The Distinguished Gourmand: Red Medicine

It’s unfortunate that most of what I know of Red Medicine was published by local news sources. Even Jonathan Gold’s L.A. Weekly review in the early months of 2011 devoted space to the famed incident where Times food critic S. Irene Virbila was “photographed and kicked out…” She was refused service and told that she was not welcome in the restaurant. The story exploded across local blogs and comments filled gossip columns. What was lost in all the reactions to the scandal — what wound up happening whenever anyone wrote about Red Medicine — was that those little diatribes and anecdotes took away from introducing novice foodies like myself to chefs like Jordan Kahn. His resume, to me at least, is far more impressive than what happened that one time in his restaurant.

After graduating early from both high school and college, Kahn spent three months working at French Laundry — at the age of 17 — not a bad place to begin one’s culinary career. After his three month savory stage ended, he joined the pastry team. Kahn excelled. His mentor Sebastian Rouxel asked him to help open Per Se as a member of the pastry team. Thomas Keller was so impressed with his work that he offered Kahn the head pastry chef position at the restaurant. After declining the offer, he moved to Chicago to work for Grant Aschatz of Alinea fame. When the head pastry chef at Alinea left for wd~50 in New York, Kahn was offered the position. Again, he declined. Following a brief stint as pastry chef at Varietal in New York, Kahn went to San Francisco to work at Michael Mina. After helping Mina open a number of restaurants across the country, Kahn stuck at XIV here in LA as pastry chef. Then he opened Red Medicine.

Pretty impressive, no? Of course it is. But how’s the food?

Brilliant, I’d say. This wasn’t one of those instances where I ordered half the menu, but everything I consumed was spectacular. Knowing very well that photography is discouraged, I didn’t snap any pictures of the food, so everything you’re about to see is borrowed from other websites. Credit will be given when applicable, and some ingredients on some plates were different than what is pictured.

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Beef Tartare (water lettuce, water chestnut, nuoc leo, chlorophyll, peanut). The meal started out with a large serving of raw beef. It arrived on a beautifully composed plate, the protein hidden under a wall of greens and powdered peanut. The beef had the look and texture of simple minced/ground beef. The depth of flavors added by the spicy herbs were shocking in the best possible way.

Photo courtesy of MobyPicture

Crispy Spring Rolls (dungeness crab, lime, pea pods, fines herbes, chili). I should have known “crispy” meant fried, and to be perfectly honest I was disappointed when these showed up at the table. I’d eaten an entirely-fried lunch and wasn’t too jazzed about adding more grease to my daily food intake. Alas, these turned out to be some of the best spring rolls I’ve had in a very long time. For being fried, they were incredibly light, and not at all greasy. The two dollops of sauce (yuzu and yogurt?) added nice hits of sweetness or creaminess. To be fair, at $15 this is probably the worst food-to-cost ratio on the menu, but the spring rolls are a tasty extravagance.

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Sweetbreads (prune, leeks, mustard chicory, smoked bone marrow, beech mushroom). The combination of “sweetbreads” and “bone marrow” attracted me. Alas, the marrow was but one element in a sauce that was poured into the center of the plate. The accompanying ingredients on the plate all needed to be strong/bold flavors because the sweetbreads themselves are very rich. Chicory and prunes aren’t two of my favorite ingredients, but there was enough balance across the plate to keep everything in check.

Photo Courtesy of Smith & Ratliff

Pork (caramelized black vinegar, goji berry, spring onion, dried almond). Wow. This was one hell of a cut of pork. I think I expected a hunk of belly, or something else with the salinity and fattiness of thick-cut bacon, but I was so happy to see this beautiful slab of shoulder arrive at the table. I’m tired of belly. Utilize the rest of the animal! It was melt-in-your-mouth soft with a perfectly seasoned exterior. It’s a large plate, and the dish is rich, but it’s well worth it.

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Bitter Chocolate (keycap manis, oats, parsnip, brown butter, soy milk sorbet). I’m not a desert person. I’m more savory than sweet. I’m more salt than sugar. Alas, this might have been the single best-tasting dessert I’ve ever ordered. It was gorgeous to behold, the bitterness was heightened by the Indonesian soy and the brown butter. The oats added texture. It was as flawless as a gooey, chocolatey, unsweetened-yet-sweet dessert could be, and I loved every bite of it.

There, I said it. Red Medicine is awesome. And I should know! I’ve eaten at, like, seven restaurants now. AND NONE OF THEM SERVE HOT DOGS.

I’m a distinguished gourmand, you can trust me. Go see for yourself.

Carla Sciaky – And I A Fairytale Lady [MP3]

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