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Red Medicine or Son of a Gun?

Marqoid Feb 1, 2013 09:39 PM

I will be in LA dining in a party of 4. Trying to decide, we are all adventurous, and enjoy inventive food.
Which of these will give a better dining experience?

Also, is there a good way to share (perhaps the entire menu) between 4 people at Son of a Gun?
Other recommendations under $100/person?

  1. Porthos Apr 28, 2013 10:35 PM

    Went back tonight. It's as good as ever. Our guest from Madrid was astounded by the cuisine and commented no less than 4 times how amazing the aubergine (eggplant) was. He remarked how much talent it takes to combine such daring flavors and work such magic with vegetables. I agree completely.

    We had:

    -Brussel sprouts with fish sauce. Again, the deep flavors here created by using fish sauce exceeds any pork laced version in town. Crispy in texture, highlighted by the mint.

    -Dutch white asparagus with almond milk, black sesame paste and meringue of onion and sake lees. I love white asparagus. The herbs added a touch of bitterness. Everything was delicious. Then you mix it with the black sesame paste and another completely different dimension of richness and flavor comes forth.

    -Charred uni on cauliflower custard, chinese sausage. As delicious as it sounds. But then you taste the fried seaweed, and notice there are bits of roasted sweet potatoes in the chinese sausage. Sweet, brine, toasted seaweed, salty sausage, and caramelized sweet potato. The layers and depth of are much more than meets the eye.

    -Indian eggplant with spring peas and sunchoke skins. Sounds simple enough unless you try counting all the ingredients in the dish. The herbs, the malt and garlic bits that taste like bits of meat, the radish rolled in chicory (I think) to mimic dirt. There are fried sweet potato chips, pea puree dusted with green tea, and guacamole puree. There are delicious pea leaves scattered throughout. The most complex and delicious salad in town. Wait a minute, sweet potato chips and guacamole puree...is this a tongue in cheek chip and dip?

    -Raw diver scallops with radish, rambutan, and whey. Initially, just very nice raw scallops. But if you eat it with the slightly acidic radish disks, everything changes.

    -Heritage pork belly. An amazing glorious slab of tender pork. The skin portion in contact with the griddle was crispy and caramelized. Those looking for something substantial and for something to sink their teeth into need look no further than this dish.

    -Beef Brisket. I had asked for a portion in advance when making the reservation on Opentable. They were so busy this week they sold out and when they went through the reservation notes this afternoon, realized it, called to apologize profusely and then made one in the same fashion with some remaining portions of brisket and some lamb. This was complimentary. A tremendous gesture and above and beyond what was expected.

    -Coconut bavarois. Always delicious for those that like their dessert a bit sweeter but not too sweet.

    -Green gage plum. As you can see by the photos, a completely different rendition from last year. I asked about the interesting "crust" surrounding the dessert. I thought it was marzipan, my sister thought it was graham cracker. It tasted like a combination of both but was neither. We were told it was yellow clover and a technique discovered/invented by the chef during his French Laundry days. It is beyond my comprehension. All I can say is that it is delicious.

    The cuisine here is like fine art, music, or poetry. You think you know it until you try it again. Each time it's slightly different. You think you understand it and then realize there is something much deeper. Red Medicine is truly special.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Porthos
      CharlesKochel Apr 28, 2013 11:44 PM

      Thanks for the update. Truly confirmed by respected Chownd. I rest knowing the truth of now. With that said, Fine art, music & poetry ~~Red Medicine will be visited by me this week. :-) happy reader, ck

      1. re: Porthos
        ns1 Apr 29, 2013 09:36 AM

        thanks for the report back. Guess RM will remain polarizing, for various reasons.

        1. re: Porthos
          revets2 Apr 29, 2013 11:45 AM

          Great report. This is consistent with our recent visits as well.

          Good earlier point about palate incompatibility. Animal & SOG lean toward more rustic preparations. Like them both for what they do, but the two are about as different in approach as approach could be. Not exactly sure why all the comparisons.

          Both restaurants have exceptional wine lists, but I'm not sure why Animal tends to price indentical wines as much as $62 (or 65%) higher than SOG. I find the wine mark-up at Animal atrocious. Makes sense to pay the $20 corkage there.

        2. CharlesKochel Apr 21, 2013 08:59 AM

          animal is adventurous and you can skate out under $100. vinny dotolo is running both now. a young, aventurer to say the least, and he's on fire!

          1. PommeDeGuerre Apr 21, 2013 04:04 AM

            Bummer. Red Medicine is not in the same league as Son of a Gun or Animal for anyone who values food over everything else.

