Thursday, December 23, 2010

Today's Double Feature:Jackass, The Restaurant and Red Medicine, The Wrath of Kahn

"Ah, Kirk, my old friend. Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? ... It is very cold in space."
Khan Noonien Singh

Hello, this is Noah Ellis......and welcome to Jackass

By now, you all know the story about the Red Medicine team of Jordan Kahn(chef/partner),Noah Ellis(managing partner), and Adam Fleischman(partner) refusing to allow Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbila to dine at their restaurant. It first broke in the media on LA Weekly and then a story ran on LA Time's blog with quotes from the humiliated critic.

Noah Ellis, the apparent enforcer of Red Medicine's non-friendly writer's policy, booted her and here party, snapped a candid photo, and then posted the picture on Red Medicine's website, outing the critic's anonymity. On the same post he stated Red Medicine's reason for taking this rash action, judging from the overwhelmingly negative response in respect to Red Medicine's behavior on most of the discussion threads throughout LA and beyond.

Tonight, in the middle of a particularly hairy service, Irene Virbila arrived for her reservation (4 people under the name "Fred Snow" with a phone number of 310-999-9959), and because we had guests lingering, were not able to sit immediately.

She was recognized, and at while standing by the door, I was able to take this photo of her. At this point, I asked her and her party to leave, as we don't care for her or her reviews.

This has since been taken down from their website.

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, and that they have caused hard-working people in this industry to lose their jobs -- we don't feel that they should be blind-sided by someone with no understanding of what it takes to run or work in a restaurant.

Upon asking her to leave, her husband and dining companions were quite upset, and made mention that this may be illegal and was cruel and unfair. Obviously, she was not discriminated against as part of any protected class, but rather because she is someone we choose not to serve here.

We're writing this to make everyone aware that she was unable to dine here, and as such, any retribution by her or on her behalf via a review cannot be considered to be unbiased.

We hope that those of you in the industry will support us by coming by for a late-snack or drink (the story is told much better in person), and will use this recent picture to your benefit.

Since the initial reporting by the LA Weekly the story has gone international, a PR coup?

Writer Miles Clements suggested a motive for Red Medicine's actions, an unfavorable review by S. Irene Virbila of XIV, while Jordan was then the pastry chef at Michael Mina's XIV.It had been rumored during Red Medicine's run at Test Kitchen, that the chef and team weren't interested in any form of feedback in respect to their cuisine, period. Is this wise? In defense of anonymous criticism, Patric Kuh of Los Angeles Magazine pointed out that critics are willing to say things that restaurant front and back of house, and customers are unwilling to say, things that can be helpful to restaurant and consumer. I mean, this is the job you've chosen. Clearly, there is a history between Red Medicine and S. Irene Virbila.

"He tasks me! He tasks me, and I shall have him! I'll chase him round the Moons of Nibia, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up! Prepare to alter course!"
Khan Noonien Singh

It has come to my attention that Red Medicine has decided that they will only interested in criticism that is to their liking. Adam and Jordan are readers and supporters of Eater LA and Kevin Eats,and Kevin Eats appears to have unlimited access, although Jordan Kahn did write a snooty note to Kevin about his picture taking and meticulous note taking during his dinner when he signed Kevin's menu.You can view this on Kevin's Red Medicine post. Kevin Eats is somewhat of a fine dining and celebrity chef fan boy, and tends to spin positively even when he might have some reservations about his dining experience. There's nothing wrong with that, Kevin is an enthusiastic supporter of fine dining, but is this the only style of commentary you desire? Noah on the other hand seems to have a general disdain for camera toting types, so diner beware.

As a professional musician, I don't get this. We get reviewed, booed, praised, mistreated, unappreciated, respected, celebrated, by critics,fans, and other musicians. Countless jam sessions with older musicians where you learn by getting your head cut(shown up). It doesn't matter, you're a pro and dedicated to your art, you keep on playing and keep your head up. In this world we rate art, music, restaurants, books, consumer products, cars, even a damn toaster gets critiqued.

