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Terrible atmosphere at Red Medicine

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  • MarkC Nov 27, 2012 05:30 PM

I ate at Red Medicine for the first time last night. The food was indeed amazing, the only loser was the lamb, which came out dry and flavorless. Everything else expressed the highest level of creativity and sophistication. And the birch ice cream was genius.

The food has been talked about plenty on this site, and what I really want to mention is the atmosphere. Did anyone else find it totally offputting to be eating this kind of food (and spending this kind of money) in a rock'n'roll roadhouse? Talk about cognitive dissonance. It seriously detracted from my enjoyment of the food. I don't need white tablecloths and cut flowers, but the pounding music, dark lighting, builder's depot decor, and do-it-yourself silverware stored in jars on the table, was just plain weird. It was the kind of place I'd expect to have a burger and a beer. Does the chef, or the restauranteur, or whoever, really have so little regard for the sensibilities of the diners and the quality of the dining experience? There seemed something deliberately puerile and aggressive about insisting that we submit to this low, party atmosphere. "Screw you, grown-ups. I don't care how much you're spending. It's my restaurant, and I want to party!".

By the way, the place was practically empty the entire time we were there, from 8:30. Granted, monday night is not the busiest night, but still. Empty. Maybe they scared away too many grown-ups.

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  1. The only issue I have with RM is the noise factor. The ambiance is perfect as far as I am concerned (as is all the food I've had there). In fact, as a CH who is all about the food I find it refreshing to come upon a restaurant that mirrors that sensibility so exactly.

    1. Sorry, not with you on this one.
      I don't think their intention was to present this as a "Providence"-style, high end dining destination. In fact on the website they even reference the inspiration for this endeavor as having come form the post-shift chefs' experiences of heading to Vietnamese noodle/pho joints for comfort food. IMHO, it's far less a rock and roll party atmosphere than Ink, and far more refined while still pushing a lot of culinary boundaries.

      12 Replies
      1. re: FranklinJefferson

        Well then, maybe it's a generational thing. I still like a little ambiance with my meal, especially when the food is as transcendant as it is at RM. Or at least not anti-ambiance. Just doesn't do justice to the meal. Somewhere along the line, people started to believe that they weren't having fun unless the music was turned to ear-splitting decibels.

        1. re: MarkC

          Totally understand.

          Westside chefs swarm Red Med after hours, and during industry nights off , perhaps that environ is a real draw. And this is why places like Gusto, with the white linen + bread service, still deserves LA's business.

          1. re: TonyC

            Took my friend to RM to celebrate her birthday and I was complaining about the noise factor and she said that she and her husband had just been to Gusto the week before and she thought Gusto was twice as loud as RM. I can't even begin to think what that must feel like. Perhaps like being inside an amplified bass drum with King Kong pounding out a Buddy Rich solo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9esWG6... number on the drum?

            1. re: Servorg

              D'frent kind of loud. SIV also noted Gusto's noise. RM's music is loud, and echos through the larger, concrete space, whereas Gusto's convos are loudish in a cozy space. RM makes me not want to speak, Gusto makes me speak louder.

              1. re: TonyC

                "D'frent kind of loud."

                When I'm looking to choose the lesser of the evils between a jackhammer quartet vs an F-18 going to afterburner right over the top of my head I'm not sure I can draw any distinctions between the types of "loud" I'm being aurally assaulted by...

                1. re: Servorg

                  What I really wanted to say: restaurants are living beings, or at least, dead spaces occupied by living beings. _My_ experiences at RM vs. Gusto points to Gusto for more tolerable sound levels. Your pals did not. So that's that.

                  1. re: TonyC

                    I think they were there on a Saturday or maybe a Friday night, which I'm sure makes a difference. But when she told me she thought it was 2X as loud as RM my mind did begin to boggle a bit. When I can only catch every 5th word the person right across from me is saying, and that catch is part guess, then I know the ambient noise level is going to give me a splitting headache (alcohol or no alcohol).

                    1. re: Servorg

                      I think it depends on where you sit at RM, the noise level or din can vary quite a bit.

        2. re: FranklinJefferson

          I agree. I think the atmosphere is wonderful and well thought out. I've been about 6-7 times now Friday-Sunday and it's always been busy. Most recent visit 2 weeks ago. They are not scaring anyone away.

          1. re: FranklinJefferson

            "...inspiration for this endeavor as having come form the post-shift chefs' experiences of heading to Vietnamese noodle/pho joints for comfort food."
            Please direct me to a Pho/Noodle shop that has dB levels close to Red Medicine.

            1. re: wewwew

              Circa early 2000's I heard loud trance music at many pho joints in the 714. It matched the raver beads the servers were wearing.

            2. re: FranklinJefferson

              Agreed. I don't think they've ever advertised themselves as such. I remember reading various pieces on the place and it was pretty common for them to bring up the inspiration for the place. I do agree it's loud but it's not like they're trying to dupe anyone. Ultimately, you're going there for the food which is exactly the idea behind those late-night Vietnamese noodle places.

            3. I don't disagree. It was offputting, maybe, not quite terrible. I did find the servers overly casual--not bad,per se, but just a bit too cool for school for my taste. I didn't find the food quite as stellar as most people find. not bad, but not good enough to make me want to go again. the only thing I absolutely loved was the strange, beautiful and unexpected dessert. I think it had some sort of herb ice/sorbet, marshmallow and a savory ice cream and some crunchy element. everything else was meh and some things were overly salty. For similar food/presentation (tho w/ less of an Asian bent) I prefer Alma at about the same price point. the atmosphere is less raucous although far from what you would expect from "fine dining."

