Verdict: Must-go. Chef Jordan Kahn and his team offer fantastic service and some really intriguing cuisine at Red Medicine. I feel there are two really great things about Red Medicine:
One: The first thing most diners notice upon entering the restaurant is the veritable cornucopia of fresh flowers, branches, grasses and herbs at Chef Kahn's ready disposal in the kitchen. Rediscovering these naturally growing herbs, succulents and vegetables is a centerpiece of his food philosophy, and it's evident in every dish served at Red Medicine. Plants such as licorice flowers, young fennel, chrysanthemum, wood sorrel are all used to stunning effect to challenge the palate of the diner. The presentation of his dishes are beautiful like a floral arrangement.
Two: Chef Kahn's desserts alone make Red Medicine a destination eatery. It's very apparent to me that the imaginative spark for the desserts here require a significant amount of thinking "outside the box". They are definitely not your typical fine dining desserts, and I'm glad they're not.
Highlights (N.B.: The menu changes regularly based on seasonal availability of ingredients):
- Foie gras / mousse, tête de cochon, beet, kohlrabi, chicory, croissant... Here, the foie gras serves its role within the dish instead of dominating the palate. Of course, this dish will not be available after June 30th, due to the statewide foie gras ban.
- Dutch white asparagus / salsify, almond milk, burdock root, pomelo... The almond milk coating the white asparagus is just terrific.
- Brussels sprouts / caramelized shallots, fish sauce, vermouth... Super. Southeast Asian fish sauce with Brussels sprouts... It works!
- Chinese Lion Peppers / almond skins, honey, soy, violet basil, dates... I order shishito peppers (or similar peppers) whenever I see them on a menu. The Red Medicine version of peppers offers an interesting curve-ball to this dish. It is complex and satisfying.
Interestingly. I did NOT find the much-lauded uni porridge to be a great dish. Don't get me wrong - It's certainly good, but I just didn't find that spark of genius (or umami) in this bowl. Perhaps it's because I had too much great porridge growing up.
Nor did I think the wild Santa Barbara spot prawns was that amazing, either. I felt the lemongrass detracted from the taste, and the hot river rocks overcooked the shrimp tails. Frying the shrimp heads also deprived me of that great "shrimp brain" taste I so look forward to when I usually enjoy this prawn. The banchan served with this large format dish were good, but did not rescue this dish overall for my palate.
Desserts - Again, worth the price of admission alone:
- Coconut bavarois / coffee, condensed milk, Thai basil, peanut croquant... Smooth but "challenging" in taste, in a really nice way. Awesome.
- Birch ice / almond praline, red currant, green almond, jasmine... How does Chef Kahn come up with this stuff? Extraordinary. Yes, it definitely is on the "molecular" side, and it is reminiscent of Wylie Dufresne's dishes at wd~50 in NYC. Just so, so good...
- Green strawberry / frozen cream, sorrel, elderflower, wild chervil... Unripe, tart green strawberries as the main star in a dessert? Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. This dessert changed the way I look at unripe fruit. I was blown away by how unique and balanced this dessert was.
And yes, I did end up having a bahn mi at the Red Medicine bar, along with some cocktails after dinner. While the bahn mi was good, it was the cocktails which will have me coming back for more.
- Cocktail #9.1- Batavia Arrack van oosten, tamarind, Demerera sugar, lime, shaken and served up with condensed milk foam and black lime ("tamarind sour")... Solid.
- Cocktail #71 - Hennessey VS cognac, creme de menthe, creme de cacao, milk, shaken and served up ("'Grasshopper' meets 'Stinger' meets 'Brandy Alexander'")... Tasty. Very addictive.