Red Medicine is the Cure

Restaurant: Red Medicine [1, 2]

Location: 8400 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, Ca. 90211. 323-651-6500.

Date: Dec 22, 2010

Cuisine: Modernized Vietnamese

Rating: Pretty awesome!


I’m a loyal reader of Kevin Eats and two weeks ago when he posted an opening night review of a new Vietnamese inspired restaurant named Red Medicine I instantly knew I had to go. Boy am I glad I did. I love good traditional Vietnamese for its intricate flavor palette (see my review here). This new place takes it to a new level, updating and modernizing. This is highly innovative stuff — at least when you consider the sea of Japanese and Italian clones that overwhelm our fair city.

Vietnamese is tough stuff to pair with red wine, but a Grand Cru Burgundy is soft and fruity enough to manage. Parker gives this one 93 points and says, “I loved the sweet cassis aromas of the 2002 Echezeaux as well as its powerful, intense, syrupy personality. Medium to full-bodied and gorgeously ripe, it bastes the palate with thick black fruit flavors. In addition, this wine reveals great depth and a lengthy, fruit-packed finish. Projected maturity: 2007-2017.”

The menu. This is all small dishes (the way I like it).  We ordered 12 savories and 3 deserts for 4 people and that was about perfect.

“KELLEY’S MOM’S FARM EGG / brassicas, pickled rose hips,  chili, fried garlic, boiled peanuts, lovage.” This dish typifies what the chef’s are doing here. It mixes all sorts of flavors, and a lot of fresh herbs, vegetables, and pickled vegetables. The peanuts were those large soft Asian ones and this egg was so soft it ended up in the dish like egg noodles. The overall flavor was salty and herby — and delicious. Plus HOT. Those red peppers were a bit of surprise, but a pleasant burn.

“fluke cured with lime leaf, radishes,  charred cucumber, pine needle.” This was another very interesting flavor combo. Hot again (there are serrano peppers in there) and strong notes of basil and pickle. Delicious!

“BEEF / fermented soy bean, bacon XO, chinese eggplant,  purple cabbage, celery stem, nuoc cham.” The beef and eggplant had an intense charred flavor, like filet minion BBQ or something. The purple cabbage paired with it like a kind of Asian variant on the cole slaw one might have with Southern BBQ.  Wow.

“CHICKEN DUMPLINGS / caramelized sugar, pork fat, lemongrass, confitures.” The elements (chicken, mint, pickles, scallions, sauce) are combined on a lettuce leaf as shown below. I nabbed a healthy blast of the red stuff. Hot again!

Other than the heat, this wasn’t as strongly flavored as the other dishes (and I like strong). It was good, but not as good.

“kabocha, burnt onion, chinese sausage, chrysanthemum,  creme fraiche.” This was basically BBQ squash with yoghurt and sweet BBQ sauce. It was really good.

“kohlrabi, tofu cream, grapefruit,  fish sauce, lettuces, sunchokes.” This was my least favorite dish of the night. Again, not bad, not just not as exciting. It was cool and refreshing.

“BEEF TARTARE / mustard leaf, water chestnut, spicy herbs, nuoc leo, chlorophyll.” Under the green is the beef tartare. You shovel it on the garlic rice crackers. It was incredible. Not intense, but a lovely flavor.

My brother enjoys some of the squash.

“WILD STRIPED BASS / brown butter-soy milk, verbena,  pomelo, raw chestnut, lettuce stems.” This very nicely cooked fish was bathing in this garlicky butter sauce. Nice too, but pretty rich.

“CRISPY SPRING ROLL / dungeness crab, calamansi, pea pods, fines herbs, chili.” Excellent varient on the crispy spring roll tradition. I liked the creamy bits of sauce.

Red Medicine has a very nice list of sweet whites, including many from Zind Humbrecht. They have a $25 corkage (normal enough), but if you buy a bottle they waive it totally. So I bought this nice riesling for $55 and essentially it cost me $5 (I saved 2 corkages). This is probably a 92-93 point Spatlese. Its apricot and pear sweetness did pair perfectly with the food.

“‘BANH MI’ / foie gras, pate de campagne.” Wow these were good. The fois meshed nicely with the bit of serrano, the pickles etc.

