Last week, LA Weekly ran a one-star review of new Silver Lake Mexican seafood spot Tintorera. The write-up by guest critic Karen Palmer certainly raised some eyebrows, as it was the first starred review since Besha Rodell moved back to Australia, and it frankly wasn’t very flattering to the buzzy restaurant in question.
Some, like longtime local Latino food writer Javier Cabral, were even less generous in their assessment of Palmer’s piece. In fact, Cabral took to posting on his site The Glutster a rehash of the letter he says he sent to LA Weekly regarding the review (which came, it should be mentioned, while chef Maycoll Calderon was back in Mexico City dealing with the fallout from the terrible earthquake there).
In the open letter, Cabral says he is dismayed by the tone of the review, and the fact that it was written by a recent New York City transplant who seemed to lack a strong understanding of the cuisine she was being tasked to address — and possibly even the Los Angeles culture itself. Cabral adds that “there was clearly a lack of good judgment in publishing her story in a city filled with mostly Latinos and the hotbed of modern Mexican cuisine in the US.”
Cabral has himself written for the Weekly in the past on a variety of topics and calls himself a fan of the alt-weekly’s food section, but ultimately walks away “disappointed” at the review and its look at a new member of LA’s Mexican food scene.
Eater reached out to LA Weekly for comment on Cabral’s letter and the paper’s plans for the future of the critic role, and received the following back from editor Mara Shalhoup:
I understand and respect Cabral's concerns, but I disagree that the problems Palmer had with Tintorera stem from her lack of appreciation of modern Mexican cuisine. The issues she describes are valid criticisms, one that any critic regardless of background would find disappointing.
As for the future of the critic role at LA Weekly, Shalhoup says that the paper will be trying out a variety of voices from across the spectrum. They’re also interested in potentially hearing from outside writers who feel they may be up to the task, so feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cabral’s open letter remains up on his site.