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With all of the attention Red Medicine has received over a notable food critic’s “outing”, I was anxious to taste the new Vietnamese cuisine being served on Wilshire Boulevard. Partners Adam Fleishman and Noah Ellis invited us in for an evening, to give us an opportunity to review Chef Jordan Kahn’s food.
Red Medicine occupies an iconic corner building on Wilshire that has seen the likes of Lew Mitchell’s Orient Express – yes, back in the ‘80s – and most recently a sushi bar, Hokusai. The minimalist space with distressed wood paneled walls and polished concrete floors is appropriately dark, with a hint of mystery. The bar space with high-topped booths against a wall of windows facing Wilshire Boulevard is an inviting space where creative cocktails are poured. The dining room seats 65 cozily, with a long, narrow window where diners can spy Chef Jordan hard at work.
The menu is definitely eclectic – Vietnamese? Yes, but with a prescribed amount of California cuisine thrown in. For example, Chef Kahn’s take on the Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi, is more like a foie gras app you’d be served at a five star hotel restaurant and is decadently delicious. The menu, broken into sections like “Hands”, “Cold”, “Veg”, and “Protein”, lends itself to sharing, and the team encourages diners to order a variety of dishes.
Under the “Hands” category are seven items, including the aforementioned banh mi, crispy spring rolls with Dungeness crab, pork chaud-froid – crispy chicken skin for the warm, lychee and mustard leaf for the cold. In the “Veg” category are some of the most interesting dishes on the menu. Caramelized Brussels spouts with a vermouth fish sauce ($9) are braised for several hours until a rich brown crust forms on the outside, intensifying the flavors, giving them a meat-like texture and taste. The haricot vert and oysters mushrooms ($9) come in an oyster sauce prepared with fresh oysters, rendered down to a deep mahogany broth, with succulent flavors.
“Protein” offers a farm egg with dark greens from the brassicas family (ramps or kale) in a bowl with chili and fried garlic. Sweetbreads are served in a Vietnamese curry with a puréed yam. The five-spice duck, and the pork in caramelized black vinegar are all marvelously spiced and are perfect for sharing with a party of two to four. There is one item under “Large Format” – a Snake River Farms American Wagyu beef brisket glazed with palm sugar and fish sauce. Reserved for parties of 5 or more, the tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef arrives on a Staub cast iron plate, with butter lettuce leaves with which to wrap the beef.
After sampling what seemed like every item on the menu, it’s clear to see Chef Kahn’s attention to detail and precision in preparing every plate that leaves his kitchen is his top priority. His supply of fresh herbs alone must include nearly 50 varieties. I enjoyed every dish I tasted and appreciated the quality of ingredients and painstaking preps.
Fleishman pointed out the drinks – both hard and soft – are all handmade at the restaurant. They even make their own Squirt. Cocktails, like the #34, Cocchi Americano, elderflower, and soda served on a stem with ice and an orange peel tastes like a cooler for a hot summer day. The wine list, which is just as eclectic as the menu, is divided into three sections – $35, $55, or $85 per bottle. What a
great idea – figure out how much you want to spend, and then choose from that section. We had a Kruger-Rumpf Riesling from Germany that paired perfectly with every dish. It was light and crisp – a great suggestion from our hosts.
Kahn began his career as part of a four-man pastry team for Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. While his culinary wizardry is revealed in his cuisine, he also makes incredible desserts. Cucumber ice cream was served with lime sabayon and cashew macaroons – a very light and slightly sweet combination that was a palate cleanser with an extra punch. His signature coconut Bavarian cream with coffee, condensed milk, Thai basil, peanut croquant, and chicory was rich and tasty. Pear ice cream came on another dish and I just couldn’t stop eating it.
As we were bidding each other good evening, I felt compelled to remind Mr. Fleishman that as an advocate of the culinary arts, all publicity is good publicity.
Red Medicine offers a dining adventure where you can taste several dishes, and enjoy interesting cocktails in a lively atmosphere. The prices range from $6 per dish to $21, but most are in the $15 range, and all desserts are $9.
Red Medicine is open until 2am nightly and is now serving lunch. 8400 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323)651-5500. www.redmedicinela.com.
Michael Villalpando contributed to this review
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