“PORK / caramelized black vinegar and honey, prunes, sorrel, dried almond.” This was a tremendous BBQ pork. The fluffy stuff is almond poppy seed puff rice. It mostly added texture and a vague nuttiness. The pork however was incredibly soft, the sauce almost mole like. The net affect was a pit like South Carolina pulled pork without the vinegar.

“DUCK / 5-spice, charred frisee, chicory, tamarind syrup,  grains of paradise.” This duck was also awesome, like confit — or maybe it was confit.

The open kitchen. The place was packed too, even on a holiday Wednesday, after having been open a mere two weeks.

The pastry chef here is world class.

“COCONUT BAVAROIS / coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory.” This was fantastic. All sorts of interesting textures (check out those fish eye looking things), and a soft taste of coffee, a good dose of peanut butter — and basil!

“LEMONGRASS POTS DE CREME / sweet potato, orange blossom, red bull, bergamot.” Creme Brulee basically, but lemongrass! Unusualy, but excellent.

“BITTER CHOCOLATE / kecap manis, oats, pear, parsnip,brown butter.” This was also good, crunchy, drier — pretty.

I’m very excited about this place and its new flavors. I’ll head back soon. I hope, though, that they switch up the menu with great regularity. Not that what is there isn’t great, but it would seem a waste to stagnate this kind of creativity.

For a second meal at Red Medicine (different dishes for the most part), see HERE.

Melisse – How much would a Woodcock…

Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2]

Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881

Date: December 15, 2010

Cuisine: California French

Rating: Awesome. Top of its game!


My foodie friend EP wanted to do a final Foodie Club night before he left for year end vacation so we hastily (24 hours) gathered a few like-minded gluttons. It took a bit of calling to find someplace that had space and was willing to allow the mega tasting menu on short notice. This same group had gone to Melisse last March, and we arranged to return. Chef Josiah Citrin promised to mix it up, and do something extreme. We were game! (hint hint)  The result is this modified Carte Blanche Menu ++ special edition.

The first amuse is a Melisse staple. Grapes two ways. Out of the spoon are half grapes coated in goat cheese and pistachio. On the spoon sphereized grapes dusted with pistachio. The first has a nice contrast of the sharp cheese and the fruit, the second is an explosion of grapeness.

There were four of us, and I had brought 3 bottles of red, but the Sommelier wisely suggested I pick a white off the list to start. Knowing the chef I opted for this Chablis. I love good Chablis. Parker gives this one a 93.  “The Dauvissats’ 2006 Chablis La Forest (a.k.a. “La Foret” a.k.a. “La Forets”) smells effusively of peony, citrus, and peach. It is strikingly bitter-sweet in its alternation of peach and citrus with peach kernel-like cyanic bitterness; displays deep chalkiness; and finishes with amazing grip and length. Past the nose, this is one of the least generous of 2006 Chablis, being remarkably tight and for a young 2006, but very impressively concentrated. The 2005 rendition was almost severe in its concentration, yet also very impressive. It should merit following for 10-12 years, and is probably best rested for a year or two. The 1999 tastes glorious, and youthful today; the still almost sharply-citric 1996, like liquid chalk and white truffle.
Vincent Dauvissat’s 2006s were finished with both alcoholic fermentation and malolactic transformation by January. Overall – and particularly in the Grand Cru range – Dauvissat’s 2005s are marginally less exciting than his 2006s, and in certain instances, surprisingly, more opulent and exotically ripe. In both recent vintages, Dauvissat’s wines (even the generics) are pushing 14% alcohol, although in tasting the 2006s in particular, you’d never guess this.”

And there is perhaps nothing better in the world to pair Chablis with than a bit of oyster. This “Carsbad Del Sol Oyster, Finger Limes and Chives” was as Chef Citrin called it, “essence of oyster.” Dominated by a pleasant brininess, like early morning at the sea side. This is not for everyone, but if you are a seafood lover like me. Oh boy. And the mineral tones of the Chablis just sang with it.

