Red Medicine, Chef Jordan Kahn’s ode to late-night, post-restaurant-shift eating, is undergoing a transformation. While the restaurant has focused on serving Vietnamese-inspired food, kind of like what Kahn and his work buddies would eat after service was over, Red Medicine is now phasing that menu out to make room for new, innovative creations inspired by what he finds foraging — on the beach, in his neighborhood, even in his backyard — in a “new naturalist” style dependent on local availability.
Kahn’s dishes have always looked like pieces of art, and his new ones are no exception. From the exotic-looking “cream and rhubarb” to the surprising “bread and cheese” (the simple names don’t do the dishes justice), the plating looks like it must be a painstaking task. Every cluster of food, be it vegetables, cheese or some kind of protein, looks like a beautiful little garden captured in a whimsical moment in time. I half expected to see elves peeking out from behind the cluster of veggies and flowers on my plates.
Not only are the dishes nice to look at, they’re (mostly) nice to eat, too. Some of the dishes I tried weren’t my cup of tea, but I appreciated their inventiveness nonetheless. Every dish had so many components that it was like hearing an encyclopedia being read to you as the server set your plate down. Just check out the ingredients for the cream and rhubarb (pictured above):
*Raw cream custard
*Shaved raw rhubarb
*Hibiscus pickled onion
*Shaved raw cylindra beets
*Raw icicle radishes
*Purple cabbage chips
*Purple pole beans
*Walnut marzipan rolled in purple cabbage powder
*Ruby moon purple bean leaves
*Ruby moon purple bean flowers
*Vinaigrette of raw rhubarb juice cold-infused with fresh verbena leaves, and virgin walnut oil
See what I mean? And it was tasty, too, with just the right amount of sweetness. The marzipan took care of that.
I also enjoyed the “live scallop and botanicals,” a light dish with a bit of sweetness from melon, which was balanced out by yogurt.
*New England live scallop, salt brined, coarsely chopped like tartare, and dressed with juniper, carrot seed and coriander seed oils. The chopped scallop is then rolled up into a tube wrapped with celery root, which is pickled with fermented pear juice.
*Unripe melon filled with yogurt
*Unripe melon juice
*Wild watercress stems tossed with powdered tea leaves and tarragon
*Wild water dropwort
*Wild chervil stems
The “shellfish fritter” is really interesting. Made using crab juice, clam stock, wild fennel seeds and whole wheat flour, then dusted with seaweed powder, it’s a strange-looking dish that frankly doesn’t seem the most appetizing upon first glance. But if you go with it, you’ll discover an almost addictive crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside food that I could see myself snacking on for much longer than I should. The snake-like fritter pulls apart, and you’re supposed to dip it in seashore honey, made from bees that feed on beach flowers and whipped into a creamy consistency, then take a bite of the supplied wild fennel blossoms before putting the fritter in your mouth. Salty and sweet. The fritter also comes with a cucumber skin marinated to taste like seaweed.
The “bread and cheese” dish, with its secret garden, was the most whimsical for me. While all of Kahn’s dishes have a sense of playfulness, this one made me smile the most. The cheese and veggies arrive hidden under a large puffed cracker that’s then broken to reveal the fun, and deliciousness, inside.
*Raw goat’s milk is made into a fresh cheese using wild milk thistle seeds to separate the curds
*Preserved biodynamic weeping plums from the spring
*Biodynamic zucchini, radishes and turnips
*Wild herbs: nasturtium, wild grape leaves, lemon balm, mugwort, yarrow, chrysanthemum, purslane, fennel and asiatic dayflower
*Vinaigrette of weeping plum vinegar and sunflower seed oil
The one new dish that I didn’t find that impressive was the “potatoes, flowers and grass.” While tasty and pretty enough, I just wasn’t wowed by it.
*Baby yukon gold potatoes
*Pickled onion rings
*Sweet garlic puree
*Wild elderflowers, society garlic flowers, dropwort, garlic flowers, agretti, purslane and stonecrop
Though Kahn started his career in pastry, I didn’t really like the flavors of his desserts. They were either not sweet enough (“green strawberry”) or too strange (chocolate and cucumber, the soapy tasting “redwood ice”) for my palate. But, again, they were all really interesting.
All in all, this meal pretty much blew my mind. I normally don’t like “fancy,” “weird” food like this akin to molecular gastronomy, but Kahn’s dishes showed innovation and whimsy while delivering on flavor. Red Medicine devotees may be sad to see its beloved bahn mi sandwich disappear from the bar menu, but the restaurant’s new direction may also please while challenging expectations.
Note: The meal was hosted.