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.

Test Kitchen LA- Red Medicine, Jordan Kahn

‘Pop up’ eating venues are all the rage in Los Angeles, from Ludobites to Breadbar’s Hatchi events, underground dinner functions like Room Forty and even Michelin-starred restaurants such as Mélisse where chefs from New York’s Spotted Pig and Los Gatos’ Manresa have popped in to present a one night-only dinner event.  The newest kid on the block to join the pop-up phenomenon is Test Kitchen LA, a novel type of restaurant where chefs pop in to test out future restaurant and menu concepts.  Bill Chait and Brian Saltsburg have taken over the old Spark Woodfire Grill location in West LA and transformed the building into a multi-level food and beverage institution, inviting high profile visiting chefs to showcase planned restaurant concepts for limited engagements while renowned mixologists pair the constantly rotating menu with innovative cocktails.  In this city where diners are becoming more appreciative of fine cuisine and increasingly driven by a curiosity for mixology, the Test Kitchen comes as a perfect hybrid of all things delicious.

Headlining Test Kitchen LA’s debut 2 weeks ago was Chef Jordan Kahn, a pastry chef prodigy whose inventive desserts have been likened to the works of Salvador Dali and Jackson Pollock.  At 17 Kahn was the youngest chef to ever work for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, and he subsequently went on to fill his resume with impressive stints like Per Se, Grant Achatz’s Alinea, Varietal and most recently Michael Mina’s XIV in Los Angeles. Kahn is teaming up with Noah Ellis and Adam Fleischman of Umami Burger to open a Vietnamese themed restaurant called Red Medicine in Beverly Hills, and he used the Test Kitchen LA forum to introduce diners to this upcoming venture.  For 5 nights only, Kahn showcased an impressive 12 course menu for $40 a person, a real bargain for his artistic Southeast Asian-inspired creations.

Crisp crunchy radishes with dollops of coco-butter and lime peel shavings were served on a carpet of dried soy flakes.

Cured amberjack sashimi was beautifully laid out on a sweet french melon boat with garnishes and flavorings of lime leaf, mint and a very present nuoc cham made with fish sauce, garlic and chile.

I was pleasantly surprised with the luscious texture of creamy silky tofu topped with cherry tomatoes marinated in an infusion of their vines, crunchy tofu and herb greens.  The silky tofu was like a crème fraiche, a light and sweet cream that would have been just as amazing as a dessert.

One of the table favorites was the bite-sized Saigon tartines made with tender pork belly, pâté, pickled carrots, green chile and wisps of coriander flowers.

I didn’t expect to find inspiration and excitement in a savory dish, as Jordan Kahn is known for his whimsical pastries, but the crispy charred brussels sprouts that were served with caramelized shallots, fish sauce, purple basil and crunchy prawn crackers were an absolute joy to eat.  This dish alone made the difficult-to-get reservations worth while, introducing a whole new sexy and sophisticated way to enjoy brussels sprouts.  I could taste and appreciate the caramelization and smokey flavors of each individual leaf in the crunchy sprouts, making for a truly memorable and fantastic dish that I will remember for the rest of my life.

We wrapped caramelized chicken dumplings topped with cucumbers, scallions, mint leaves and lemongrass in bibb lettuce for an exciting bite of complex flavors.

The green papaya salad with crispy taro, deep fried shallots, rau ram and peanuts was like a drug that fed an insatiable addiction, rendering me incapable of putting down my chopsticks until the last drop of sauce was cleaned off the plate.

Farmers market baby carrots got a boost of miso-caramel like sweetness with fermented black bean sauce, star anise, coconut and tarragon flavors.

I couldn’t get enough of the beef bavette with bacon X.O. sauce, chinese celery, lime, palm sugar, white sesame seeds and chinese eggplants, another delicious dish.

Bay scallops with pomelo fruit, young ginger, puffed tapioca, charred frisée and sweet tamarind syrup was passable, but still a novel and exciting way to enjoy new flavor combinations.

The bright colors of the summer peaches and flower garnishes were striking in the dessert dish with creme de cassis, raspberries, condensed milk and tonic water sorbet.

Aside from the brussels sprouts, the final coconut bavarois dessert with coffee, basil seeds, crispy peanut croquant and chicory was the creation that made me a believer in Jordan Kahn.  With so many different textures, complex flavors and surprising elements in each spoonful, I couldn’t believe that dessert could be this stimulating and sensational.  This was a true work of art and a product of pure genius.

Jordan Kahn’s 12 course tasting dinner was all throughout delicious, at times bewildering and always innovative.  It was an amazing experience to be able to get a sampling of his food for his upcoming restaurant Red Medicine, which will be serving similar Vietnamese-inspired cuisine.  Creative cocktails like the plymouth with lemon, cherry heering and kombucha made by staff mixologists Julian Cox and Joel Black were an added bonus to the unique pop-up dining experience.  Chef Ricardo Zarate, of Mo-Chica, will eventually take over the second floor space to open a permanent anticuchos restaurant, while the bottom floor will continue to function as a venue for rotating chefs like Michael Voltaggio, Neal Fraser, Walter Manzke and John Sedlar.  Who will come in to cook for the next venue?  Who knows…the only way to keep up with the fast pace of Test Kitchen LA is to check their website daily.  They may not even announce the chef until the day of your reservation- but that only feeds the addiction and adrenalin rush of this exceptional pop-up restaurant for all Angelenos, including myself.

Test Kitchen LA

9575 West Pico Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90035

(310) 277-0133

Reservations can be made through Open Table

Random trivia:  Did you know that according to a 2002 survey, brussels sprouts are the most hated vegetable in Britain?