[Los Angeles] Red Medicine (CLOSED)

Categories: Fusion, Vietnamese, American (New)
Address: 8400 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Hours: Mon-Sun, 6:00pm – 2:00am
Date visited: October 2013
Reservations: Yes
Total bill: ~$440 for four people, excluding tip ($65 tasting menu/pp, a bottle of Tegernseerhof Smaragd ‘Steinertal’, Wachau 2010 ($92), 3 cocktails & extras)
Verdict: While I have to applaud this place for its creativity and boldness, most of the dishes we tried lacked balance and congruity. Daring, but maybe too much so. I am usually a big fan of unorthodox contemporary fusion dishes, but surprisingly the food I enjoyed most here were the least experimental ones. Some of the dishes were just too multifaceted and overloaded with ingredients. I like the concept and I'm glad I tried it out, but I'm not sure if I'll come back again.

On a side note, all the drinks were solid. The bartender for sure knew what he was doing. 

www.redmedicinela.com | (323) 651-5500

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Background

 

I’ve heard a lot about Red Medicine’s ingenious and elaborate plating, but what about the food itself? I was given mixed reviews by my foodie friends but in the end my curiosity and love for both Vietnamese and New American food outweighed my doubts and prompted me to check this place out.

To preface, the founder and chef Jordan Kahn isn’t Vietnamese. In fact, he’s not even Asian. In the past, he worked as pastry chef at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry (Yountville) and Grant Achatz’s Alinea (Chicago), where he was offered the position of head pastry chef. He declined the offer and moved to New York to become pastry chef at Varietal (Manhattan). After gaining nationwide recognition for his “highly artistic” talents, he moved to San Francisco at age 23 to work at Michael Mina’s flagship eatery. In the next year, however, he spent most of his time traveling around North America to help Mina open up new restaurants (Bourbon Steak in Detroit and Miami, SaltWater in Detroit, and Nemi in Mexico City). When Mina’s L.A. flagship restaurant, XIV, opened its doors in 2008, Kahn finally decided to settle down and served as XIV’s head pastry chef. There, he challenged norms, defied convention and distinguished himself as an innovative chef in the culinary world. In 2010, he was named "StarChefs.com Rising Star" and eventually left to open his own restaurant Red Medicine.

Menu: 6-course tasting menu ($65) or a-la-carte dinner menu. We opted with the tasting menu, but also ordered a Banh Mi from the bar menu. Beverage pairing ($35) is also available with the tasting menu.

[Note: There were four of us and we all ordered the tasting menu. All the dishes were served for two people (as in two people share each dish). Makes me wonder how they would accommodate an odd numbered party. Although I don’t mind sharing with others, I can imagine how this might be a problem for some.]

TASTING MENU

Course 1: Wild Brook TROUT ROE buried beneath a savory lemon custard, sunflower seed granola, raw snap peas and an ice made from their shells, extra virgin sunflower seed oil, frozen yogurt powder, dried meringue made from onion juice, tender pea vines, baby onion bulbs brined in vinegar.

Imagine an aquarium. The first thing that popped into my head was: fish bowl? The ingredients are layered, parfait-style, in a large spherical bowl. It tasted like an explosion of different flavors, textures, layers, and temperatures. A very interesting start—I didn’t love it but it was worth trying.

 A scoop of the mixed ingredients

A scoop of the mixed ingredients

Course 2: A custard of FRESH CREAM surrounded by young anthocyanin roots, legumes, and stalks, roasted walnut marzipan, dried cabbage, sour rhubarb juice infused with fragrant verbena.

Imagine a garden. A very colorful plate of edible flower arrangements surrounding a pool of crème fraiche. To be honest I don’t know what the highlight of this dish is. The cream was bland, but I guess eating flowers is quite special? Looks better than it tastes. 

custard_cream_redmedicine.jpg

Course 3: DUNGENESS CRAB FROM THE OREGON COAST, seasoned with an emulsion made from its shell and liver, wrapped in crystal lettuce and grilled over Japanese charcoal, fermented garlic paste, passion fruit juice thickened with egg yolks, mushrooms, tubers, spicy leaves and herbs.

Imagine a nest. Decorated with fried crispy strings of phyllo dough and fermented garlic paste on the side, this was unique but not the most appealing looking. The crunchy thin strips really reminded me of a Chinese snack, 散子 (deep-fried thin wheat straws). Interesting choice; I approve. The crabmeat was good too but really, it’s hard to go wrong with crabmeat. Solid dish but I expected it to be more special. 

redmedicine_dungeness_crab.jpg
 Close-up of crab

Close-up of crab

Course 4: Young POTATOES, gently poached in a cream of cultured sweet butter and yeast, crisp rice dumplings, wild grasses, flowers, and succulents foraged from the Malibu coast, an aromatic sauce of raw wheatgrass and chive juice.

Imagine a … well, bowl of potato balls. Most disappointing dish of all. Potatoes were soft but why am I being served a big bowl of potato balls at a Vietnamese restaurant? The wheatgrass/chive sauce was bitter and sour. None of us liked it. Our plate was pretty much untouched when the waiter took it away.

potatoes_redmedicine.jpg

Course 5: LAMB’S SHOULDER, slow-roasted with Sequoia redwood shoots, ripe and unripe mango, yellow roots, preserved mustard seeds, puffed soymilk skin, wild yarrow leaves.

Imagine a lamb shoulder served in a beautiful way. Yes, the lamb was tender and tasty but there’s nothing too special about it. Probably the most conventional dish of all. I liked it simply because I was still hungry given my disappointed with all the previous dishes.

lamb_shoulder_redmedicine.jpg

Course 6 (Dessert):  SHAVED ICE OF BIRCH, sour red currant berries and jelly, crème chiboust flavored with jasmine flowers, crispy rice crackers, verbena bubbles, roasted almond praline.

Imagine a bubbly bowl of fruity and crunchy shaved ice. I was most looking forward to try the dessert dish since Kahn is most renowned for his pastries and sweet dishes. It was refreshing and cleaned my palate from the earlier meat dishes. The currant berries and jelly was a good blend of sour and sweet, which perfectly complemented the subtle honeyed almond praline crunch.  Brilliant idea.

shavedice_birch_redmedicine.jpg
 Close-up.

Close-up.

EXTRAS

Additional dessert: MILK CHOCOLATE CREAM, in the Japanese method, crispy devil’s food, cucumber, buckwheat, lovage.

The waiter pleasantly surprised us by bringing an extra dessert dish to our table since we really disliked the potatoes. This dish was definitely my favorite of the night. The milk chocolate praline was amazing (flavorful but not overly sweet), but the balls of “crispy devil’s food” was freakin’ PHENOMENAL. A must order!

milk_chocolate_cream_redmedicine.jpg

From the bar menu: Banh Mi; country pâté, pork belly, carrot pickle, coriander, kewpie mayonnaise, green chili, cucumber ($12).

This is only available to order from the bar menu. The portion size is huge, containing lots of high quality and flavorful ingredients. The baguette was wonderfully toasted and the slightly sweet kewpie mayonnaise was subtle but perfect touch to the sandwich. Easily one of the most delicious dishes of the night, even though appearance-wise it was simple.

banhmi_redmedicine.jpg

Cocktail #91: cookie spices, sour, almond, foam ($11). 
Delicious. Great drink for the fall because of its seasonal taste. Light alcohol taste.

Cocktail #82: tropical, passion fruit, pineapple, strong, umbrella ($13).
Just how it sounds. Summery and refreshing.