But, it is clear that S. Irene Virbila is not welcome and was given the treatment.Rude behavior, immature antics, and mean-spirited vengeance from a young and impulsive crew. Did I need to hear why from Noah, per his open invitation to buy food and drinks at Red Medicine in exchange for his side of the story? Not really. I mean, "are you nuts?",to quote Michael Mina. I also understand that Jonathan Gold is regarded with indifference, but Frank Bruni is a favorite of Red Medicine. He did refer to Jordan Kahn as to be creating desserts that would have pleased Jackson Pollock. Well, Red Medicine likes that, Frank Bruni gets Jordan Kahn, or at least he did while the chef made desserts at Varietal, so Frank Bruni gets most favored nation status.

I wonder if any Los Angeles critics are truly welcome, S. Irene Virbila, Jonathan Gold, Patric Kuh, other LA Weekly and LA Times writers. Did you guys open in the wrong city?

It's no secret that Jordan has been the talk of the industry here in LA this past year, from his stint at XIV, reception at Star Chefs, to his partnering with Umami Burger magnate, Adam Fleischman. There has been so much anticipation for this restaurant and even a giddy fan base of foodie sycophants ready to make Red Medicine the hot spot.The world's at your finger tips guys, but guess that's not enough? Adam's participation in this saga is a bit surprising here with such a mainstream hit as Umami Burger. You'd think that he wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole.

James T. Kirk: Khan. Khan, you've got Genesis. But you don't have me! You were going to kill me, Khan. You're going to have to come down here. You're going to have to come down here.

Khan Noonien Singh: I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on... hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her. Marooned for all eternity, in the center of a dead planet... buried alive. Buried alive.

Certainly, S. Irene Virbila is an easy target, her reviews have been mostly softballs as of recent, more friendly to mainstream restaurants in these tough economic times, averaging 2 stars for most places. And, she doesn't connect with young Los Angeles and the new dining scene. What? Because she's elderly it's OK, because she may not be in line with the times? It's JACKASS, make fun of our elders, because.....they're old. No man, respect for your elders and well behaved diners.

Her three star review of Red O was way off, but I have to say that without S. Irene Virbila's review of Rick Bayless's flawed restaurant, my post might not have had the steam that it did. To that I say, thanks Irene. Discourse is what makes our scene better. This Jackass mentality, that somehow, crassness, bullying, and saying fuck everybody is no way for a corporate restaurant based in Beverly Hills to act.This self-serving rebellion is as jive as Kurt Cobain posing for the Rolling Stone cover thinking he's keeping it real because his t-shirt says,"I Still Think Corporate Magazines Suck!" It's the ultimate hypocrisy. You guys think you're punk?More like Green Day.Beverly Hills punk? You wanna be punk, come up to Panorama City, Van Nuys, or set up in Westminster.

Perhaps S. Irene Virbila's review of Animal, which is inconsequential, could be the culprit in your trepidations. Animal is brilliant, Jon and Vinny proudly stand in rebellion as a counter-culture restaurant, and as breakout leaders of the new guard. I know you love 'em, and so do I. Despite Irene's flailing about their restaurant, it's packed and killing every night. There are million ways you could counter a negative review, but success is the sweetest revenge, young pâtissier.

The Los Angeles Times will review your place, one way or another, and so will the lot of us.