              6 Replies
              1. re: soniabegonia

                Agree about the service also (I didn't want to be too negative). A bit detached and inept in places, although it wasn't terrible. Just more cognitive dissonance between the quality of the food and the rest of the experience. They were also very aggressive about pouring out the wine so you'd order that second bottle, but I guess everyone does that.

                1. re: MarkC

                  I kinda like loud restaurants - I say a meal should be taken seriously, but in a fun way. Which should include wine, and a variety at that. I like a lot of food to choose from, a nice buzz on, and a lively atmosphere. (I do enjoy the formality of Melisse and Providence too - and I've been there many nights when the place had surprising energy levels.

                  But there is a limit and I feel RM exceeds that. If I were to go again, I'd ask for a quiet table. Or rather, the least-noisy table.

                  1. re: MarkC

                    While I enjoyed the atmosphere, I'm afraid you fared better than we did if you had "detached and inept" service. Our server was downright cold, inattentive and unpleasant. We asked a question or two about the menu and she actually rolled her eyes. Eventually we had to go to the bar to get another drink, our waitress never came back by until the check was due.

                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                      I would raise hell, formally, with the management over the kind of service you describe. This is not Denny's at 2:00 a.m. and a harried waitress serving a bunch of drunks.

                      1. re: EarlyBird

                        I was only visiting and was with friends who were treating me. I didn't feel it was the appropriate time or place for me to say anything, just wanted to enjoy the evening as best we could.

                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                          When I've really been mistreated, such as at Monsieur Marcel, I've followed up formally with management after the fact, by phone or email.

                2. I simply can not stand loud restaurants. I say that as a 47 year old. I may not be a kid anymore, but I'm not an old fuddy duddy with bad hearing, either. It's just that I want to be able to carry on a conversation with the people I'm dining with. I've wanted that since I was a kid, too.

                  1. I need examples of the aggressive puerility if I'm going to believe that they were rude to you. I think the atmosphere is exemplary. The seating is comfortable and the rest - well, it's about the food which is extraordinary. The waiters are normal** and professional and know the menu. The staff provides a nice experience that doesn't feel canned. All of the stuff that "you don't need" isn't there and, if you don't need it, what is this post about?

                    I can't argue with you and many others about the noise but almost every joint that opens these days is loud, largely due to design fetishes for exposed beams and stripped-down rehabbed interiors. The music is not that loud. It's not that good either but that is a whole 'nother conversation. It's definitely not "roadhouse" unless you're expecting Sinatra. Nota bene: Chefs who run restaurants like this are generally under 40 and grew up on amplified music.

                    I dined at RM for the first time recently and was blown away by the food and liked the staff. Our last round of food took way too long but that was our only complaint. If you enjoy food enough to be on this site, I highly recommend that you eat here at least once.

                    ** By "normal", I mean that they told me about the food in non-preening fashion, answered all of my questions patiently (if you eat here, you WILL have questions like, "THats delicious, but what IS it?") and seemed to actually care about what was going on in their place of work.

                    1. Yes, I am an old person, but a proper meal for me is necessarily a combination of good food professionally served and good company with whom to enjoy it. This necessarily includes pleasant conversation. A wrecking-yard or rock concert ambience necessarily precludes any conversation at all.

                      I appreciate every post on this board warning us of which establishments are fit only for those who want calories and screaming. We're accumulating quite a list …

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Will Owen

                        Shame because you are missing one of the best restaurants LA has to offer.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          "Shame" because you may be missing out on wonderful conversation which can even transcend great food.

                          1. re: maudies5

                            Nope. No problems with conversation. At least 2 hours of it on each of my 8-9 visits. Each visit with a different dining companion/group. Not even with my 63 yo mother. It's nice to have both :)

                            1. re: Porthos

                              I've been twice now. The first time it was a Saturday night, and the noise level was expected. We went on the early side and, at first the noise level was okay. But about half way through dinner it climbed to a point where I could not hear either of my two dining companions across the table.

                              The second time I was there on a Tuesday night and we were the second table in the dining room (only one other party of two was there ahead of us). We sat directly against the kitchen wall in the middle. Noise was fine until the last 15 or so minutes in which it climbed to the point that my head began to pound as if I had gone to a heavy metal concert and was standing in front of the biggest bank of speakers they have. Conversation was no longer possible and I took four Advil when I got home to quell the raging headache the noise produced.

                              Maybe they gave you a sound proof cone of silence that encapsulated your dining party? That's the only conclusion I can draw.

                              1. re: Servorg

                                No soundproof cone of silence. Have sat against the wall by the kitchen x 2, wall adjacent to bar x 3, and front booths x 2-3. Maybe once in middle. I usually go on a Friday or Saturday 830pm so prime time. Took mom on a Sunday 6-8pm. Maybe we are all half deaf so the noise doesn't bother us as much? Who knows.

                      2. I'm wondering if anyone who has dined there has complained about the loud music? And, if so, what is RM's response? While I've had the experience of dining in restaurants that are inherently noise due to bare floors, walls, steel tables, lively crowds and know there isn't much one can do about it, I've dined in restaurants where I've very politely asked the server to please turn the music down, and they've honored my request. Has a restaurant critic written up the restaurant and commented on the noise factor?

                        I'm in Boston, I've not been to LA. I might have to plan a trip out there for the birch ice cream!