Sunday, August 22, 2010

Testing Red Medicine

Friday night, we checked out Red Medicine, a new restaurant concept engaging in a week-long test run at Test Kitchen in Beverlywil.  Test Kitchen is a really cool idea that provides a restaurant location, usually from a day to a week, for new restaurant concepts to test out their menus (and staff) prior to opening.  In some senses, it is similar to the Ludobites pop-up restaurant phenomenon that has been creating quite the buzz in LA over the last year.  Reservations are increasingly tough to get; we were told yesterday's waiting list was over 250 people long.  Walter Manzke formerly of Church & State is scheduled to cook next week (too bad I can't make it, I've heard a lot of great stuff about him) and Michael Voltaggio, last season's Top Chef winner (by the way, isn't this season terrible) and former chef at the Langham restaurant is rumored to be considering a stint.  In fact, I saw him outside the restaurant as we were leaving.  Red Medicine is a concept led by chef Jordan Kahn, a former pastry chef who has worked at such illustrious restaurants as French Laundry in Napa, Per Se in NYC, Alinea in Chicago, and Michael Mina's XIV in LA.   We enjoyed a $40 prix fixe 12 course tasting menu described as "Contemporary Vietnamese featuring local ingredients and modern cooking techniques."  First couple of photos are blurry but I will include them for completeness.
Radishes with coco-butter, lime, dried soy
Cured amberjack with lime leaf, french melon, nuoc cham, bird chili, mint
Tomatoes marinated in an infusion of their vines, silky tofu, crunchy tofu, herbs
Brussel sprouts, caramelized shallot, fish sauce, prawn crackers
Caramelized chicken dumplings, lemongrass, scallions, bibb lettuce
Saigon tartine - pork belly, pate, coriander, carrot pickle, green chili
Green papaya, crispy taro, rau ram, fried shallots, peanuts
Baby carrots, fermented black bean, star anise, coconut, tarragon
Beef bavette, bacon XO, chinese eggplant (on the right), chinese celery, lime, palm sugar, sesame
Bay scallops, pomelo, young ginger, tamarind syrup, puffed tapioca, charred frissee
Peaches, creme de cassis, raspberry, condensed milk, tonic water sorbet
Coconut bavarois, coffee, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory
Each dish was inventive and bursting with flavors with completely different tastes and textures from the ones that proceeded it.  It was like a little adventure; you never knew what something would taste like when you saw it, only after you put it in your mouth.  The dishes took flavors that were familiar in Vietnamese cuisine, such as fish sauce, coconut, thai basil and mint, and applied them in untraditional ways and combinations.  You can tell when a chef is having fun and it's really refreshing and enjoyable to eat something that has so much care put into it.  It was also nice to be able to sample so many different dishes; there was definitely never a dull moment.  Our favorite dishes were probably the beef bavette (beef was perfectly cooked and smoky, bacon XO is genius and the sour eggplant was a nice counterpoint) and the coconut bavarois (so rich and delicious) with our least favorite being the chicken dumplings (dry and underseasoned).  With our meal, we had some interesting specialty cocktails with a twist including a spicy gimlet with jalapenos and chili and Pimm's cup.   Red Medicine will be opening at 8400 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills in the next month or so.
Test Kitchen
9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA  90035
Reservations can be made through Opentable

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