BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.
The L.A. restaurant Red Medicine has gotten a lot of attention lately, but not necessarily for its food.
The stylish spot in Beverly Hills recently started tweeting the names of guests who don’t show up for their reservations. The public shaming has garnered debate and attention, which Red Medicine’s GM Noah Ellis must be used to. He’s the same guy who two years ago refused service to a Los Angeles Times critic and circulated her photo via social media.
I made reservations to visit this spot during my recent spring break trip to L.A. because I heard that the food was something worth checking out. You can be sure that I didn’t cancel my reservations and showed up on time for my Monday night dinner with my sister.
As for the food, it’s presented as Asian dishes with a nod to Vietnam, but don’t call it fusion. On the website, the owners – which include Chef/Partner Jordan Kahn, Ellis, and Adam Fleischman – say they were inspired to open the restaurant after eating late-night Vietnamese pho.
For sure, the ubiquitous pungent fish sauce is freely used in several dishes. (Sometimes too much, as I found in a dish of Brussels sprouts.) But the owners don’t want their dishes compared to authentic Vietnamese food, saying dishes like their imperial rolls or dumplings are their own creations.
The menu contains a mix of ala carte dishes or a six-course tasting menu for $65. My sister and I decided to order a few dishes, but I have to say that I was confused with the listing of “large format” dishes.
Three dishes were listed as “large format” without any prices. (They were New England scallops, Wagyu beef, and heritage pork belly.) Our waiter explained that these dishes were about three times the size of regular entrees (and three times the price) meant to be served at large parties.
On the Plate
Some of the things I learned about the dishes from Chef Kahn, who has worked for chefs like Thomas Keller and Michael Mina, include the following:
- The plates are beautifully presented, although sometimes Kahn has a tendency to hide the main ingredients, such as our Brussels sprouts dish ($9) covered with shrimp chips or sweetbreads ($28) hidden under thin spice bread chips and greens.
- The dishes need more balance. For example, fish sauce was a strong flavor in many dishes, and a uni dish ($18) had too much of what was either an aioli or crème fraiche.
- Cooking technique seems a bit off. I don’t know if it was an off night for the kitchen, but the sweetbreads would have been better a bit more cooked or crispy, and the Akaushi beef dish ($36) was cooked too long, leaving the shredded beef a bit dry.
The Last Bite
There were some nice moments, such as my dessert of coconut bavarois ($9), which reminded me of coconut pudding I loved growing up in Hawaii. But again, it needed to be balanced with the chocolate and peanut croquant, which added a nice crunch but there was too much of it.
The service at Red Medicine was attentive yet unobtrusive, and the place sports a lounge-like vibe with hints of Colonial Vietnam. Unfortunately, the food needs more balance in the use of fish sauce despite how pretty it arrives to the table.
Red Medicine, 8400 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, Calif. PH: 323.651.5500. Open daily from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. redmedicinela.com