Stars No Longer Align For L.A. Times Restaurant Reviews
The Los Angeles Times has implemented some big changes in their Food section, including bundling it up with a bunch of other lifestyle-y sections and pushing it to Saturday, and hiring (Pulitzer Prize-winning) writer Jonathan Gold to spill some ink on the subject of eating in L.A. But now they've announced they're doing away with star ratings in their restaurant reviews.
First, star ratings are increasingly difficult to align with the reality of dining in Southern California — where your dinner choices might include a food truck, a neighborhood ethnic restaurant, a one-time-only pop-up run by a famous chef, and a palace of fine dining. Clearly, you can’t fairly assess all these using the same rating system. Furthermore, the stars have never been popular with critics because they reduce a thoughtful and nuanced critique to a simple score.
No word on how resto critic S. Irene Virbila feels about being unburdened of the stars, but her food enthusiast readers might be relieved, since one major frustration has been from reading glowing reviews ending with a modest star rating, and "bigger" star ratings heaped on at the end of a more critical review.
But perhaps the Times is doing this to justify bringing on Gold, and to be sure readers take his trips to SGV noodle bars and dumpling houses as seriously as SIV's fawning over an established local celeb chef. And in an era when any ahole with an internet connection can give their 2-stars' worth on sites like Yelp, maybe if we paid more attention to words than "ratings" we might become better diners.