Red Medicine, which opened mid-December, is currently one of the most talked about restaurants in Los Angeles. First, for the three partners with a most impressive, eclectic culinary pedigree. Second, for the fact the Chef/Partner Jordan Kahn made a splash at Test Kitchen LA this summer introducing his cuisine. Third, for the anticipation because it was originally set to open last July. Fourth, for the brouhaha regarding their recent outing of LA Times reviewer S. Irene Virbila — which doesn’t matter so much now because Red Medicine pretty much rocks.
Kahn honed his skills at 17 as the youngest cook in Thomas Keller’s kitchen at French Laundry and was part of a four person pastry team. He went on to work in famed kitchens in NYC (including Grant Achatz’s Alinea) and has became renown for his highly artistic work; managing partner Noah Ellis is an impresario mixologist who worked with Michael Mina (and later together with Kahn at XIV) for nearly two decades; and partner Adam Fleischman, the Umami King, is probably the fastest growing restaurateur in Los Angeles (with a fifth Umami coming to Studio City, Umamicatessen opening downtown, and in Westwood, a pizzeria called 800).
Red Medicine, named for an album by the punk band Fugazi, is Vietnamese, but as stated in the manifesto on the menu — “not a traditional Vietnamese restaurant.” It’s Vietnamese tapas — small plates to be shared — inspired by the spices and the soulful comfort of the food itself. As far as I know, there’s nothing like Red Medicine.
Red Medicine is sleek and modern, yet casual and comfortable — a mix of reclaimed wood and concrete is warmed by dim lighting. Music plays, and while seemingly loud, you are able to have a conversation. The vibe matches the food and drink— exciting and lively. Open until 2am, you can come for a meal, or just for drinks and a nibble in the bar/lounge area and order from a smaller menu.
Ellis’ cocktail list is evolving and there is nothing typical about it. The drinks are all $10 and numbered with variations of alcohols such as St. George Absinthe, Hayman’s Old Tom, Rye, Yuzu and Chrome Vodka; ingredients and flavors include chili-anise scrub, opal basil, grenadine, ginger beer, elder flower, bergamot, meyer lemon, Pages Parfait Amour and much more. Select craft beers and wine, which is directed under Fleischman, is available by the bottle or glass.
The menu is split into sections— Hands, Cold, Veg, Protein and Large Format (for parties of 5 or more). At first glance, it’s confusing because the ingredients are so different from what we are attuned. There’s nothing odd or strange, but you may not have heard of some of the ingredients. That being said, you must be a diner with an open mind to enjoy the small plate dining experience at Red Medicine. It was really difficult to choose because most everything seemed appealing. Our server, Frances-Olive, couldn’t have been more helpful advising and answering our questions.
Two people should split six dishes. If you come hungry, perhaps more. You are served in no particular order, so if you are the type who wants certain tastes or temperatures timed during your meal, be sure to make that clear. Dishes run $6-$21 with the most ranging from $9-$16.
We started with the brussels sprouts. If you don’t think you like these green round veggies, think again. These came in a bowl topped with white foam looking pieces called shrimp chips. The sprouts were caramelized with shallots and mixed with vermouth and fish sauce. There were so tender that the sprouts were flattened into leafy texture. The sprouts do have that pungent taste, however the sweet/salt combination tempers it.
Next up was the Chicken Dumplings presented on a divided plate consisting of four dumplings, which are really meatballs infused with lemongrass, carmelized sugar and pork fat. They are accompanied by condiments such as cucumbers, a Sriracha sauce and scallions. Lettuce leaves are presented in a separate bowl for a wrap up. The contrast of flavors sizzles in your mouth. Delicious.
A big twist on the traditional here is the Banh Mi, which usually could be viewed as Vietnamese sub sandwich. The Red Medicine version are sophisticated, delicate tea sandwiches filled with foie gras and pate de campagne, topped with mint and jalopenos. At about two or three bites each, they are the perfect bite
Quite enjoyed the Kobacha dish which has an earthy, sweet quality with the richness of the squash combined with Chinese sausage, burnt onion, chrysanthemum and a dollop of crème fraiche.
The Duck, prepared with 5-spice, chicory and tamarind syrup is an exciting mix of sweet flavors with a bite set up by charred frisee. The duck is so tender, it melts in your mouth.
A surprise dish was Kelley’s Mom’s Farm Egg. I always say that the only thing I don’t like is a soft yolk, but something about this dish changed my mind. Perhaps it’s the complex layering of ingredients including pickled rosehips (part of the rose that tastes sweet like cranberry), greens, fried garlic, chili and boiled peanuts mixed together that turned the yolk into more of a sauce.
Another surprise is the Pintade Fermatier which is a little guinea hen. Served in an iron bowl, it’s another sweet and savory textured dish cooked in caramel, and cinnamon with coriander, crispy onions and dandelion, accompanied by jasmine rice.
The Wild Striped Bass with brown butter-soy milk, verbena, pomelo, raw chestnut, lettuce stems is rich and with ingredients that play off the other, but at $21 I thought it too pricey for the size of the portion.
By this time, we were feeling full, but knowing that Chef Kahn’s fame originated as a pastry chef, we couldn’t pass up dessert. Good thing we didn’t. The desserts are an absolute must part of the meal at Red Medicine.
We shared two and both had the same effect — completely unique and absolutely scrumptious. The Lemongrass Pots De Crème with sweet potato, orange blosson, red bull and bergomot was a surprise in every bite as far as taste and texture. The Black Currant Lychee with avocado, violets, crème de cassi, genetian and hyssop was a smooth mix of complex sweet flavors.
Dessert was the perfect cap to a very fun, innovative and exciting meal where most every bite brings a sense of wonder.
Red Medicine is located at 8400 Wilshire Blvd, (at Gale) in Beverly Hills. Red Medicine is open until 2 am and separate bar menu is available. Average price per person with a two cocktails $60. Valet $5.
Karen Young is the Founder/Editor of My Daily Find. Email: email@example.com