It took Jay Rayner around 700 words to lay waste to a Russian empire. In a blistering review of famed Moscow restaurateur Arkady Novikov's eponymous London outpost this past February, the Observer critic pronounced the establishment so "astoundingly grim you want to congratulate the kitchen on its incompetence" and compared its cuisine to cheap Chinese food. He was just getting warmed up.
“And so my advice to you. Don't go to Novikov. Keep not going. Keep not going a lot," Rayner wrote. "In a city with a talent for opening hateful and tasteless restaurants, Novikov marks a special new low. That's its real achievement.”
Harsh words, but for a professional restaurant critic, this was par for the course. As with any creative medium, the culinary arts are subjected to critical judgments. With the good, comes the bad. Or in the case of Novikov, the “very, very bad.”
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In a town obsessed with celebrity and publicity, there are a few well-known residents in Los Angeles who prefer their picture is never taken - Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbila is one. That professional anonymity ended Tuesday night when she and three others arrived at Red Medicine, a new Vietnamese restaurant in Beverly Hills. Virbila had her photo snapped and her party was turned away and refused service; a bitter pill to swallow for a restaurant critic.
Red Medicine is the latest project from Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman, Noah Ellis, previously of Michael Mina's restaurant group, and Chef Jordan Kahn, who counts stints with chefs Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz and Michael Mina on his résumé. So why would a brand new restaurant, with three high-profile partners, risk outing and angering the LA Times food critic, a fixture on the scene for the last 16 years?
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