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.
8400 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
9575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
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.