Location: 8400 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, Ca. 90211. 323-651-6500.
Date: Dec 22, 2010
Cuisine: Modernized Vietnamese
Rating: Pretty awesome!
I’m a loyal reader of Kevin Eats and two weeks ago when he posted an opening night review of a new Vietnamese inspired restaurant named Red Medicine I instantly knew I had to go. Boy am I glad I did. I love good traditional Vietnamese for its intricate flavor palette (see my review here). This new place takes it to a new level, updating and modernizing. This is highly innovative stuff — at least when you consider the sea of Japanese and Italian clones that overwhelm our fair city.
Vietnamese is tough stuff to pair with red wine, but a Grand Cru Burgundy is soft and fruity enough to manage. Parker gives this one 93 points and says, “I loved the sweet cassis aromas of the 2002 Echezeaux as well as its powerful, intense, syrupy personality. Medium to full-bodied and gorgeously ripe, it bastes the palate with thick black fruit flavors. In addition, this wine reveals great depth and a lengthy, fruit-packed finish. Projected maturity: 2007-2017.”
The menu. This is all small dishes (the way I like it). We ordered 12 savories and 3 deserts for 4 people and that was about perfect.
“KELLEY’S MOM’S FARM EGG / brassicas, pickled rose hips, chili, fried garlic, boiled peanuts, lovage.” This dish typifies what the chef’s are doing here. It mixes all sorts of flavors, and a lot of fresh herbs, vegetables, and pickled vegetables. The peanuts were those large soft Asian ones and this egg was so soft it ended up in the dish like egg noodles. The overall flavor was salty and herby — and delicious. Plus HOT. Those red peppers were a bit of surprise, but a pleasant burn.
“fluke cured with lime leaf, radishes, charred cucumber, pine needle.” This was another very interesting flavor combo. Hot again (there are serrano peppers in there) and strong notes of basil and pickle. Delicious!
“BEEF / fermented soy bean, bacon XO, chinese eggplant, purple cabbage, celery stem, nuoc cham.” The beef and eggplant had an intense charred flavor, like filet minion BBQ or something. The purple cabbage paired with it like a kind of Asian variant on the cole slaw one might have with Southern BBQ. Wow.
“CHICKEN DUMPLINGS / caramelized sugar, pork fat, lemongrass, confitures.” The elements (chicken, mint, pickles, scallions, sauce) are combined on a lettuce leaf as shown below. I nabbed a healthy blast of the red stuff. Hot again!
Other than the heat, this wasn’t as strongly flavored as the other dishes (and I like strong). It was good, but not as good.
“kabocha, burnt onion, chinese sausage, chrysanthemum, creme fraiche.” This was basically BBQ squash with yoghurt and sweet BBQ sauce. It was really good.
“kohlrabi, tofu cream, grapefruit, fish sauce, lettuces, sunchokes.” This was my least favorite dish of the night. Again, not bad, not just not as exciting. It was cool and refreshing.
“BEEF TARTARE / mustard leaf, water chestnut, spicy herbs, nuoc leo, chlorophyll.” Under the green is the beef tartare. You shovel it on the garlic rice crackers. It was incredible. Not intense, but a lovely flavor.
My brother enjoys some of the squash.
“WILD STRIPED BASS / brown butter-soy milk, verbena, pomelo, raw chestnut, lettuce stems.” This very nicely cooked fish was bathing in this garlicky butter sauce. Nice too, but pretty rich.
“CRISPY SPRING ROLL / dungeness crab, calamansi, pea pods, fines herbs, chili.” Excellent varient on the crispy spring roll tradition. I liked the creamy bits of sauce.
Red Medicine has a very nice list of sweet whites, including many from Zind Humbrecht. They have a $25 corkage (normal enough), but if you buy a bottle they waive it totally. So I bought this nice riesling for $55 and essentially it cost me $5 (I saved 2 corkages). This is probably a 92-93 point Spatlese. Its apricot and pear sweetness did pair perfectly with the food.
“‘BANH MI’ / foie gras, pate de campagne.” Wow these were good. The fois meshed nicely with the bit of serrano, the pickles etc.
“PORK / caramelized black vinegar and honey, prunes, sorrel, dried almond.” This was a tremendous BBQ pork. The fluffy stuff is almond poppy seed puff rice. It mostly added texture and a vague nuttiness. The pork however was incredibly soft, the sauce almost mole like. The net affect was a pit like South Carolina pulled pork without the vinegar.
“DUCK / 5-spice, charred frisee, chicory, tamarind syrup, grains of paradise.” This duck was also awesome, like confit — or maybe it was confit.
The open kitchen. The place was packed too, even on a holiday Wednesday, after having been open a mere two weeks.
The pastry chef here is world class.
“COCONUT BAVAROIS / coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory.” This was fantastic. All sorts of interesting textures (check out those fish eye looking things), and a soft taste of coffee, a good dose of peanut butter — and basil!
“LEMONGRASS POTS DE CREME / sweet potato, orange blossom, red bull, bergamot.” Creme Brulee basically, but lemongrass! Unusualy, but excellent.
“BITTER CHOCOLATE / kecap manis, oats, pear, parsnip,brown butter.” This was also good, crunchy, drier — pretty.
I’m very excited about this place and its new flavors. I’ll head back soon. I hope, though, that they switch up the menu with great regularity. Not that what is there isn’t great, but it would seem a waste to stagnate this kind of creativity.