This Manifesto indicates a lack of faith in the average person's intellect. Do I need to know you're not Vietnamese, or that your food isn't traditional Vietnamese? I'm looking at you guys and I'm thinking, nope, not one of them is Vietnamese. I believe the original logo you had with Ho Chi Minh's picture indicates a complete ignorance of Vietnamese culture, but you guys did remove the offensive picture, very wise.Hey, let's open a Cuban restaurant in Miami and call it Che Guevara, what do you think? Our expectations of your food is that it's great, but you can't call your sandwich banh mi and beg us not compare it to a great banh mi. Why all the disclaimers? Your food shouldn't require explanation, it should speak for itself.If you're having to tell us some story, or are just trying to abolish any frame of reference, then something's not happening on the plate. I don't care what your manifesto says, I'm getting my banh mi from a banh mi shop, and I'm not Vietnamese either, nor is anyone in my family. You made phở at Test Kitchen with a poor broth, completely missing the point of phở, no, scratch that unlawful comparison, the point of SOUP.

In general, the Red, Manifesto, and Ho Chi Minh nonsense is troubling. This is cute? I wonder how the Vietnamese community would feel about all this? Certainly, the highly assimilated Vietnamese-Americans in the LA food scene find this offensive, but how about older restaurateurs down in Westminster, people who had real experiences with these symbols you find so cool? I grew up in Stockton,CA, where a huge population of Cambodians, Laotians, Hmong, Vietnamese, and ethnic Chinese from Southeast Asia arrived in the 70's, many from re-education camps. A kid from my graduating class lost his mother and father in a mine field, as he watched. Is this arrogance or ignorance? This folly with your Red Medicine metaphor is really a separate issue, but what I want to point out here is a pattern of carelessness that you might want to address. Maybe Irene could put your pictures up in the Vietnamese restaurants you go for inspiration, with that logo with Ho Chi Minh's face? Then maybe they could decide you are unsound, and not interested in a good time.

In regards to S. Irene Virbila? Don't worry about that, because we also are able to discriminate from reviews that have meaning, or are more on the money, as in the case of Rivera and Wolfgang's Steakhouse, to useless reviews of places in which we disagree with Irene's assessment like as in the case of Animal. We don't care what she says about Animal, neither do the dudes. I really don't think the people who go to Animal, or Red Medicine are really the S. Irene Virbila crowd anyway, which leads me to believe this might be purely a PR stunt, or better, a Jackass style prank, albeit I'll conceived.

I like Adam, and hell, we're friends on FACEBOOK for crying out loud, he's always been a gentleman.I thought Noah was very professional and likable when I previewed Red Medicine's menu at Test Kitchen, twice. I also tried Jordan's cuisine at Star Chef's, the brilliant and delicious cube, and at the Umami burger dinner with the fantastic wine pairings by David Haskell. Jordan made a great burger that night, and a good dessert to the best of my recollection.

I found my Red Medicine preview dinner at Test Kitchen mostly unimpressive, and I've been uninterested in rushing out to the restaurant. Because I had lacked anything positive to say, I'd even trashed my picture set. It's my practice to highlight great eateries. No doubt, Jordan has the ability and talent to improve the menu, but presently the word on the street is that the food is overpriced for what you're getting.This is what I experienced at Test Kitchen for Jordan Kahn's tasting menu.Lot's of mixed reviews, but my conversations with others who've gone to the restaurant have been lukewarm at best. Kevin Roderick suggested that Red Medicine just shut up and make their restaurant better, sage advice.

No need to discuss what your rights are, we all know you can toss whomever, but great cooking, a sense of value, and polished service are the keys to your survival, nothing more. I personally don't want to patronize a restaurant that treats a person, someone's grandmother with such disdain, that photographs a woman in an unflattering way without permission. That's just the old-fashioned guy in me. I don't care if it's an anonymous writer, Yelper, obnoxious blogger, no one should be thrown out unless they've been unruly.Yes you're within your rights, but we have the right to cry foul, and keep our distance. Resistance is futile, oh, wrong Star Trek movie. Open your doors to all and be judged, fearless, and with conviction, OR start a private club for yes men and fawning flatterers.