            14 Replies
            1. re: PommeDeGuerre
              Marqoid Apr 21, 2013 07:23 AM

              I cant compare to Son of a Gun, but I have a nice meal in LA about every 6 months while traveling. 6 months before Red Medicine I visited Ink. and was much more pleased with that experience.

              1. re: Marqoid
                BekahR Apr 21, 2013 09:22 AM

                LOVED Ink!!! That was a beautiful meal! Especially the peas with sesame, a sweet soy glaze, and coconut ice.

                1. re: BekahR
                  Marqoid Apr 21, 2013 07:20 PM

                  For me it was the beef with flavors of bernaise.

              2. re: PommeDeGuerre
                CharlesKochel Apr 21, 2013 09:03 AM


                1. re: PommeDeGuerre
                  Porthos Apr 21, 2013 09:18 AM

                  I agree. Red Medicine is leagues above food wise compared to SoaG and Animal.

                  I wonder if this isn't just fallout from the reservations scandal.

                  1. re: Porthos
                    PommeDeGuerre Apr 22, 2013 12:23 AM

                    I was saying the opposite. Red Medicine lags behind the other two.from a food perspective. It has better ambiance, but that's it.

                    1. re: PommeDeGuerre
                      Porthos Apr 22, 2013 12:28 AM

                      From my perspective, the complete opposite is true.

                      Oh well...

                      1. re: Porthos
                        PommeDeGuerre Apr 26, 2013 04:32 AM

                        And I always appreciate another's perspective. :-)

                        1. re: Porthos
                          ns1 Apr 26, 2013 09:10 AM

                          I think we need you to go back, to determine if it's a "taste buds" thing or a downhill alert.

                          1. re: ns1
                            Porthos Apr 26, 2013 09:12 AM

                            Will take one for the team.

                            Going back Sunday with a party of 5. 3 returns and 2 first timers.

                            Will report back.

                            1. re: Porthos
                              ns1 Apr 26, 2013 09:13 AM

                              like a true hound.

                        2. re: PommeDeGuerre
                          CharlesKochel Apr 22, 2013 12:29 AM

                          Me also +1 animal & friends

                        3. re: Porthos
                          PommeDeGuerre Apr 22, 2013 12:27 AM

                          And I prefer the drinks at the SoaG bar over the other two.

                          1. re: PommeDeGuerre
                            Porthos Apr 22, 2013 12:32 AM

                            I prefer the wine list and like the selection of well chosen Rieslings at RM which incidentally go very well with the food RM.

                            Having said that, I'm more often than not BYO these days.

                      2. b
                        BekahR Apr 20, 2013 11:28 PM

                        This may be a little late for your particular trip, but I'd read so many nice reviews of Red Medicine that I finally decided to head up to LA and give it a try.

                        I'll start by saying that I had a really fabulous cocktail- gin and lime with thai basil, citrusy and herbal, which generally tends to be my favorite. I only regret that I had to drive and could not have more than one.

                        Unfortunately, from there, I found the food to be wholly disappointing. Every dish I had was covered in sugar and acid, and was completely without balancing herb or spice that could have transformed the dishes into something more palatable. Textures were maimed and often did not complement one another within a dish, and plates often had large pieces for decoration which made dishes unwieldy and added little to their flavors.

                        My first dish was one of 'barbecued' leeks in a yuzu buttermilk sauce with charred ash. When the leeks arrived, they had clearly been boiled out of their misery, soaked in some form of sweet acid, and then supposedly grilled, though they did not have the caramelized smoky flavor one might expect from the fire. The leeks were plated whole, but had lost almost all structural integrity after being cooked for so long and were nearly unrecognizable-- except for the internal ribbing, which made them long, stringy, and difficult to cut through with the butter knife they gave me.

                        On top of the leeks was some kind of fennel or anise, served raw in 4in+ stems, again almost impossible to manage. The yuzu and the acid soaked leeks paired, in my opinion, poorly with the buttermilk, the charred leek ash was sparse, and the fennel too large to manage with a bite of anything else. At one point I even wondered if the chef had ever tasted his own food, and if so how in the world had he eaten the blasted thing??

                        From there I moved on to a dish of whole miniature eggplant, fresh pea puree, radishes, charred panko breadcrumb ‘dirt’, pea tendrils with flowers, and sunchoke chips. Individually, the pea puree, the panko dirt, and the fried sunchoke skins were interesting, but as a dish, the components did not marry with one another, the eggplant were again soaked in an overwhelming sweet vinegar, and pieces were once more so large and unmanageable that it was nearly impossible to have bites of two separate ingredients at the same time.

