Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Red Medicine: Lunch is over, how about dinner?
"Red Medicine. There's just so much...baggage," sighed one man about town when I mentioned lunching there recently with another food writer. And it's true, more people wanted to know if we were photographed and booted out of the restaurant like L.A. Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila when she tried to eat there. But no, in the waning days of lunch service, they seemed happy to have customers. The restaurant is now open for dinner and drinks only, starting at 6 p.m. Though it's gotten a near-rave from Jonathan Gold and glowing mentions of the desserts elsewhere, it seems many people still haven't been to Red Medicine, which is turning out some very creative interpretations of Vietnamese dishes.
I was more interested in the food than the reputation, but the now-departed lunch menu only gave me a tantalizing preview of what might be in store on the much more ambitious dinner menu. Fried sweet potatoes sounded like a fun small bite, but turned out to be a massive bolster of shredded sweet potatoes meant to be torn apart, wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped in sauce. It's similar to the Vietnamese dish banh tom, but without the shrimp. Great presentation, but this would serve about six people as an appetizer and the two of us were a bit overwhelmed.
Chicken dumplings are nem in Vietnamese, more like little chicken meatballs than a wrapped dumpling. Served on a multi-sectioned plate with an array of dipping sauces, they're tasty little bites, but not startlingly flavorful. The pork belly banh mi with pate would be better shared among several people, so rich were its fillings.
But the dinner choices sound fascinating, with dishes like Roasted brassicas with Chinese sausage, smoked date and maitake mushrooms, or Lamb belly with salsify and hibiscus-onion.
Red Medicine picked a Wilshire Blvd. location that some people view as a no man's land, but the interior design has an industrial chic that begs you to come dressed in, for example, a severe grey silk sheath with large architectural eyeglasses. Pull on something black or grey and go now, before something else changes, and let me know how the dinner menu is faring.
8400 Wilshire Blvd.
at 8:45 AM