Next up is this “Hokkaido Scallop, Santa Barbara uni, Cauliflower, Lemon.” Pretty isn’t it? The scallop was luscious, but the uni was to die for. Not even a hint of fishy, it had a rich nutty tone. I was temped to lick the dish.

Because this is such a delightfully elaborate (aka EPIC) meal, I’m going to show the sequential presentation of many dishes. This “Artichoke soup, Parmesan Fritters, white truffle” begins with the solid ingredients. There is a bit of relish underneath the fritter.

Then the soup is added. The soup itself was the perfect infusion of cream and artichoke. Every spoonful counjured up the vegetable. The fritter was a little cheese explosion. Bravo!

No trip to Melisse would be complete without the classic, “Egg Caviar, Lemon Creme Fraiche, American Osetra Caviar.” It’s a classic for a reason. The Creme Fraiche is so good, and there is raw egg yolk at the bottom. Amazing combo, particularly with the little toast stick.

We killed the Chablis during that round of “starters” and it was time to move onto this bad boy. The 1991 Hermitage La Pavillon! 100 points of perfection. “This is a Le Pavilion of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. The 1991 Ermitage Le Pavilion follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990-it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. Very powerful and full, yet displaying silky tannin, this is a seamless beauty! Anticipated maturity: 2001-2035.”

And the bread arrives. I went for a piece of bacon, and a  basil brioche.

“Seared Foie Gras & Pheasant Consomme, Foie Gras Agnolotti, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Shiso Infused Pheasant Consomme.”

The soup is added. The ingredients themselves were great. But it was the broth that was mind boggling. Combining the rich taste of pheasant, with the bits of fat melted off the fois in the consomme, with the bright tones of the Shiso (a leaf I adore, in the mint family). Oh my. It was incredible. It reminded me of the broth from the Urwasawa meal we had 10 months ago.

And the hits keep on rolling. “Santa Barbara Ridge back Prawn, Pummelo, Shellfish Jus.” The sweet meat of this puppy meshed perfectly with the citrus butter tang of the sauce. I  had to use the remains of my bread to mop it all up.

What is an epic French meal during truffle season without some fresh white truffles!

“White Truffle Risotto, Carnaroli Rice, Mascarpone, Shaved White Truffles.” There is a little Risotto under that sea of truffle foam. It had a nice soft cheesiness to offset the delicate Umami flavors of the truffles.

Now we’ve killed half a bottle each and it’s time to go bordeaux. Parker gives this 96 points. “What sumptuous pleasures await those who purchase either the 1996 or 1995 Pichon-Lalande. It is hard to choose a favorite, although the 1995 is a smoother, more immediately sexy and accessible wine. It is an exquisite example of Pichon-Lalande with the Merlot component giving the wine a coffee/chocolatey/cherry component to go along with the Cabernet Sauvignon’s and Cabernet Franc’s complex blackberry/cassis fruit. The wine possesses an opaque black/ruby/purple color, and sexy, flamboyant aromatics of pain grille, black fruits, and cedar. Exquisite on the palate, this full-bodied, layered, multidimensional wine should prove to be one of the vintage’s most extraordinary success stories. Anticipated maturity: 2001-2020. The 1995/1996 vintages are two of the greatest back to back efforts Pichon-Lalande has ever produced, including the 1982/1983 vintages.”

Erick and Simon are starting to show the wear and tear of the evening’s pleasures.

“Eastern Tile Fish ‘Amadai’, Kohlrabi, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Carrots, Cucumber Infused Consomme.”

As the consomme went down the sensuous summer smell of cucumber wafted back at us. The fish was perfectly done, but it was the consomme that I really found marvelous here.

And now for the main event. Two roasted Scottish Woodcocks!

“Scottish Woodcock, Truffled Brioche, Navet, Sauce Perigourdine.”

After saucing. In the front is a bit of breast on the brioche, at the back half the head and beak, and on the right the thigh and leg (and claw). First of all, the sauce had this rich truffle quality that was just outstanding. Then the breast was a perfect medium rare example of poultry at its finest. Chef Citrin informed us that these puppies had been aging for 3 or 4 weeks! It was wonderfully gamey. Seriously gamey. Intensely gamey. The thigh had a rare almost bloody quality. But oh so good.