                        The dish LOOKED so beautiful, and there were certainly some promising elements, but it seemed that taste had been sacrificed to appearance, and that the dish had been put together with no thought for balance of flavor. The entire plate seemed so tragic, as a small amount of chili, shiso, thai basil, or for crying out loud, even black pepper would have brightened the dish, pulled back the inescapable and nearly painful sweet acid, and forced the different elements of the dish to interact a little more.

                        Finally, I finished with the pork belly served with rhubarb 4 ways and roasted alliums. Again, portions of the dish had little flavor but sweet acid, though the savory pork belly did a much better job of holding its own against acidic flavors. But then pork belly is somewhat difficult to ruin especially with the combination of fat and acid.

                        Alliums again seemed to have been boiled or steamed far past their prime, then thrown on the grill, and while marginally better than the leeks, it made me sad to see vegetables so texturally abused and mushy on the inside, then paired with giant stems of unknown raw leaves and long, rambling beet chips that once again looked lovely but added little to the flavors.

                        In short, I found the experience extremely disappointing, especially after seeing such universally positive reviews on chow. I rarely write completely negative reviews anywhere online, but I found the food to be so far off that I would be embarrassed to serve those dishes in my own home, and thought it was important to post a counterpoint to all the raves.

                        I hope for the restaurant’s sake that someone can vouch that my experience is an anomaly, and that others will have better dinners than my own.

                        With regrets,

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: BekahR
                          Marqoid Apr 20, 2013 11:54 PM

                          Thanks for the reply,
                          It has been a couple months since I was at Red Medicine, but I agree with a majority of your review. I can usually recall a few memorable dishes from a meal, but in this case I was disappointed. From the start we (party of 4) explained to the server that we would like to try a majority of the menu. We named each dish that was appealing, but he suggested that we were ordering far too much food and recommended 6 or 7 dishes to be shared. It was still a large quantity of food, but not the experience I was looking for.
                          The cocktails and deserts were excellent. Beyond that the only stand out dish was the large format pork belly. This was an enormous piece of meat, and while the flavor was good it was not crisp and the ratio of fat to meat was far to high. It seemed like this dish was hurried in the kitchen. All of the dishes were presented beautifully, but most were difficult to eat and more so difficult to share.
                          Given the vast majority of very positive reviews and my high expectations going into this meal I think I would still return to give RM another chance.

                          1. re: BekahR
                            Porthos Apr 21, 2013 01:26 AM

                            Certainly a very concerning trend in the negative reviews.

                            I'll be back next weekend with a party of 5 to retaste the menu to see if it has gone downhill since my last visit 2 months ago.

                            1. re: BekahR
                              Servorg Apr 21, 2013 04:15 AM

                              Those flavor profiles seem really odd to me. I've only been twice to RM, but I don't recall any overwhelming sweet flavors for the most part. Even in my favorite dessert, the coconut bavarois the sweetness factor is pretty much in check. For dishes like the brussels sprouts I found the flavor combination of the fish sauce and the charred exteriors of the sprouts to play off of each other wonderfully. The one dish I do recall as having more of a sweetness to it was the brisket as the glaze was sweeter, but even that wasn't overly sweet to me. And I loved the dishes like their fois gras (alas no longer available in California for the foreseeable future).

                              1. re: Servorg
                                BekahR Apr 21, 2013 09:19 AM

                                @Porthos and @Servorg, I've seen your reviews on Chowhound and generally they've been spot on. (Part of why I was so surprised by RM!)

                                Let me know what you think when you go back. I'm interested to hear if it's a fluke, or if the chef and I simply have incompatible palates.

                                I promise you my meal was painful and not merely mediocre, or I would not have written!

                                1. re: BekahR
                                  Porthos Apr 21, 2013 09:39 AM

                                  I suspect it's incompatable palate.

                                  I'm noticing a trend of people liking Animal/SoaG/Ink vs Red Medicine. My preferences are the complete opposite.

                                  1. re: Porthos
                                    Servorg Apr 21, 2013 09:42 AM

                                    And then there are people like me that like the food at RM, as well as Animal and SofaG, equally.

                              2. re: BekahR
                                jessejames Apr 21, 2013 08:51 AM

                                ive been twice to red medicine and found the food mostly mushy and unapproachable, and wholly unsatisfying. nothiing to sink your teeth into at all. i also find the service and atmosphere snooty. i gave it a second chance based on all the reviews here but im guessing this spot will not be around next year...

