8400 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 3/30/13
Red Medicine is easily one of the city’s most controversial restaurants and it doesn’t really have anything to do with the food. Indeed, I think the outing of LA Times food critic S. Irene Virbila and the public admonishing of no-show diners has brought the restaurant nationwide attention, but it has likely overshadowed the food. More quietly, I’ve heard that the food coming out of Red Medicine’s kitchens are some of the more interesting, beautiful and delicious in the city, finding an ideal balance between Vietnamese influences and more modern American cuisine.
I first sampled Red Medicine at the debut of revolving pop-up Test Kitchen in 2010, just before its opening in November of that year. Soon after the opening I stopped in for lunch, but it took me just over two years after that last visit to stop in for a proper dinner meal. I’ve been many times for dessert, but a full dinner was long overdue.
A tasting menu is available, but we decided to craft our own tasting from the a la carte options.
#84 city of london dry gin, thai basil, cointreau, lime, regan’s orange bitters
#83 encanto pisco, lime, grapefruit, pineapple syrup, black tea
The meal began with a couple of cocktails. Seriously, #84 was one of my favorite drinks in recently memory with a very nice balance of bright citrus and the aromatic thai basil. I wanted it in a large punch bowl.
SNAP PEAS tofu, coconut
A creamy, tart tofu mimicked a cheese with cool spring peas and a light vinaigrette with coconut essence. I wasn’t expecting such strong tart flavor out of this dish, but I liked the snap peas themselves.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS shallots, fish sauce
Fish sauce provided a nice savory depth of flavor to the brussels sprouts (hidden underneath), while crispy shrimp chips added an addicting crunch to the soft vegetable. I would’ve liked more of the Thai basil for some of the aromatic burst in each bite, but this was still pretty delish.
WILD ALASKAN HALIBUT burnt onion, black roots
The dense, meaty fish came with a deep soy flavor and burnt onion sauce. Interesting. Some root vegetables provided sweetness, but I thought this dish could have used some brightening up.
SANTA BARBARA UNI cauliflower, chinese sausage
I thoroughly enjoyed the cauliflower cream, cauliflower powder and savory Chinese sausage especially with bites of the cool uni. I just wish there was more than the two slivers of sea urchin in the bowl, which was supposed to be the featured ingredient.
SWEETBREADS spice bread, smoked bone marrow
The pan-roasted sweetbreads didn’t have a whole lot of flavor on their own; a medicinal quality in the sauce or “spiced bread” crisps added an odd flavor which my palate didn’t really agree with.
AKAUSHI BEEF pistachio, mustard juice
I’m not sure what happened here; this dish came highly recommended from the server. Akaushi is a breed of wagyu, so I was expecting some moist, juicy eats. When cutting into this stringy log of beef (which resembled a rolled beef brisket), it seemed really overcooked and dry. The first bites confirmed this to be the case, while the server recommended dipping it into the sauce to lend moisture to the meat. Yeah…ok, we thought of that, it doesn’t really work that way, and it didn’t help. This was the most expensive item on the menu and it was pretty difficult to eat. I wouldn’t serve this to my friends if this came out of my kitchen. I don’t say this very often, but I didn’t want to have to pay for this dish at all. Big time disappointment.
COCONUT BAVAROIS coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant
The picture doesn’t do it justice, but this is likely my favorite dessert in the city. I first had it way back at the introduction to Test Kitchen, and it’s brought me back numerous times for a late-night treat. Flavors and textures come together so well in this small glass. Must-order. Every. Single. Time.
BIRCH ICE almond praline, red currant, orange blossom, jasmine
The birch ice was very refreshing and I thought the bubbles (which I think were Jasmine) were a cool touch. Fruity currant brought the bulk of the flavor.
Our meal at Red Medicine really spanned some great highs (cocktail #84 and coconut bavarois) and lows (Akaushi beef), with the rest somewhere in the middle. I really wanted to love the restaurant and I love what they’re doing, but a number of the dishes just seemed to miss for me. Plus, the beef left a really bad taste in our mouths, both literally and figuratively.
I will be back for sure, for dessert and drinks. Another full meal? That’s something I’m less sure about.