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The UT's Food/Entertainment Advertising Manager, Wolfgang Verkaiik, writes little "reviews" of restaurants that take out ads. (They're all raves, of course. But some people actually believe he's a real food critic.)

This past Thursday, "reviewing" a new Russian-Ukrainian restaurant in La Mesa, Wolfie noted that the chef there had previously worked at Pomegranate Russian-Georgian Restaurant (in University Heights) and that former Pom partner Jon Skorepa was now helping out at the new place in La Mesa -- and that Pomegranate had closed.

How could that be? The last time I ate there, the place was packed! Had something dire happened to Marko Zhukov, the other partner? So I did what Wolfie should have done, and phoned Marko. Neither he nor Pom has become a "former parrot" - both are perfectly alive (but I'm kicking harder than Marko at this misreport.)

It's true that Marko and Jon came to a parting of the ways: Jon developed a health problem that had ill effects on his cooking. (He was the guy sitting out on the street, tending a charcoal grill. Actually, I have to vouch for Marko's account here: At my last visit, grill items did tend to be overcooked, which was certainly not true eight years ago, and even the smoked fish seemed dryer than it used to be. I meant to re-review the restaurant since it had moved to a much larger space next door to its previous address -- but I put off writing that, thinking I could hold my notes in reserve for a rainy week.)

Replacing Jon, Marko says he's hired two professional Georgian chefs.

Pomegranate had also changed from accepting credit cards to installing an ATM machine and requiring "cash only." "With credit cards, Americans spend more than they can afford," Marko said. "With cash only payment, they might restrain themselves more. I didn't want to be responsible for people spending too much on a meal here." Well, this idea went over with customers like a mobile home in a hurricane. The credit card machine will be back very shortly.

I encouraged Marko to call Wolfie and demand a correction, but he was thoroughly unwilling to do so. "If Wolfgang is a journalist, he should already know that you must check facts," he said. But of course Wolfie isn't a journalist, he only gets to play one in the UT. So I phoned his answering machine and scorched it. Yet to be seen if he'll run a correction after the potential damage he may have caused to this vibrant restaurant.

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Comments

Visduh Sept. 18, 2011 @ 3:08 p.m.

Naomi, are you now having Mencken ghost-write your columns? "Wolfie" as you call him--his name once was Doug--certainly writes some glowing reviews for the restaurants that advertise in the U-T. I call him the man who never saw a restaurant he didn't like, just as Mark Maynard--their automotive "editor"--the man who never drove a car he didn't like. Both are shameless shills for the advertisers. They wouldn't know a journalist if one spit on their shoes.

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Naomi Wise Sept. 23, 2011 @ 7:18 p.m.

Restaurant owners mainly call him Wolfie. When he's soliciting ads, he eats at their restaurants, so they get to know him up close and peronal.

Glad to say, after I yelled at his answering machine, he did publish a correction this week.

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Sixofone Sept. 24, 2011 @ 7:53 a.m.

Converting his restaurant to a cash only business to prevent customers from over-indulging in his product? Really? How thoughtful, Marko. A selfless altruist, you are.

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Visduh Sept. 25, 2011 @ 7:58 p.m.

Have you ever read satire? That sounded like a totally satiric piece, the thing that Mencken turns out every few days. I was at Pomegranate once, the food was plentiful if not very sophisticated. But a restaurateur worrying about his customers spending more than the can afford? Gimme a huge break! Very few eateries would survive if the patrons didn't overspend. Eat out, even very modestly, and most eaters then make up for it by missing a meal or two, or otherwise economizing.

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