                                on the other hand, son of gun's got great variety and tons of tasty vittles.

                                1. re: jessejames
                                  Porthos Apr 21, 2013 10:35 AM

                                  Seems like we have an epidemic of "mushy" food here in LA!

                                  Maybe mushy food is the next brussel sprouts or pork belly?

                                2. re: BekahR
                                  singleguychef Apr 29, 2013 11:53 AM

                                  I had sorta the same experience as you as an out-of-town diner trying RM based on recommendations on this board. I thought the service was good and the plates were beautifully presented, but the flavors were too much on one side. You might have experienced a lot of sweetness, but I got a lot of saltiness from the overuse of fish sauce. The brussel sprouts were to sticky from the sauce, and an uni dish had a big layer of what seemed like aioli or mayonnaise on the bottom. Just too much! Not enough balance in the dishes.

                                  I do agree, though, that the coconut bavarois is a great dessert. I did enjoy that.

                                  1. re: singleguychef
                                    Porthos Apr 29, 2013 11:56 AM

                                    uni dish had a big layer of what seemed like aioli or mayonnaise on the bottom.
                                    It's cauliflower panna cotta.

                                    Aioli or mayo is what you'd find in something from Animal or SoaG. There is nothing as "rustic" as that at Red Medicine.

                                    1. re: Porthos
                                      singleguychef Apr 29, 2013 04:09 PM

                                      Thanks for the clarification. OK, so I was not a fan of the cauliflower panna cotta.

                                3. m
                                  Marqoid Feb 3, 2013 01:25 PM

                                  Wow, I guess this is pretty one sided. I have made my reservation for Red Medicine and will plan on asking for the tasting menu.
                                  Thanks, I will report back after diner.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Marqoid
                                    Porthos Feb 3, 2013 01:45 PM

                                    You don't really need the tasting menu unless you don't want the trouble/fun of making choices.

                                    You have enough people to try most things on the menu anyways and it might actually be cheaper to order a la carte and share.

                                    The only downside to RM is that some people find it too loud.

                                    Some prior RM threads to guide you:


                                    1. re: Porthos
                                      Marqoid Feb 3, 2013 02:11 PM

                                      I was wondering this about the tasting menu. I like each diner being served an individual dish, but I had read that the tasting menu at RM is just a selection of a la carte dishes served to be shared between 2 people. Also, I think the bonus of any amuse is really fun with a tasting menu (don't know if RM does that).

                                      1. re: Marqoid
                                        Porthos Feb 3, 2013 03:30 PM

                                        You'll all get at least a bite of each dish doing a la carte. The plus side is that you will get to experience more of the menu

                                        Save room for dessert! :)

                                        1. re: Marqoid
                                          revets2 Feb 4, 2013 03:18 PM

                                          Four people, in our opinion, is the perfect number at RM. We've been with six, eight, more...and some things can get lost in translation.

                                          You will NOT need to order two orders per couple (or two people). One will suffice. The dishes are meant to be shared and you'll be able to order more variety. We skip the small plates and if you're trying to keep it under $100 including alcohol, focus on the hot & cold dishes and stay away from the large format dishes which are delicious, but expensive.

                                          Don't skip dessert!

                                          1. re: Marqoid
                                            chrishei Feb 4, 2013 09:47 PM

                                            You're technically still sharing if going the tasting menu way - they don't split it into individual tasting portions. And some dishes can't be split between 4 people (i.e. coconut baravois).

                                            1. re: chrishei
                                              revets2 Feb 4, 2013 11:46 PM

                                              We split the coconut baravois all the time (4 spoons please!). But last time I will admit there was one little piggy who wanted one all to themselves.

                                      2. c
                                        cacio e pepe Feb 2, 2013 08:23 PM

                                        RM. SoG is great and worth your time, but I'd save it for another time. RM first.

                                        1. PeterCC Feb 2, 2013 01:15 AM

                                          Between those two, I would definitely go with Red Medicine over Son of a Gun. I think you'll get more adventurous and inventive dishes at the former than the latter. Also, RM does do tasting menus, you can ask them how it works (it's not on their website).

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: PeterCC
                                            Porthos Feb 2, 2013 07:56 AM

                                            Also agree definitely Red Medicine.

                                            Party of 4 can try most of the entire menu.

                                            1. re: PeterCC
                                              revets2 Feb 2, 2013 07:41 PM

                                              Another vote for Red Medicine. Jordan's hitting out of the park right now and the wine list is killer.

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