We appreciate LA’s hot rides, beautiful weather and pretty people, however, we’re not into fancy looking eats that taste like sh*t. Sorry ink. Obviously we were skeptical about a flashy Vietnamese restaurant run by cool dude chefs who aren’t Vietnamese. Not even Asian for that matter, as they point out in their manifesto. Why does every restaurant in LA have a to have a manifesto anyway? Red Medicine could have been another shallow LA haute-staurant, but this one has got some real depth to it.
Hungry and thirsty from a long day of sitting in traffic and talking on the phone, we rolled into Red Medicine and promptly ordered half the menu which you’ll read about below. There were some hits, a couple misses, but overall we thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience. Clearly, these non-Vietnamese chefs have legitimate talent. Like the people who dine here, the plates all come out looking properly primped and tightly manicured. We were impressed with the flavor combinations and creativity of the kitchen. Some of the items toe the line of unnecessary. For example, flaunting a handful of spot prawns in a cauldron filled with hot coals the size of the entire table? Not practical. And does anyone actually order the $20 sturgeon supplement to the cold asparagus plate? That strikes us as a bit odd. We’re talking about an asparagus dish that’s already $15 as it is.
Minor beef aside, the food was mostly pleasant and the room itself is inviting and comfortable. Red Medicine is the kind of restaurant you’re going to want to return to. The cocktails are awesome, the service friendly and the high ceilings and wood paneled walls offer up a killer vibe. Plus, it’s open until 2am, which is late by LA standards. Rumor has it the late night menu has some gems on it too.
Photo Credit: Antoinette Bruno
These sounded better than they actually were. The caramelized sugar, pork fat and lemongrass assisted dumplings were impressively laid out on a platter with a bunch of fixins. The question is, how does one dress a round dumpling with pickled cucumbers?
Dungeness Crab Spring Rolls
We thoroughly enjoyed these, the only problem was that they were gone in five seconds. The crispy spring rolls were covered in flowers and surrounded by dots of sauce making this the most impressive looking plate of spring rolls we’ve ever seen.
I’m going to be honest, these sprouts were some of the better brussels sprouts we’ve had in recent memory. They were charred with caramelized shallots, fish sauce and vermouth and had an incredibly unique, crunchy texture to them which made it all the more delicious.
After eating so many excellent carrot dishes in NYC lately (Empellon Cocina, La Birreria, The NoMad), Red Medicine’s serving fell a little flat for us. The carrots were tasty, but the dish was a little all over the place and felt like a strangely proportioned salad of big greens covering some in-between temperature carrots.
They’re big into asparagus at Red Med, they have both a cold and hot option. We went cold and enjoyed it very much. The combination of asparagus with smoked tofu, legumes & roots (whatever that is), burnt chili and green garlic worked together very nicely.
Chinese Lion Peppers
Small peppers covered in all kinds of different spices and flavors. A good dish for the table to share, but not much to see here.
Heirloom Rice Porridge
This was one of the better things we tasted all night. In a presentation similar to that of a Korean bibimbap, the rice porridge came beautifully put together with egg yolk, hazelnuts, ginseng and echire butter. We were left to make a mess of it, stir up all the goodness together and make little bowls of porridge for each person at the table. It’s definitely a fun communal dish and one that’s deeply satisfying. We were impressed. There’s also an option to get uni with this too.
Inside this Vietnamese crepe lies a huge portion of crab, mixed together with passion fruit, brown butter and black garlic. Bananas good and somehow worth every penny of the $32 list price.
Pork belly is over, lamb belly is where it’s at now. The lamb comes beautifully stacked, glistening in a tamarind glaze with hibiscus onion, swiss chard and black currant. Not only is it nice to look at, it tastes delicious. The meat was cooked to perfection and was crazy flavorful.
Imperial Wagyu Beef Brisket
Red Medicine is smart, they don’t tell you how much this is on the menu as I’m sure many people would be scared off by the $85 price. We sure would have been. A happy accident landed this nearly full cow on the table and we were damn happy about it. The meat is braised for 36 hours in a sweet palm sugar and fish sauce molasses and comes out of the oven piping hot and soft as a baby’s bottom. The idea here is to make your own lettuce cup sandwich, as they serve the meat with all kinds of toppings and accompaniments. Don’t be afraid to use your hands and get a little dirty.
This is where we ran into trouble. We should have just stopped eating, we were already full. But our waiter pushed us on dessert, claiming it was incredible. We caved and ordered everything. I honestly can’t remember which dish was what, but I remember being overwhelmed by flowers and very confused by this fish bowl dessert which had frozen cream atop and a bunch of edible bubbles inside. If you’re looking for something satisfying, skip dessert. If you’re looking for adventure, dive right in.