Test Kitchen LA- Jordan Kahn, Red Medicine Beef Banquet

With the much anticipated and highly awaited opening of Red Medicine just around the corner, I was reminded of Jordan Kahn’s Test Kitchen dinner in the beginning of September.  Pastry chef prodigy Jordan Kahn took center stage at Test Kitchen for the second time to showcase menu concepts for his upcoming project with Noah Ellis, former head mixologist for the Michael Mina group, and Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman.  The project is called Red Medicine, and they have taken over the former Hokusai space on Wilshire Boulevard to open a contemporary Vietnamese fusion restaurant with a unique modern twist.  Back in August Kahn headlined Test Kitchen’s debut with a fantastic preview dinner where he impressed with crispy brussels sprouts, pork belly tartines and the most sensational coconut bavarois.  This time the theme was Bò 7 món, a Vietnamese banquet of 7 courses of beef using American wagyu.

Bar bites included beer battered sweet potato fritters with crunchy turmeric, wrapped in lettuce leaves and dunked in nuoc cham, a satisfying starter with a great balance of sweet and spicy flavors.

Pho bo with brisket and rare beef in caramelized onion and star anise broth was met with mixed feelings from all diners at the table, especially the Vietnamese diner.  The meat cuts were incredibly tender and savory, like none I have ever had in a bowl of pho, but the hyper-concentrated overly-salty broth dampened the joy of the beef.  Most will agree that the broth is the most important element of any noodle soup dish like pho, ramen and laksa.  Although all of the other components in Kahn’s rendition of pho were perfect, the soup broke the dish.

LANGUE (tongue), daikon, cassava, peanut, salted plum: rolled sous vide tongue topped with crumbled cassava root and ground peanuts with a side of daikon radish ribbons on a bed of salted plum was a good dish with distinct crisp flavors, although the tongue had a distinctly gamey finish that wouldn’t have been able to stand alone without the radish and plum.

ONGLET (hanger) tartare, mustard leaves, chili paste, herbs: my favorite dish of the evening.  Tender beef tartare with the bitterness of mustard leaves and the jolting heat of homemade Sriracha sauce was a winning combination, especially when topped on crunchy and light shrimp chips and toasted baguette. 

ENTRECÔTE (strip), Boule d’Or melon, chlorophyll, fines herbs, fried shallot, lime: perfectly cooked beef, prepared medium rare, paired with many different flavors, some subtle like the sweet and watery Boule d’Or melon and others more pronounced like the fines herbs and homemade Hoisin sauce (made from raisins and yams), complemented by a touch of crunchy texture from fried shallots in a vibrant palette of bright green hues.  

OS À MOELLE (marrow), beef cheek ragout, rice powder, chicories, nuoc cham, onion pickles: a decadent and rich plate of crunchy then buttery deep fried bone marrow on a bed of beef cheek ragout, nicely balanced with the sharp and slightly bitter flavors of radish slices, onion pickles, sautéed chicories, friseé and a hint of nuoc cham.

CALOTTE DE BOEUF (ribeye), lemongrass-brown butter, pickles, herbs, nuoc cham, lettuce, rice cake: a perfectly grilled piece of beef, a delight to wrap in lettuce leaves with pickled carrots and daikon, then dunked in delicious nuoc cham.  Yet by this portion of the meal I am beginning to think the unthinkable- that there is too much beef and I cannot handle another bite.  The beef was beginning to feel like a block of iron weighing my stomach down, and I was craving some bún rice vermicelli to go with the protein. 

POITRINE (brisket), Vietnamese caramel, green peanuts, flowering brassica:  I was happy to know that this was the last course of beef, yet overwhelmed with the large mound of brisket topped with flowering brassica greens.  The brisket in the pho bo was amazing, yet the cut that we got for this course had a lot of fibrous gristle, too tough to cut with a knife.  Although the caramelized flavors infused into each fiber of the brisket was amazing, this was simply too much beef for one night.

CONSOMMÉ, espelette, coriander: we declined the final consommé dish after hearing that it was the same broth used in the pho bo.

LIME SABAYON, cucumber, jasmine, cashew, hyssop: with Jordan Kahn being an award winning pastry chef, naturally the dessert was amazing. The delicate textures and flavors of tart lime sabayon, cucumber foam, sesame streusel and dense cashew financier resuscitated me from my beef overdose, and in my excitement I forgot to take a photo.