Chef Citrin shows us off an example of the bird (he’s the white sleeved arms). Wild caught in Scotland. He personally plucked the feathers on ours.

I have to show off the remains because you can see the bird brain a bit better. That long sticky thing by the knife is the beak, and there the skull with half the brain. We were pressured into sucking on the brain, some of us with more gusto than others (Erick!). It had a rich taste, not unlike bone marrow.

The game goes into overtime with the final savory, “Venison Loin, Juniper-Praline Yam, Chanterelles, Chickory, Poivrade Sauce.”

Sauced. This venison was perfect, incredibly tender and flavorful. The Yam was like a desert, incredible, almost like pecan and pumpkin pie together.

Les Fromages.

Spiced pears and candied cumquats.

One of my favorite cheese in the world, Eppoisses. Strong, gooey, stinky!

Lower left: Pont-l’Eveque

Orange center: 18 month aged Gouda

Lower right: Fourme d’Ambert

Right center: Bourgogne (i think)

Upper right: Epoisses de Bourgogne

Upper left: Selsurcheres (sic, couldn’t spell well enough to find on google), goat cheese

“Vanilla Yoghurt, Strawberry Compote, Strawberry Sorbet.” I’ve had this before, but I didn’t mind. Basically strawberries and cream. Yum!

After warming up with the 1995, we rolled back to the 1989 Lalande. Incredible! “Speaking of superior vintages, Pichon-Lalande’s 1989, although not as profound as the 1995, 1994, 1986, 1983, or 1982, is a beautifully made wine. It exhibits a deep ruby/purple color, and a sweet, roasted nose of rich cassis fruit, herbs, and vanilla. Lush and round, this medium to full-bodied, nicely-textured, layered Pichon-Lalande possesses low acidity, outstanding ripeness, and beautiful purity and balance. It is already drinking surprisingly well, so owners should not hesitate to pull a cork. It should continue to offer rich, seductive drinking for another 15+ years.”

Another dessert repeat — but again we didn’t mind. “Chocolate, Chocolate, Coffee, Chocolate Souffle, Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch, Coffee and Mascarpone.” The souffle gets its little injection. All are great, but the coffee and the crunch are my faves.

I’ve had passion fruit desserts at Melisse before, but this was a slightly new take. “Passion Fruit Parfait, Lemongrass and Coconut.” There is tapioca in the “soup” beneath. Very interesting complement. Very south east Asian in flavor profile, and refreshing.

The petite fours. I’m not a huge cannelle fan. The fruit with Creme Fraiche was great though. I’d have preferred the classic marshmallows and pate de fruits myself, but this is about my only “complaint” with the entire meal, so I think I’ll survive.

Our special custom menu.

Reuben and I before the meal. I neglected to get a photo of how we looked 4.5 hours later!!

Chef Josiah Citrin pulled out all the stops for this meal, and it showed. Hands down spectacular! The restaurant has two Michelin stars, and it deserves every ounce of them. Personally, I’d put this meal up against any I’ve had in France at a three-star. The service is amazing too. The setting is not as fully formal as some French three-stars, or the service quite so orchestrated (that level is more amusement than actually pleasant), and there are no zany carts for teas and sugars, but the food and creativity demonstrate Melisse’s deserved position as one of America’s top kitchens. Not only were the ingredients worthy of a Roman Consul’s plate, but  the masterful command of flavors were in full view.


For another Melisse meal, click here.

Or for other Foodie Club meals, click here.


Food as Art: Melisse

Restaurant: Melisse [1, 2]

Location: 1104 Wilshire Blvd.Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 395-0881

Date: March 3, 2010

Cuisine: California French

Rating: Awesome, but heart stopping.


I’ve been going to Melisse for years but I could never convince a whole table to try the chef’s “Carte Blanche” menu. Even my ever-patient wife wasn’t up to it. So I went last March with two other glutton gourmands (my Foodie Club) and we went to town. We even added in some supplements. This meal was 7-8 months ago so I apologize for lapses in my memory, hopefully made up for by pretty pictures.

The first Amuse was grapes done two ways, on the right covered in goat cheese and a nut, and on the left spherized.

