Monday, August 23, 2010

Test Kitchen: Red Medicine By Jordan Kahn (Los Angeles)

Pimm's No.1

Pimm's No. 1 (Found at Test Kitchen: Red Medicine)

Recently, Los Angeles has been a mecca for pop up restaurants, highlighted by the Ludobites series that's been going on for the past year plus. Now comes a series of pop up chefs showcasing their talents, located at Test Kitchen, which is the brainchild of one Brian Saltsburg, whom I had the privilege of meeting on a trip to Tijuana last year. First up at the Test Kitchen would be one Jordan Kahn showcasing his upcoming restaurant venture, Red Medicine, a Vietnamese influenced restaurant.


1. RADISHES - coco-butter, lime, dried soy

A simple, refreshing appetizer of radishes mixed with a coconut butter to give it a much needed richness to the dish. The dish itself was fine, but I was ready with the next course.


2. cured AMBERJACK - lime leaf, french melon, nuoc cham, bird chili, mint

A much stronger dish than the aforementioned radishes dish. I enjoyed the sweetness of the melon mixed with the amberjack that was infused with the flavors of the nuoc cham. A balanced dish, and a definite winner in my book!

green PAPAYA

3. green PAPAYA - crispy taro, rau ram, fried shallots, peanuts

Given the success of the amberjack, the papaya salad was a huge letdown, especially after reading it on kevinEat's blog on the day of our meal. The taro chips was great, but that's pretty much it from this dish. It lacked the bold flavors I typically enjoyed from a papaya salad. Whether it's the lack of fish sauce or chili, or even both, the salad was quite bland in my opinion. The table was pretty much in agreement with this dish.

TOMATOES marinated in an infusion of their vines

4. TOMATOES - marinated in an infustion of their vines, silky tofu, crunchy tofu, herbs

This was a dish I really enjoyed. I loved the fresh tomatoes immersed into a bed of silky tofu sauce. With the addition of crunchy tofu bits, it also added a nice texture to this particular dish as well. With the tomatoes long gone, I went back and scooped up the remaining tofu "sauce." It was quite delicious!

saigon tartine- PORK belly

5. saigon tartine - PORK belly, pâté, coriander, carrot pickle, green chili

Think of this dish as an open faced (tartine) banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich. I loved the flavors and the crunchy textures of the pork belly. Think of this as a deluxe banh mi.

caramelized CHICKEN dumplingscaramelized CHICKEN dumplings

6. caramelized CHICKEN dumplings - lemongrass, scallion, bibb lettuce

I really hoped this dish was an aberration, and we caught it on an off night, as it was DRY! The extra sriracha sauce did not help with the dry chicken balls, which made me quite sad. If you're looking for great tasting chicken balls, try out Torihei, as the version there far surpasses the one I had at Test Kitchen.


7. bay SCALLOPS - pomelo, young ginger, tamarind syrup, puffed tapioca, charred friseé

Maybe I shouldn't say anything, but this was easily the worst dish of the night. First, I'll say I enjoyed the charred friseé, and that's about it. I didn't like the pomelo nor did I like the tamarind syrup used in this dish, but the worst thing in my opinion was the scallops. I would have much preferred 4 regular sized scallops in this dish, as the dish above was meant for 4 adult. All in all, I don't think the bay scallops meshed well with the pomelo and the tamarind syrup.


8. baby CARROTS - fermented black bean, star anise, coconut, tarragon

Thankfully the carrot was a nice bounce back dish after the scallops. I loved the bold flavors of the fermented black beans and the star anise that were used to cook the carrots. Since I'm not a fan of raw carrots, I actually enjoyed the soft textures of this carrot dish.

BRUSSELS sprouts

9. BRUSSELS sprouts - caramelized shallots, fish sauce, prawn crackers

Another strong dish. I loved the flavors of the fried brussels sprouts to go along with the shallots and the flavors of the fish sauce in this dish. I could have ate two dishes of this by myself, easily.