So, you guys wouldn't banh mi...... would ya? Noah said that this isn't a war on all forms of journalism, but I'm not convinced.The pomposity that has accompanied your collective actions from the Ho Chi Minh logo to your vendetta with S. Irene Virbila and her friends speaks otherwise, and without the cuisine to back it up. Think this requires more than an invite to buy a drink or a bite at the bar to hear base justifications. It seems you are attempting let things quiet down, but there's so much more to do when you've done a wrong.There are many of us, and we won't patronize a restaurant that is inhospitable, set to lash out at any perceived enemies. I find Red Medicine's handling of S. Irene Virbila to be unnecessarily cruel and irrational, and, I don't you think you guys know how to run a restaurant.

Kirk out............Kaaaaaaaaahn!

Red Medicine
8400 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Open until 2 am ***
***Have a Plan B bloggers, Yelpers, writers,Twitterers,journalists,etc.In case you're not interested in a good time, as defined by Noah Ellis.


Kung Food Panda said...

Fantastic write up Bill. Since we had Red Medicine at Test Kitchen that same night, I too was most unimpressed and left unsatisfied (and hungry). That experience has left me uninterested in visiting Red Medicine and after this whole fiasco, it just put the nail in the coffin. No press is bad press, but it just left me with the impression that Red Medicine and team are too "chicken" to be reviewed by writers like SIV.

Anonymous said...

Great post, I think you summarized what a lot of people are thinking but are not eloquent enough to express nicely.

KrisDub said...

Well done Bill. This reflects what 90% of the food community has been thinking and discussing over the past few days. 'Success is the best revenge' was aptly put though, obviously, not to their thinking. On top of being an obvious vendetta, this action reeks of fear. In this case, the old adage 'if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen' truly applies. I hope this doesn't die down. This type of behavior should not be ignored, and should never be accepted.

Gustavo Arellano said...

The idiots were such pendejos that they ACTUALLY thought of doing a logo with Ho Chi Minh? Morons--absolute morons.

streetgourmetla said...

Hey Kung Food Panda, yes, I remember. What was the consensus at your table? I remember others not feeling satisfied, too. The nail is in the coffin

Thanks, Anonymous!

Kristen-I would agree with your number, and at this point call it science. The community is outraged, and they should be. Let the pummeling begin!!

Gustavo, the logo was done, and published, they had to go fix it! Son gachos!

Tiffin unBoxed said...

Loved, loved, loved this write-up. Thanks for continuing to tell it like it is. I was SO looking forward to dining at RM but as you stated, the 'inhospitable' attitude is a huge turnoff. I liked the RM food at Test Kitchen, but still can't support a place that caters to 'yes' men.

kevinEats said...

"Kevin Eats appears to have unlimited access."

More like I was tolerated. Look at what Kahn wrote on the menu.

streetgourmetla said...

Tiffin unBoxed-Right on Wasima!

streetgourmetla said...

KevinEats-Whoa!! I did read your post, but didn't even see that. Wow, so Jordan Kahn also shares this attitude towards the blogger types. What an ass,for him to write that on your menu. I believe you probably just wanted an autograph, some kind words.Thanks for calling this to my attention. But, he does read your blog, for sure, one of the only ones he'd admit to reading.

mattatouille said...

Those guys that made a North Korean truck were pretty stupid, ridiculous and insensitive but it was all a PR ploy for an upcoming video game. If anyone seriously made a restaurant paying homage to an oppressor, a tyrant, and a murderer of many, I would find it utterly distasteful. So well said point there. Communism is a joke for people who never experienced it, but my family has been broken and separated because of the Korean war for decades. That's no joke to open a restaurant on, and celebrating Ho Chi Minh and the communist rule of Vietname is no different.

streetgourmetla said...

Mattatouille-I don't think Jordan Kahn is the well rounded type. He was a cooking nut since day one. He reads recipe books, and spends time figuring out how to compress fruit, doubt these guys know anything else. I think it's just the stupidity of youthful rebellion mixed with American commercialism. You can buy Che T-shirts in DTLA, but the kids that buy them don't even really know anything about him except he's a symbol of defiance.

