Oh, it was just a little brouhaha.
I wavered for weeks whether or not I wanted to check out Red Medicine after the S. Irene Virbila debacle. While I had gone to their first Test Kitchen and thought it was fine, it didn’t make me anticipate the opening of the restaurant. The best part of the night were the cocktails and the dessert. I wasn’t even interested in going to their Seven Courses of Beef Test Kitchen night.
Red Medicine fell off my radar but of course the controversy started. Reports were coming in that it was essentially pretty good. There were some naysayers, of course but it was hard to tell if they were just being disgruntled over the SIV-gate or genuinely not interested in the RM experience. I love to debunk hype so off I went last weekend.
I had heard Red Medicine being compared to Slanted Door so I made it a point to visit while I was in SF last month. I wanted to be armed with a proper background of “high-end” Asian food (which I should point out doesn’t always work). My friend who came with me was severely disappointed when she realized the food was not really Vietnamese (she had been out of the country and was the perfect candidate to be neutral).
When we got there, we were told 6 dishes would be good for the two of us. Six! I was somewhat shocked. I was thinking more like four dishes. But we dutifully ordered up 6; early legumes, foie gras banh mi, crab spring rolls, kabocha squash with Chinese sausage, Atlantic cod and pork shoulder.
The courses seemingly came out randomly. When I was at the first Test Kitchen, we were warned dishes would come out as they were ready and not how we ordered it or in any sensible order. I have re-ordered the pictures in what I think it should have been coursed out (with the exception of the early legumes–it’s first because it was oh-so-pretty). The first course was actually the spring rolls and then we had the cod. I ran into Eddie Lin from Deep End Dining who said the squid was the best of the night (do we have time to put in another dish!?). He mentioned the courses were coming haphazardly for them as well.
I was wary of the pork shoulder when it was placed before us. What is this darkly dyed lump? It turned out to be moist and very flavorful. Up until then, I liked everything we had but not to the point of worshiping it as the best. I mean, really, the banh mi are not banh mi but $16 tiny finger sandwiches. Sure, it’s foie gras, but still!
I have determined there’s really no bad cod and next to the pork and early legumes, this dish was great. The creamy sauce was fantastic. If only I had a real (banh mi) baguette to sop it up. My friend loved the kabocha squash best but it wasn’t my favorite. Then again, I enjoyed the early legumes and my friend thought they were flavorless. I pleaded with her to try it with the creme fraiche, the sauces but she wasn’t having any of it. I was thankful the crab spring rolls weren’t overly-fried and was a delightful way to begin.
My friend had already picked out the lime sabayon as her dessert from the online menu and I wanted to repeat the wonderful bavarois I had at Test Kitchen. It wasn’t exactly the same but pretty close. I loved the lime sabayon more though. The little pops from the finger lime were great. The cucumber ice cream was wonderful with all that citrus.
We had a few of the cocktails. My friend enjoyed her #38, a cocktail made with Plymouth gin, Combier, Pages Parfait Amour, Meyer Lemon. I had two cocktails including the #40- a refreshing cocktail of Bols Genever, Green Chartreuse, cucumber, lemon and ginger ale. My last cocktail was a type of pisco sour (I don’t know the number and it’s not on the online menu).
1. Was this meal comparable to Slanted Door?
Totally different! If anything, Slanted Door is more traditional. Also, I liked my Red Medicine meal more.
2. Did anyone take your picture and kick you out?
Nope! No one commented on my happy picture snapping.
3. Would you go back to Red Medicine?
I felt better about this meal than my original experience with Red Medicine at Test Kitchen but then my friend pointed out we spent $90 each and the best parts were again the drinks and desserts. Perhaps we should have veered to the bar and had a few small bites (never a bad plan). I hear they have an even better banh mi and a most fantastic sweetbreads curry.
Red Medicine is the sort of meal I’d take someone who is wowed by presentation (I’m fairly partial to it myself) and wants something “different.” The father and daughter at the next table were visiting from Canada and were guided there by their hotel’s concierge. It’s not really the casual neighborhood place you’d drop in for dinner. Maybe for lunch or for the bar.
8400 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211