Paul and I came here on the Saturday after Larry and Michelle’s wedding a few weeks ago. We originally planned on going to Animal, but the earliest reservation was after 10pm (as usual), so Paul suggested Red Medicine, since he’s read good things about it, and wanted to see how Vietnamese flavors and ingredients can be interpreted in fine(r) dining. I was more than happy with this suggestion, as I felt my first visit to the restaurant was rather safe, my doing of course. But I was a bit worried, because I could totally envisioning him rushing to the kitchen and cursing out Chef Kahn for embarrassing Vietnamese cuisine, being the proud Viet that he is.
I had read about being able to request a tasting menu on Chowhound, so I inquired about it upon being seated. There were two options: $60 and $85. We chose the latter one, which was ten courses (seven savory, three desserts). Basically, the kitchen sends out ten dishes off the night’s menu, the portions being the same as their a la carte counterparts. So no tasting portions, just the actual dish placed in the middle for the two of us to share.
AMBERJACK / red seaweed, buttermilk, lotus root, tapioca, succulents ($16)
This reminds me a lot of a similar dish I had at Providence, which had kanpachi with red tapioca pearls. This version had a nice combination of different flavor profiles playing off one another. And of course, coming from Chef Kahn, a very beautiful-looking plate.
SPRING PEAS / yuzu, soymilk-yogurt, trout roe, purple cabbage, coconut ($16)
One of my most hated foods is pea. I usually can’t stand the flavor – gives me somewhat of a gag reflex. However, these chilled peas, which weren’t mushy at all, were excellent. Again, very playful with the different flavors. The yuzu added some needed acidity, and the trout roe provided the savory taste.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS / caramelized shallots, fish sauce, vermouth ($9)
I had this on my last visit, and absolutely loved it. Not shy with the fish sauce, that’s for sure. Just as good as I remembered. If you like brussels sprouts, you’ll love this. If not, you’ll still love it.
DUTCH WHITE ASPARAGUS / salsify, almond milk, burdock root, pomelo ($20)
White asparagus is starting to pop up on more and more menus, and it’s no exception at Red Medicine. The almond milk gave the plump stalks of asparagus a nice, creamy flavor, although they weren’t exactly easy to cut with a knife (got a bit stringy). Didn’t think the pomelo pulp did much in the way of acidity as other ingredients provided in previous dishes.
ALASKAN HALIBUT / charred mustard leaf, boiled peanuts, wild garlic, burnt onion syrup ($32)
A heavier dish than it appeared. The halibut, wrapped in a leaf, was cooked perfectly. Trying to get the perfect one-bite was less essential than the previous dishes though, as the flavors were more one-note here. Still, a great dish, and my preferred protein of the two that night.
HEIRLOOM RICE PORRIDGE / egg yolk, hazelnuts, ginseng, echire butter ($17)
Ah yes, the essential order at Red Medicine. This is really more of a buttery risotto in terms of texture, but man, is it a great dish. I read on CH that it was actually better NOT to mix in the egg yolk, but I digress. Gotta mix it up! If there’s only one dish you can order at the restaurant, this is it.
AKAUSHI BEEF / pistachio, lettuce stems, celery, fermented tea ($34)
Sadly, the savory courses ended on a minor disappointment. The meat was cooked rare, but ended up being tough and chewy, and the crust was hard (and not in a good way). It was a little better once you got a bit of everything on the plate, but I was let down by what is supposed to be similar to Japanese wagyu.
COCONUT BAVAROIS / coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant ($9)
Moving on to dessert. It’s fitting that we’re getting three dessert courses, as Chef Kahn started his culinary career in dessert and has worked pastry in some of the finest restaurants in the country. This is the most popular dessert on the menu, present since Day 1. And it doesn’t disappoint.
BIRCH ICE / almond praline, red currant, green almond, jasmine ($10)
One of our servers called Chef Kahn “The Mad Scientist” with regards to this dessert. I was thinking “why the fuck would I eat a fishbowl of bubbles with a piece of felt on top?” But wow, this was arguably the most impressive thing I had that night. The “felt” was soft almond praline (I think), the bubbles were jasmine tea foam, and under the bubbles were red currant, green almond, and crushed ice. Everything just worked in this. So creative.
BITTER CHOCOLATE / kecap manis, oats, parsnip, brown butter, soy milk sorbet ($11)
Like the coconut baravois, I had this one my first visit. Very good, but by far the most straight-forward dessert. And it was unable to deliver after we’ve had the previous two desserts.
The ten dishes that we had were all on the a la carte menu that night. Then what is the point of ordering the tasting menu, you ask? Well first of all, the tasting menu allows the kitchen to script a composed meal. For the most part, there was a nice progression from one dish to another. We started with two cold dishes, then an appetizer, then a veggie course, then three heavier courses, capped off with the desserts. Sounds like a plan to me. Also, the tasting menu allows the kitchen to send out what they think is best that night. While I consider myself pretty deft at ordering, I tend to order protein-heavy. So I would’ve most likely avoided Chef Kahn’s amazing vegetarian compositions, despite reading great things about them. Lastly, I did the math, and I believed Paul and I saved around $15-20 combined, if we compared what we had to the prices of those dishes on the menu (8/3/12 EDIT: fellow CH’er yangster caught a math error – we would’ve saved a combined $4. I could’ve swore we saved more. Maybe one too many drinks? Or maybe a free drink? Anyways, my bad guys).
So yeah, protip: order the tasting menu.
Chris Hei grade: A-
8400 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211