Chef Neal Fraser has garnered a fair bit of attention over the years. Original Chef-Owner of Grace, after it shuttered he’d been working on the restoration project of Grace 2.0 which would become Redbird.
This is Chef Neal Fraser’s flagship restaurant in downtown L.A., and is probably one of the most beautiful dining rooms in L.A. currently. There’s a retractable roof inside the converted and remodeled Cathedral of Saint Vibiana (which was built in 1876).
We recently went for a wonderful dinner, but prior to that, we had a lunch from a few months ago:
Hiramasa (Citrus, Salted Radish, Sea Beans, Togarashi):
This was not good. It tasted really fishy and bad briny.
Vegetable Salad (Sprouted Lentils, Beets, Sugar Snap Peas, Haricot Verts, Jicama, Tomatoes, Asparagus, Peas, Red Wine Herb Vinaigrette):
Really fresh, woodsy, herbaly… it tasted like I was eating on a farm (in a good way), LOL. The Sprouted Lentils, Sugar Snap Peas and blanched Asparagus were the highlights. The Peas weren’t as bright and sweet as Mozza’s English Pea & Bacon Pizza (that was unreal), but pretty nice. Great salad.
Spicy Shishitos (Crispy Quinoa):
I love the Shishito Peppers at Redbird! They’ve always been a highlight for me, and today’s version was just as good.
Chef Fraser shows off some nice flavor profiles with the Japanese Shishito Peppers which are fragrant and more delicate than, say, a Bell Pepper, and there’s an umami quality perhaps from the tangy blast of some sort of fish sauce seasoning. The sprinkling of Fried Quinoa adds this beautiful crunch (subtle) that completes the experience. Delicious.
Spit Roasted Chicken (Preserved Lemon, Olives, Wild Fennel, Curry, Carrots):
Beautiful plating, and it smelled delicious, with aromas of the Curry rising up. It was tender, and the seasoning flavors were spot on. However, it tasted like leftover Chicken. It didn’t taste like it was cooked fresh that day. And after having fresh-bright Rotisserie Chicken from Gjusta (rather informal), it was world’s apart in terms of freshness. The portion was very plentiful however, and if it was cooked fresh, the flavor profile was outstanding.
Duck Confit (Wild Rice, Gochujang, Winter Vegetables):
In what was a puzzling and disappointing moment, their “Duck Confit” arrived. It looked like a dish of Wild Rice. We asked our server who said, “Oh, we chop up the Duck Confit into little pieces for this dish.”
At only $2 less than the Half Rotisserie Chicken, the Duck Confit just felt like an expensive, overly scant dish. Beyond the disappointment with the missing Duck Confit Leg / Thigh, the flavor was OK. The Wild Rice and Gochujang Sauce dominated the dish and you couldn’t really taste any of the Duck.
Crisp (Berries, Struesel, Brown Butter Ice Cream):
This was a fine dessert and a nice way to finish up a lunch. It was served very warm, with the toasty top and fresh Farmers Market Berries. The Brown Butter Ice Cream was a great balance for the Berries.
We returned for dinner recently, and I was really looking forward to trying the Fried Whole Fish that @Porthos had. (I found out after we sat down, sadly, they’ve removed it from the menu!)
Redbird’s Cocktails have always been pretty solid, so the Penicillin to start off the evening was perfect! Fresh Ginger, Honey, fresh Lemon Juice, balanced out the Scotch. It was cool, refreshing, and spicy.
We really love their Bread Service at Redbird. They offer 2 types of complementary Dinner Rolls. A plain version which is delicious! It’s toasty-hot, fragrant and with a dab of butter all you need to start the evening. And they have a Cheese Bread, sort of like the Brazilian Pao de Queijo, which was also pretty tasty.
White Asparagus (Sea Urchin, Pickled Ramps):
Flawless! It’s always a pleasure to find fresh Asparagus (local / seasonal) and Chef Fraser’s rendition is perfect. It’s cooked through, tender, yet still firm. Each bite has that beautiful aroma that only Asparagus can give.
Cavatelli (Rabbit Sausage, Midnight Moon, Peas, Wild Foraged Mushrooms):
Al dente, the Foraged Mushrooms are really fragrant (almost as fragrant as fresh Shiitakes), and the sauce is delicate. The Rabbit Sausage adds that burst of salinity which provides enough salt to cover the fresh Vegetables and Pasta.
Burrata Salad (Nashi Pear, Duck Prosciutto, Pistachio, Upland Cress):
This felt like it looked: Sort of disparate, messy, and not that well-balanced. It wasn’t bad, but the Burrata was sparse and in small dabs. So you had to make sure you took a bite of the Burrata (buried underneath) with the Pear, and some Watercress, and the Duck Prosciutto. When you did that, it was tasty, but miss an element or two in a bite, and it tasted sort of average.
Squash Blossoms (Ricotta, Haricots Verts, Tomato):
Disappointing. It was rather greasy and heavy tasting. Pizzeria Mozza’s version is definitely much lighter and more flavorful.
Artichoke & Fava Bean Salad (Glazed Chicken Gizzards, Capers):
I was really looking forward to this one. It was decent. The Fava Beans and Artichokes were the highlight. The Chicken Gizzards were really salty and the whole dish didn’t really come together. (None of us wanted to order it again.)
