“Creativity is intelligence having fun,” said Albert Einstein. Little did one know, he could be describing gastronomy done well.
Gastronomy is an art.
It transcends sensory and logical barriers of mankind.
It creates experiences that are inescapable,
And often just stay with you forever.
Such was my sentiment when I walked out of a modern Alice in Wonderland, without the frills and rabbits, but with a stunning array of dishes so creative and funky, that they rendered me effectively speechless, staring at the neon lights looking at me from a dark, quirky, almost ethereal ambiance.
And with my penchant for all things red, its no surprise this place was called Red Medicine, located in the heart of Los Angeles in Beverly Hills, my favorite, iconic city. Classified as a modern Vietnamese restaurant, similar to a recent San Francisco endeavor of similar gastronomical feats, I was intrigued.
And in my silence as I wandered the streets I came to know so well, I realized that it was the inspiration from such red medicines that I needed to tidy up my creative mind and palette. But then again, are creative minds every neat and tidy?
Chef Jordan Kahn had truly outdone himself, and I hope he continues to inspire others. A video of him plating his signature dish showcases the meticulous art and vibrant beauty that he is capable of.
I started a cocktail that cast a magic spell on my very senses and dispelled memories of inventive cocktails of Paris. For what arrived in a mason jar as golden as my aspirations was in fact something I needed to shake up and watch turn deliciously red before sipping. The number 90 was made of botanical tart, punch and hibiscus (benedictine), a combo of zesty lemons and luscious gin.
Watch the chef make it in this whimsical video.
My entree was a dish of sweet potatoes, smoked tofu and tamarind, quite undeceptive on the menu but a swooning charmer on the plate. With fresh white snow like cheese and tamarind glazed royal purple sweet potatoes, garnished with herbs and topped with crispy bark, it was like a forest on a plate, far superior to any architecture I had seen. And the flavors were rich, dense, and hypnotic. The tamarind whisked me straight back to India, the potatoes to the luscious south, and the aromas would give culinary leader San Francisco a marathon run for its reputation.
For a lighter salad option, I chose what would redefine what I thought of a salad from the last time I had one that was as beautiful. I ordered young turnips with banana vinegar and crème fraîche, and what arrived whisked me into dreams of childhood and adventures in Narnia, due to the balsam fir and herbaceous aroma. It tasted as unexpected as a fantasy in the middle of the night: tart freshness of the leaves juxtaposed against the denseness of the cream, and the turnips were sour courtesy of the vinegar, but with an undertone of alarming sweetness that came from the banana! It was enough to counterbalance the overall bitterness of the dish, without taking it to comical tropical destinations.
I felt under a spell, such was the magic of the gastronomy. Never had I seen such whimsical and talented artistry on a plate, despite having inhaled tasting menus in Chicago and San Francisco and Milan, often known for their culinary prowess. Another feather in the cap for Los Angeles.
Dessert was a tough choice, for everything on the menu had an ode to a childhood character or a distant memory. I chose to go with the milk chocolate cream (that was the ordinary part) in the Japanese method, with crispy devil’s food, cucumber, buckwheat and lovage – because when is the last time you heard all of those in one sentence?
It arrived in a bowl with a pristine white layer of the soft, perfect chocolate, reminding me that perfection is easily tarnished. On one side was a buckwheat ice cream with chocolatey graham like crumbs of frozen devil’s food, and fresh drops of ultra green cucumber jelly. To say that it was unexpected would be an understatement. Individually every portion tasted exactly like one would expect. But collectively, it was a ballet in my mouth – un-orchestrated and seamlessly serene; not sweet, and balanced in textures from spongy to soft to crispy to gooey.
Should I have been surprised when the cheque arrived in a box labelled Jasmine Tea, complete with the scent and all?
For they say Jasmine helps you dream a little better, instead of being awake in someone else’s dream.I truly wanted to live at Red Medicine forever, but forever is not as short as you think.
So I collected my memories,
And waltzed into Beverly Hills.Happy, fueled with inspiration,
And with a permanent prescription of Red Medicine.