Red Medicine is the fairly new Vietnamese-inspired restaurant on Wilshire just east of La Cienega that's open late, serving tired and hungry industry folks well into the wee hours (2 am). The former Kokusai location has Jordan Kahn at the helm (his first solo venture since leaving XIV as pastry chef extraordinaire) Umami's Adam Fleischman and beverage director Noah Ellis. Production designer Charisse Cardenas uses lots of reclaimed wood here, with Douglas fir on the walls, an 8 seater bar made of Oak, and custom-made maple furniture set inside this industrial feeling, candle lit space. Turns out the joint is named Red Medicine because of the hot and spicy nature of the food, and it's therapeutic, healing effects. In reality, Vietnamese has lighter and some would say, more feminine flavors than other Asian food, but "Red" also connotes good fortune, success and honor. Here is the dinner menu for you to peruse. It is sectioned off into cold plates, hot plates, small plates and large plates. Of course, the dessert menu is unbelievable
and another story all together.
The crispy spring rolls [$15] with dungeness crab, lime, pea pods, fines herbes, and chili were a pretty good start, but I would instantly recommend the dungeness crab from the hot plates section of the menu if you were to choose between the two.
The chicken dumplings [$9] with caramelized sugar, pork fat, lemongrass and confitures was more of a meatball than a dumpling. They get wrapped in a leaf of lettuce and the fun part is choosing which toppings to sprinkle or slather on.
It's refreshing to use so many leafy greens and get that fresh bite of lettuce for a change. It's easy to come here and avoid eating any rice or bread, and still leave feeling satisfied. The chicken was sweet and savory and the condiments and spicy sauce punched it up even more.
The brussels sprouts [$9] were topped with fried shrimp crackers which I just pushed to the side. The actual sprouts were incredibly good. They were rich and glazed in a fish sauce with caramelized shallots and vermouth, so they were really decadent.
The dungeness crab [$32] arrives like a hidden treasure beneath this Vietnamese crepe and surrounded by black garlic and malt crumbles. Here is what to expect underneath.
A giant pile of dungeness crab, sweet and delicious from a strikingly delicious marinade of passion fruit and brown sugar, and topped with a few pieces of banana, mushrooms, and heart of palm. This dish is a must-have. The crab exudes a tropical aftertaste from the passion fruit juice and banana bits, but it retains the soft flavor that makes dungeness so appealing.
Combined with the exquisitely fine crepe and the garlic and mushrooms thrown in, that element of earth manages to ground it all as your taste buds soar.
The Imperial Wagyu Beef Brisket [MP} was my absolute favorite. It turned out to be $80 which seems expensive, but not really when you realize it's big enough (2 lbs) to share between 4 - 6 people. It's braised for 36 hours with palm sugar and fish sauce and is juicy and tender with a faint hint of crispy fat. I love, love, love the fixings that accompany this perfectly braised brisket. Intended to be shared as lettuce wraps, the brisket experience is hands-on and social.
You take the meat and dunk it in the citrusy and light fish sauce, and then layer it inside the lettuce cup. Then you top it with a few rounds of sweet pickles, sliced carrots, marinated radish and a medley of herbs like parsley and mint.
One bite and you will understand. The flavors blend together like a cascading waterfall that washes over you and carries you away to a Vietnamese paradise.
The Maitake mushrooms [$17] arrived looking like a forest fairy's delicate wreath on the plate. Once in front of us, a small pitcher of charred cauliflower puree was poured into the middle of it.
Underneath the frizee lettuces were snake beans so long they resembled spaghetti, shaved cauliflower, dehydrated mushroom, bacon, walnuts and bits of fennel. The puree was made with dairy and the cream paired beautifully with the earthy flavor of the mushrooms and charred beans.
I truly enjoyed these charred and earthy flavors. The tinge of bitterness from the lettuce and licorice-like scent of the fennel added an interesting and subtle twist to the dish. A ten for creative presentation and flavor.
The only crime that counts is to leave without trying a dessert.
The coconut bavarois [$9] with coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, and peanut croquant is worth every single calorie. The textures are gorgeous together, the silky condensed coconut milk and soft crunch of the peanut croquant with the coffee ice cream blending right in with the chocolate powder. The green dots are liquid basil, which I cannot identify exactly how they interact, but I can guarantee that this dessert is one you will not quickly forget. I am dying to go back and try the rhubarb.
Red Medicine is a cool dinner spot. There's always a buzz in the air and the cocktails are ultra creative. We're talking tamarind sours and rye based drinks shaken with pickled peppers and fennel fronds. The staff is attentive and knowledgeable and the food is great. And for a late night snack at 1am, I'd rather tear into a Banh Mi sandwich here then drive to Little Saigon. I'm a big fan of fusion cuisine, and dinner at Red Medicine is just what the Doctor ordered.