Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Red Medicine - 10/16/2012

8400 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(323) 651-5500

When Red Medicine first opened I had high hopes for wunderkind Jordan Kahn. During my first visit, I thought the food effectively captured the charms of Vietnamese cuisine but with Kahn's own spin on things, but the merits of the food would soon be overshadowed by the restaurant's outing and refusal to serve LA Times food critic S. Irene Virbilla. Since then Red Medicine has become the late-night bastion of chefs along restaurant row, though one of my companions who frequents the restaurant confirmed that the dining room is pretty slow during regular dining hours. After nearly two years and an entirely different menu it was high time to see how the place was faring.

#75 Germain Robin Craft Method Brandy, Calisaya, Sakuma Bros. Oolong Tea, Orange, Lemon - Served chilled with an orange slice and grated clove. Adam’s punch, using exclusively American ingredients.

#62 Redemption Rye 2yr, Benedictine, Lemon, Agave, Ginger Beer - Shaken and served long with pickled peppers and fennel fronds
This was my favorite cocktail of the initial trio, the cocktail has a lightly effervescent tang with an ephemeral herbaceous spice.

#73 Novo Fogo Silver Cachaca, Lime, Sugar - Muddled and served in a mason jar. ‘Caipirinha’. Shake hard five times. Service method stolen from Dragos Axinte.
Though based off a Caipirhina, this was a bit stiffer than I was expecting. With each sip I could feel a warm sensation spreading through my stomach.

SWEET CORN / custard, frozen uni powder, rambutan, lemongrass, chervil, young ginger
The meal got off to a great start. The sweet kernels were delicious enough on their own but each of the accompaniments brings a new dimension to the dish. Each bite was different from the last and left me wanting more, but I particularly appreciated the gentle savor of the uni and the moderating zest of the lemongrass and chervil.

HEIRLOOM BLACK CARROTS / guava, purple kale, dulse, young walnut, tamarind
I tend to shy away from root vegetables, neither the sweetness nor the oft-mealy texture appeal to me. This course had both in spades with an even more tropical sweetness courtesy of the guava. The rest of my party raved about this dish but I had a hard time appreciating it.

#35 St. George Absinthe, Pontarlier Anis, Benedictine, Sugar, Peychaud’s Bitters - Shaken very hard and served over crushed ice with a lemon peel. Our variation of the ‘Absinthe Cocktail’.
My initial cocktail dispensed with I opted for the #35. Given the intricacy of everything to this point, I expected a similar complexity here, but I couldn't detect much besides flavor of black licorice.

LIVE SCALLOP / cured with kaffir lime, jujube, whey, verbena, raw turnip
The bright zing of the kaffir really brought out the natural sweetness of the scallops while the astringency of the raw turnip provided a stark counterpoint. My feelings about the whey were a bit mixed; while I appreciated the lactic tang, I found the textural interaction between the fleshy scallops and creamy milk serum a bit disconcerting.

#77 Bols Genever, Cocchi Americano, Torley Muscat, Shiso - Carbonated, bottled, and served with a tall glass of ice
Finding the #35 a bit overwhelming I pawned it off on Kevin and went for th #77. Bottled in-house, the cocktail has a clear vinousness from the Cocchi Americano and muscat tinged with a subtle fragrance from the shiso.

INDIAN EGGPLANT / sprouted mung beans, soybean, coriander, black radish, morning glory
I also tend to shy away from eggplant but for some reason I found the mealy texture more tender than off-putting. Perhaps the tang of the filling or the harshness of the the black radish provided that element normally lacking from eggplant.

SNAP PEAS / raw & iced, soymilk custard, mint, coconut water, celtuce
This was far and away my favorite of the cold dishes. The keen verdance of the peas further emphasized by the bracing tang of the snow and crunch of the sprouts while the custard and coconut provide just the right touch of countervailing sweetness.

#76 Green Chartreuse, Velvet Falernum, Pineapple, Lime - Served frozen with grated nutmeg and a mint sprig. Marco Dionysos’ ‘Chartreuse Swizzle’.
The green color of this cocktail belies the rather approachable flavor. There is a hint of astringency but by and large the slushy mixture tastes of tropical sweetness from the Falernum and pineapple.

