Back in dot-com days we worked near a pasta restaurant (we think where the River North Hooters is now) that got a scathing, we mean, a you-have-no-business-calling-this-crap-pasta whupping of a review from Pat Bruno in the Sun-Times. Morbidly curious, we walked by at lunch— and they already had a sign up saying they were closed for menu changes. They never reopened, and that's been our answer ever since as to whether critics really have impact on the restaurants they cover. Now, for your consideration: about four weeks ago, Michael Nagrant reviewed Pasteur in the Sun-Times, saying that the newly reopened Vietnamese spot was hurting itself with a split French-Vietnamese personality that didn't work, and too many of the French dishes were botched in execution, and that, frankly, the chef of the French half, the once-illustrious Eric Aubriot, should be sent packing. Now Dish reports that Aubriot was gone from Pasteur as of about two weeks ago, and the menu is focusing on Vietnamese food.
We are sad, if not surprised, that Aubriot, a star a decade-plus ago, has moved on again. And we imagine one could argue that even if newspaper critics had the power a decade or two ago to effect changes by what they said, they don't have that kind of clout any more. But on the other hand, sage advice is sage advice, and Nagrant had diagnosed Pasteur's problems accurately and offered a bold but necessary solution which, in the end, they followed. If Bruno's story was exhibit A for the power of critics in that legacy media moment, Nagrant's is exhibit A for something else— that even the harshest words from an honest critic serve the good of a restaurant and the restaurant scene. And that those who think critics should play the game and boost the scene and not tell it like they see it, do our restaurants no favors.