Restaurant critic anonymity has been declared dead in some circles recently and granted, we haven’t even seen a full restaurant review by S. Irene Virbila in several weeks now, anyway. (In fact, just as we were starting to really feel The L.A. Times’ double-pronged, one-two critical punch, it up and ceased, yielding the full share to Jonathan Gold, glory be unto Him). And of course, it wasn’t the critic’s choice to be outed by Noah Ellis in the first place. Still, a Twitter conversation we caught this morning may appear to mark a new era for transparency in the relationship between restaurants and critics, as The Parish and Virbila share some back-and-forth about the critic’s interest in the place.
Casey Lane’s new Downtown restaurant catches wind of what is either an upcoming or recently made visit by the writer and responds to Virbila, "Great! See you tomorrow evening." The critic responds that she’d "like an upstairs table next time," and looks forward to coming back for "the fresh tomato soup with buttery grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe that celery root mash, too," to which The Parish responds, "We’ll be sure to make a note of it. Looking forward to having you over tomorrow."
Now, there’s no actual evidence on the Twitter conversation that Virbila is forewarning the restaurant of a specific visit tonight, but nonetheless it sounds like The Parish is expecting her, asking, "@sirenevirbila What time will you be stopping by tomorrow? We’d love to be able to seat you upstairs if possible."
But even sounding the warning that she’s sniffing around the new gastropub in the first place or looking forward to specific dishes appears to be an unprecedented new level of open communication between a new restaurant that is subject to a review and a critic who long remained invisible and once made reservations under a fake name.
So, are food critics announcing their arrivals these days? Or just making reservations via Twitter? With all things considered, given the critic’s recent transformation in print and unveiling in a widely published photograph, as well as the propensity for L.A. critics to collaborate in public food events, T.V. shows, and lectures, maybe this shouldn’t bother us all too much.
But what about you on the other side of the screen? We’d love to know your thoughts about the current state of L.A. critics and anonymity, and whether or not you think the whole thing really matters, in our comments.
UPDATE: S. Irene Virbila responds that we, and the readers who first alerted us to her tweets, got it twisted and that she never asked for a reservation nor announced her arrival at the restaurant, and still remains as anonymous as possible when reviewing or coming to a restaurant. The critic says that the entire exchange was a humorous back-and-forth between her and The Parish.
Earlier: Has L.A. Weekly’s New Critic Been Exposed and Does It Really Matter? [GS]
J. Gold Holds Up The Service at Salt’s Cure [GS]
Can We Live Without Sherry’s Star System? [GS]
Noah Ellis Revisits Red Medicine’s Reasons for Virbila Ouster [GS]