I brought wine from my cellar as usual. A meal of this magnitude called for a Grand Cru burgundy. In this case a 1995 Mazis-Chambertin. I’ve long been a burg-hound, and this didn’t disappoint.

Melisse has excellent bread in the modern French style. I’m particularly partial to the bacon bread. This meal was also used by both my friend Erick and I as beta testing for our DSLR based food photography. After having to stand back from the table and annoy other guests with a big flash I went out that week and bought a 50mm compact macro lens and a macro flash ring. Now I’m golden. Food is a tricky subject because while it doesn’t move, the natural habitat is often dark and it’s a small subject that must often be filmed from very close (normal lenses don’t like to focus under two feet).

I can’t say I remember what this amuse was, but the Japanese pottery is pretty. If I had to guess I’d say herring or mackerel of some sort.

I think this was Fennel Flan, Valencia Orange Gelee, Cashew Froth. This is the kind of dish Melisse excels at. Things involving cream.

I can’t remember this either, but it’s a good bet here that when something looks creamy or buttery, it tastes great.

“Egg Caviar, Lemon Creme Fraiche and American Osetra Caviar.” A Melisse classic. This has a wonderful creamy/eggy ness.

“Trio of Melisse Foie Gras. Dated Confiture, Pineapple Gastrique, Tarragon.” Because one fois isn’t enough.

In no time the three of us had plowed through the Mazis-Chambertin and I had to pull out the 1989 Lynch Bages. This was the first great wine I ever bought when I began serious collecting (and drinking) in ’96. It’s remained a nostalgic favorite of mine ever since. Parker gives it 95 points and says, “The style of the two vintages for Lynch Bages parallels the style of the 1989 and 1990 Pichon-Longueville-Baron. In both cases, the 1990 is the more forward, flattering, and delicious to drink wine, in contrast to the more massive, backward, tannic, and potentially superior 1989. The opaque purple-colored 1989 is less evolved and showy. However, it looks to be a phenomenal example of Lynch Bages, perhaps the finest vintage in the last 30 years. Oozing with extract, this backward, muscular, dense wine possesses great purity, huge body, and a bulldozer-like power that charges across the palate. It is an enormous wine with unbridled quantities of power and richness. The 1989 requires 5-8 years of cellaring; it should last for three decades. These are two superb efforts from Lynch Bages.”

This is the “Truffle Egg.” It wasn’t on the menu, but I’ve wanted to try one for some time. We were going to each order one but the waiter wisely convinced us to share. It’s a crazy poached egg like thing in a truffle butter sauce with a buttery foam on top. Then…

Fresh black truffles are shaved on top.

Voila! It tastes as good as it looks.

This single shrimp and single stalk of asparagus from a specific California farm was quite excellent. The shrimp was almost lobster-like. Buttery sauce of course.

I think this was a mushroom/scallop soup with a Japanese-like flavor pallete.

And this was a monkfish with various vegetables and sauces.

Sonoma duck, config of leg, and breast. Quail egg. This was really tasty, particularly the breast and everything when smeared in the egg yolk.

Beef of some sort, including the marrow.

And the Carte de fromage. My favorite. Melisse has always had one of the best cheese carts in town.

Get a look at that runny Vacheron or Epoisses in the middle (the orange round one).

We ended up with these.

This was basically strawberries and cream. It was amazing. The strawberry is in gelato/sorbet form.

I think this was “Frozen Passion Fruit Souffle. Pistachio, Coconut, Lemongrass Broth.”

Lest we forget the chocolate, we each got like five kinds. The soufflé had it’s own injector. It’s called “Chocolate, Chocolate, Coffee. Chocolate Souffle, Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch, Coffee and Mascarpone.”

Here in tripple form. Remember this is but the third of several deserts, after the cheese!

Wafer thin mint anyone? These petite-fors were actually a bit lackluster, but who had room anyway. The wild strawberries and creme fraiche were good.

We started at 8pm and left close to 1 am. Look how the dining room appeared during our final courses. This was a very (modern) French meal in a lot of ways, following the classic rule of “never too much butter, never too much cream.” It’s very very good though, if a bit on the rich side.

For another Melisse meal, click here.

Or for other Foodie Club meals, click here.