Although this meal featured a hefty quantity of beef that even I couldn’t conquer, and some dense heavy flavors, the beautiful plating, the mixture of textures and vibrant color schemes all reflected the creative thought and intention that Kahn puts into his works of art.  He is without a doubt one of the more talented young chefs to grace the Los Angeles culinary scene, and many have been anxiously waiting for his upcoming solo venture at Red Medicine.  Stayed tuned for news on the opening, which is now rumored to be after Thanksgiving.

Red Medicine

8400 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

(323) 651-5500

Test Kitchen LA

9575 West Pico Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90035

(310) 277-0133

Random trivia:  Did you know that there are many theories for the origin of the word pho, the popular and loved Vietnamese noodle soup?  Some believe it came from feu, the French work for fire, as in pot-au-feu, while others argue for the Chinese word fen for rice noodles, and the Cantonese word hofan for rice vermicelli.

Tet Festival

Today I went down to Little Saigon to check out Tet, the Vietnamese New Year festival.  Little Saigon has the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam, so you can imagine how crowded it was. There were a lot of vendors, food stalls, game booths, and random karaoke stands.  A lot of women were dressed up in cute Chinese dresses and beautiful Vietnamese aodai dresses.

Tet girls

Tet girls

I was really excited to try different types of foods at the food stalls, but to my disappointment a lot of them had the same stuff with very little variety.  I ended up settling for some cha gio (deep fried spring rolls), goi cuon (fresh spring rolls wrapped in rice paper), and pho bo (beef rice noodle soup).  When in doubt, stick to the basics.

Beef Pho

Beef Pho

The festival grounds were filled with the pungent and distinct smell of squid:

Dried squid

Dried squid

The dried squid is quickly roasted, then torn up into little pieces and served with hot sauce and pickled vegetables.  We have something similar to this in Japanese cuisine, and it’s usually savored with a glass of cold beer.

I really enjoyed the tall cup of freshly squeezed sugar cane and kumquat juice:

sugar cane juice with kumquat

sugar cane juice with kumquat

The sugar cane is put through the machine several times to extract every last drop of juice.  I remember having freshly squeezed sugar cane juice in Cuba, but they had to manually crank a large 3 foot high machine to do it- it was hard labor.

I was amazed at how large this festival was.  There were so many game booths and large amusement park rides; I was really impressed!  I regressed for a little while and enjoyed playing games that I hadn’t played in a long time.  I won a red crawfish stuffed animal…which reminds me, I just had crawfish in Little Saigon last week, so I’ll post that on my next blog entry.  I also rode the ferris wheel- it’s been ages since I’ve done that!  I felt like a little kid again.

We watched a bunch of live performances by local Vietnamese-American artists and high school and college groups.

The most interesting part of the evening came after the festival though.  My friends and I went to a restaurant called Luc Dinh Ky on Bolsa Avenue.  They serve free sweetened chrysanthemum tea and specialize in Chinese herbal soups.  We ordered 2 types of soup, one with black chicken and the other with goat testicles.

Mixed herb chicken soup

Mixed herb chicken soup

This was like the Korean chicken soup, sam gae tang, with all of the same Chinese herbs (chinese dates, goji berries, chestnut, jinseng).  The chicken meat was so tender and flavorful, and it just fell right off the bones.  The chicken used here is black chicken, with white feathers but black skin, meat and bones.  It’s supposed to have more anti-oxidants than regular chicken, and is highly prized for its nutritional value.  Here’s what it looks like:

Black chicken

Black chicken

If you think that looks unusual, then look at what I had for dinner tonight:

Goat testicle soup

Goat testicle soup

This has the same type of Chinese herbs as the black chicken soup, except the main attraction are the chunks of goat testicle.  They are very tender, soft, a bit spongy; like biting into a spongier version of very firm tofu.  But they definitely have a slightly strange aftertaste- or maybe it’s just psychological.  I was okay with the testicles at first, but I became more and more apprehensive when I started identifying attached structures by their medical names.

My favorite dish of the night was Bo Luc Lac, which means ‘shaking beef’.  It was super tender ( I didn’t now stir fried beef could be this tender!!) and went really well with the stir fried rice.

Bo Luc Lac

Bo Luc Lac

‘Bo’ means beef, and ‘luc lac’ refers to the way that you have to ‘shake’ the skillet back and forth to cook the beef.

We also had Com Tay Cam, which is white rice in a clay hot pot served with, in our case, salmon.

Com Tay Cam with salmon

Com Tay Cam with salmon

I love eating the crispy browned rice in these clay hot pots.  Such a wonderful crunchy texture, not to mention the deep smokey taste.

What a full day, filled with new experiences and new foods.  I look forward to celebrating next year’s Tet!

Random trivia:  Did you know that around the world, more people drink goat milk than cow milk?