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Feb 1, 2013 09:39 PM

Red Medicine or Son of a Gun?

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?

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  1. 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

      Also agree definitely Red Medicine.

      Party of 4 can try most of the entire menu.

      1. re: PeterCC

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

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

        1. 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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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. 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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        @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

                          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

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

                      2. re: BekahR

                        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

                          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

                          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

                            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

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

                        3. 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

                            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

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

                              1. re: BekahR

                                For me it was the beef with flavors of bernaise.

                              1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                                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

                                  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

                                    From my perspective, the complete opposite is true.

                                    Oh well...

                                    1. re: Porthos

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

                                      1. re: Porthos

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

                                        1. re: ns1

                                          Will take one for the team.

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

                                          Will report back.

                                      2. re: Porthos

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

                                        1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                                          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.