SWEETBREADS / prune, leeks, mustard, chicory, smoked bone marrow, beech mushroom
My last time here I had a course where the sweetbreads were reduced to a textural element, this time around the offal plays a more prominent role. Aside from the prunes the rest of the elements provide a smoky woody depth which lends itself well to the iron-tinged glands.

LAMB / slow-roasted with california redwood, ripe and unripe mango, yellow roots
Though described as slow-roasted the meat was so tender that it felt more like a braised preparation. Despite being fairly fatty, there isn't much gaminess to speak of. The woody essence permeating the lamb paired beautifully with both the juicy coating of the mango and the tang of the mustard and pickled onions.

HEIRLOOM RICE PORRIDGE / egg yolk, hazelnuts, ginseng, echire butter, santa barbara red uni
The Red Medicine veterans declared this a must order dish and after having it I couldn't agree more. The butter provides a rich savory canvas for the toasty nuts and bitter ginseng. The resulting combination has a dark woody flavor reminiscent of Matsutake mushrooms. The uni is charred giving it a heady bitter flavor to compliment the natural saline sweetness. There is an option to order this sans uni, but why would you?

WILD SANTA BARBARA SPOT PRAWNS / cooked over hot river stones with lemongrass
I've not been particularly impressed with cooked spot prawns in the past but these were superb. Though they look thoroughly cooked on the outside, the interior still has a palpable snap to it. The herbs, mushrooms, and lemongrass impart some flavor but the sweet salinity of the prawns are still the star.

IMPERIAL WAGYU BEEF BRISKET / braised for 36 hrs with palm sugar & fish sauce
I thought the lamb was tender until I tried this. The fat is almost like a meat jello while the lean meat is little firmer. The sugar and fish sauce make for a delightful contrast of funky savor with caramelized sweetness. The course came with some vegetable "banchan" to help deflect some of the brisket's weighty vigor.

#67 Ocho Blanco Tequila, Cucumber, Lime, Vinegar, Agave - Built over ice and topped with pickled cucumber, shallot, and chiles. ‘Bloodless Maria’.
Those that read the blog know that I have a fondness for cucumber-based cocktails. Still it was only a matter of time till I found one that I didn't like. The name "Bloodless Maria" is particularly apt, there is a strong spice-laced vegetal pungency highlighted with the disconcerting flavor of vinegar sort of like an alcoholic salad dressing.

BIRCH ICE / almond praline, red currant, orange blossom, jasmine
Kahn's always been rightly lauded for his desserts and this is one of the most striking that i've seen in a while. My first bite I got a mouthful of bubbles which tasted like orange soap. Like the corn, there is an amazing amount going on in this dish and getting everything in one bite is key.

COCONUT BAVAROIS / coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant
Arguably Kahn's most well known dessert, this contents of this compact little glass are simply wonderful. The Bavarois cream is seductive and silky on the palate and the coconut is a natural bridge between the coffee and condensed milk. The basil stands apart from the rest of the dish but adds just the right amount of vegetal fragrance.

GREEN STRAWBERRY / frozen cream, sorrel, elderflower, wild chervil
The way this course unfolded reminded me a lot of the Snap Peas we had earlier. The fruit tastes remarkably concentrated, intensely jammy and sweet they would have been a bit much were it not for the airy chill of the frozen cream and the light bitterness of the chervil.

MILK CHOCOLATE CREAM / in the japanese method, crispy devil’s food, cucumber, buckwheat, lovage
Not quite sure what the Japanese method refers to but this dish was certainly enjoyable. The "cage" is made of a crispy devils food cake. Inside the savory elements only serve to heighten the bitter purity of the chocolate.

I wasn't sure what to expect on my return to Red Medicine. Though there still are occasional flourishes, the food feels decidedly less Vietnamese but more complex and nuanced. The variety of flavors meant that there was a new discovery in each bite and though not everything worked for me but there were far more hits than misses. Whatever you may think of Jordan Kahn personally, its hard to deny that he is putting out some of the most intricate and interesting food in LA.


Felix said...

The presentation is amazing! Best I've seen on here (although I'm just working through your archives as we speak).

Epicuryan said...

Yeah red medicine has some beautifully presented food.

As for the archives I recommend you start with my older posts and work forward. My earlier photography left a lot to be desired.