BEEF bavette

10. BEEF bavette - bacon X.O., Chinese eggplant, Chinese celery, lime, palm sugar, sesame

Here, we closed out the savory portion of our menu with the beef dish. In this case, the beef was well cooked (medium-ish), and the X.O. sauce that accompanied the beef was tasty, though it was slightly too strong for me. The accompanied vegetables were delicious and it was a nice ending to the savory portion of the menu.


11. PEACHES - crème de cassis, raspberry, condensed milk, tonic water sorbet

I really dislike bashing dishes, but if the scallops dish from above was the worst of the night, this was definitely second. There were many components wrong with the dish in my opinions. The tonic water sorbet lacked any flavor and really didn't need to be in this dish. The peaches itself wasn't of good quality which was a problem, since this was a peach based dish. The dish itself may be pretty, but no one in our group enjoyed it.

COCONUT bavaroisCOCONUT bavarois

12. COCONUT bavarois - coffee ice cream, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory

Thankfully we were served this last, as it was fantastic! I loved the different flavors and textures of each component of this particular dessert and made me forget the previous dessert that was served. Eating this reminded me of drinking Vietnamese coffee as the coffee flavor was a strong presence in this dish, but the peanut croquant was also quite memorable. A definite winner!

In the end, there were definitely some hits and misses during our meal. The saddest part was the fact not many of us were full from the family style dinner that we were served. Though I feasted on grapes at home post dinner, I strongly feel that the portions of the meal should be slightly bigger. Yes, my fellow diners and I could put away a good amount of food, but in the end the dinner felt like we were served 12 hors d'oeuvres. Vietnamese food should have more flavors, and I felt some dishes were quite lacking in that department. I know Jordan Kahn will be one of the biggest name that's going to hit Los Angeles in the coming months, but my first impression of him is lukewarm at best.

The Test Kitchen is a fantastic idea and many chefs will be showing off their talents in the coming weeks. The cocktail menu was also fantastic and Julian Cox of Rivera will be making some delicious along the way to match with the menu. Although I am definitely interested in trying other chefs in the Test Kitchen series, my first visit did leave me quite disappointed.

Although I'm not a fan of giving a mediocre review to a restaurant, as a paying customer, I felt it's only right to give my honest two cents from my experience. While it wasn't a failure, there's definitely dishes that needs to be worked on.

Test Kitchen
9575 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Official Website

Test Kitchen - Red Medicine in Los Angeles on Fooddigger


Ravenous Couple said...

don't think you no need to put in any qualifiers, if that's what you felt. too bad you couldn't have a second of the brussel sprouts because you had to share that small dish with 3 other big guys! :)

nelehelen said...

a gf of mine went and said the food was mediocre at best. too bad... hopefully the other installments won't be as disappointing...

stuffycheaks said...

what a pity, the menu looked so promising. Bland viet food is shocking. Luckily, they are just testing it and will hopefully make some changes before they go live.

weezermonkey said...

Too bad it was a bit disappointing, but I'm still interested in this concept.

How do I go???

Darin said...

Good to see you decided to put in your two cents. I definitely agree with the portion size; 12 courses for $40 sounds like a bargain, but I felt like I was still waiting for the entree at the end of the meal..

Gastronomer said...

Thanks for your honesty, KFP. Always appreciated.

Diana said...

Just looking at those small portions makes me hungry! How many people were sharing each plate?

Bummer it didn't live up to expectations. Hopefully Red Medicine will get things right when they open up the restaurant.

Josie said...

I love the idea of the Test Kitchen. Your pics look fab and like any new restaurants, there will be some hiccups along the way. Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

burumun said...

Whaat, you blogged this before me? How did that happen? :P
I personally thought the brussels sprouts were too salty, but I agree, glad we got that last dessert at the end. It was easily the best dish and luckily actually a pretty big portion.

Bonnibella said...

I like concept wish we had more here in the bay. Will try the Brussels sprout combo at home.

Anna A. said...

Whoa, this is intense! I'm curious about the B sprouts.

Pandalicious said...

too bad the scallops sucked! but the pix are wonderful as usual.