I think these guys thought it fun to play with these Rage Against the Machine ideas without care for what anyone thinks, not out of rebellion, but just ignorance.This same thought process came out in dealing with criticsm, and the handling of S. Irene Virbila.

Tiffin unBoxed said...

I also read Kevin Eats post and did not notice that comment on the menu. They need to get over themselves. Those who are paying for their food can eat it how they choose.

Nomsnotbombs said...

Verdad. I love you, Bill.

streetgourmetla said...

Agreed Tiffin Unboxed-WE are paying for the food,service, and ambiance, not the chef's ideals.Silly, the guy asks for an autograph, and gets a lecture.

Noms Not Bombs-I love you, too.

eastside food bites said...

Great post, Bill. This stunt was as rude as it was ridiculous. The funny thing is that while I WOULD give a poorly reviewed restaurant a chance, I would NEVER go to a restaurant that was afraid to have their food reviewed. It's pretty telling.

I also have no interest in supporting a kitchen that would actively sabotage a writer's career.

I understand that the glut of food reviewers in LA creates a strange new world for restaurants. But reviewers, bloggers, yelpers, and the internet aren't going away, so the only solution is to make your cooking ABOVE reproach. Especially when your charging $16 for bahn mi...

streetgourmetla said...

Eastside Food Bites-Well, the banh mi is actually $12, still too much from a novice sandwich maker.

The restaurant business suffers no cowards. Cook, take your lumps or praises like a man, or go into the flower arranging business. We'll critique that too!!

eastside food bites said...

The dinner menu online says $16 for their for their foie gras pate de campagne bahm mi. I guess that makes sense because you're paying for foie...

Anonymous said...

Hello! I love reading your blog, makes me want to journey to Mexico and try everything! I especially enjoy any and everything you write about tequila, which is not often enough. :)
However, I came across the little blurb about Kurt Cobain, I think you mistake what he was doing. He wasn't 'keeping it real'. Since he isn't around, I'll post what he had to say about that cover shoot:
"Yeah. Well, I chose to do that-although it was a hell of a fight. We were on tour in Australia, and I had completely forgotten that I had promised to do the Rolling Stone piece. And that day, they called and said "Are you ready to do the photo shoot?" And it was like, "No, I really don't want to do this." I had so much pressure from my management and the band members-they wanted to do it, and I just agreed. On my way there I just decided, "I'm going to write someting on my shirt that's offensive enough to stop getting our picture on the cover." This way I could say that I actually played along with it and still didn't get picked to be on the cover. I wasn't necessarily challenging Rolling Stone, saying, "You suck" and "We don't want to have anything to do with you, but we'll still use you for our exposure."

Rolling Stone sucks, has always sucked, and still sucks just because they have a hip band on theif cover. We're not as cool and hip as everyone thinks. Having us on the cover isn't going to make Rolling Stone any cooler. Ever since this band has been popular, I've always thought of us as just a '90s version on Cheap Trick or the Knack. They had two sides of appeal that made them kind of a cool band-a commercial side and kind of a new-wave side. We have that."

streetgourmetla said...

Eastside bites, yeah, but the foie gras banh mi?Foie gras torta?Foie gras reuben?Foie gras is expensive, but it's offal.I think that's superfluous.

Anonymous-Hey, thanks!Great background on Cobain.I don't doubt it, but, as it gets lost in the act. I mean, I just walked by the magazine and said,"ridiculous."There's no way you can know the behind the scenes, but the image is what it is.I appreciated how U2 did the Zoo TV, and finally fessed up to being part of the machine.As a professional musician, it's a no-brainer,do or don't.If you want to be a rock 'n roll star, you must perform the job.It came off as silly, the photo, and, was a good comparison for this post,haha.Regardless, the music is far more powerful and lasting than youthful antics,Nirvana was an important band.

Looks like I owe you a tequila post, will do!Thanks for reading, and please get yourself down to Mexico, this year.