect her career.

Via email she tells us...

"Nothing remotely like my evening at Red Medicine has ever happened to me. Ruth Reichl was outed by Wine Spectator before she even got a desk at the New York Times. When Frank Bruni and Sam Sifton took over as critic at the New York Times, there was already a trove of photos easily accessible on the web. The Eater NY blog, though, couldn't resist adding to it when Sifton tweeted he was going to have lunch at KFC. They sent their people and he was stalked and photographed eating a Double Down Sandwich and taking notes. Ultimate effect? Zero."

The feedback pouring in here at Squid Ink and at other sites, has been overwhelmingly negative towards Red Medicine and its principals: Adam Fleischman, Noah Ellis and chef Jordan Kahn.

A sampling of the comments on Squid Ink:

"A bad decision by an apparently crap restaurant." --GutMicroflora.

"Kicking out a reviewer isn't going to save you from a bad review. It's going to get you and even bigger backlash for being a huge jerk." --angryyelper.

"The arrogance of these clowns -- "don't listen to anyone's opinion -- come here on your own, and if you hate it, at least we got to nauseate you and steal your money once" -- is amazing." --Roger Klorese.

And on and on and on.

The Beverly Hills restaurant's Facebook page and Yelp listing are filled with much of the same, although Red Medicine certainly had its supporters -- and we're not talking about the chefs who are privately cheering Ellis et al. "I have to say bravo to the restaurant, my hats off. I believe that everyone in the industry knows that these reviews are a farce," wrote Fair Diner in the Squid Ink comments.

The story just won't seem to die. This morning, the LA Times ran a longer story including quotes from chefs Stefan Richter and Michael Mina (When Virbila reviewed Mina's XIV, she didn't have kind things to say about then-pastry chef Kahn's desserts), LA Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Gold and an unrepentant Ellis.

Ellis expands on the initial statement he made on Red Medicine's site -- "We find that some of her reviews can be unnecessarily cruel and irrational, and that they have caused hard-working people in this industry to lose their jobs" -- and says he feels good about what he did. Unfortunately for Red Medicine, most commenters in the online sphere do not. How that impacts Red Medicine's prospects in the real world, remains to be seen.

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