La Belle Farms Foie Gras (Forbidden Rice, Green Curry, Green Mangoes):
Note that this is a zoomed in pic (much zoomed in). The portion size on this Foie Gras was tiny. As in, the same type of parody you used to see people make fun of tiny portions in some fancy French restaurant-type of “tiny.” Animal’s Foie Gras Maple Biscuit or their Foie Gras Loco Moco is about 250% the portion of Foie Gras as the one here at Redbird. For $26 this felt a bit too tiny.
However, to be fair, it’s very rich and naturally fatty. I don’t want to eat a lot of Foie Gras anyways, so it worked out OK. That being said, it was delicious! Perfectly cooked, creamy, buttery, tender, just cooked through. The Forbidden Rice and Green Mangoes might as well have been omitted (they were practically not there).
Cottage Pie (Bone Marrow, Beef Cheeks, Foie Gras, Caramelized Onion, Gruyère Crust):
I’ve enjoyed their Chicken Pot Pie before, but never ordered their Cottage Pie. I’m glad we tried it tonight: It was full of flavor, long-stewed, savory, with a real beefy quality. The Beef Cheeks were tender and the Foie Gras was hard to pick out (just adding this buttery quality). It was 2 of our friends’ favorite dish this evening.
Filet of Beef (Savoy Spinach ‘Crouton,’ Shoestring Potatoes, Béarnaise):
This Filet of Ribeye is Dry Aged and cooked perfectly. It’s extremely tender, has a deep beefy flavor.
Weiser Pee Wee Potatoes (Chorizo, Rosemary):
Weiser Farms provides some of the tastiest local potatoes around, and these Pee Wees are cooked just right, tender, lightly spiced with Rosemary, a good crack of Black Pepper and Chorizo.
Australian Rack of Lamb (Farro Verde, Sugar Snap Peas, Preserved Lemon, Mint):
Even better than their Filet of Beef, their Australian Rack of Lamb was even more tender and juicy. It had a light, wonderful gaminess, and a perfect medium-rare. Really savory.
Carolina Sea Bass (Savoy Cabbage, Smoked Bacon, Alaskan Potatoes, Ramps):
This was the dish I thought @Porthos ordered (I remembered some kind of deep fried fish). Alas, after it showed up and we asked our server, the Fried Fish has been removed from the menu. The Sea Bass was overcooked (to make it worse), and just boring.
Grilled Lamb Belly (Kimchi, Sweet Potato, Scallion, Yogurt):
The Lamb Belly was just too fatty for me. Some of my friends really enjoyed this dish. I thought it was too salty and fatty (at least my portion).
Evening was setting in at this point, and the stars and moon were coming out. It’s such a beautiful dining room.
Pavlova (Harry’s Berries Strawberries, Matcha, Meyer Lemon):
When you start out with Harry’s Berries’ Organic Strawberries the dessert is an instant WIN already. LOL. It was fabulous! A huge part of the success was Harry’s Berries, but the balance of flavors of the Matcha and Meyer Lemon worked.
Chocolate Caramel Bar (Bourbon Chocolate, Smoked Pecans, Bananas Foster Ice Cream):
@Porthos was right! This is SO GOOD! Seriously the most decadent and delicious Chocolate Candy Bar (but refined) I’ve ever had. It was chocolatey, crunchy, luscious, nutty, and just a great way to end the evening.
In the end, we enjoyed quite a few dishes at Redbird, but there were a noticeable number of misses as well. It seems like there needs to be more care in the kitchen and with the sourcing (e.g., their Hiramasa appetizer), or the overly salty nature of a few dishes. If they are to reign that in, Redbird could be even better and something really, really special.
As it is, it’s still a good restaurant, and home of one of the most beautiful dining rooms in L.A. And that’s enough for me to return.
114 East Second Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 788 1191
We recently stopped by with friends for a delightful dinner under the stars.
Definitely a highlight at Redbird, both their Brazilian Cheese Bread and the Dinner Rolls arrive piping hot. Delicious.
Foie Gras Torchon (Strawberry, Elderflower, Malt Crisp, Brioche):
This was borderline Dessert, with the Foie Gras’ flavors being wonderful by itself, but surprisingly the pairing with the Strawberries and Elderflowers worked beautifully.
Burrata Salad (Asparagus, Pistachio, Sungolds, Duck Prosciutto, Smoked Olive Oil):
Excellent. Fresh, creamy Burrata was wonderfully offset by the Pistachio and the Duck Prosciutto, which provided just the right amount of salinity. It just fit the season perfectly.
Avocado Salad (Smoked Bacon, Country Line Little Gems, Buttermilk Blue Cheese Vinaigrette):
This is one of the best tasting Salads we’ve had in a long time, with the Smoked Bacon (crispy, crunchy) really elevating the dish. But the Avocado and Little Gem Lettuces were also standout in their creaminess and brightness, respectively.
Bucatini (Uni, Lobster, Scallion):
I felt like @PorkyBelly at Kato, staring down at 1/2 of a tiny Soft Shell Crab… only here we were staring at maybe 1/2 of a tiny sliver of Uni! LOL.
Sure there was a bit of the Uni in the Sauce, but barely there. So really it was mainly a Creamy Lobster Pasta. The Bucatini was al dente, but the tiny amount of Uni and Lobster made this feel like a waste of calories and rather underwhelming.
Spanish Octopus (Blood Orange, Marcona Almond, Coraline, Salsa Macha):
Truly tender, smoky Octopus. The Salsa Macha was complex and added this nice backnote of tart, heat and saltiness. Highlight of the evening!
Risotto (North Sea Shrimp, English Peas, Lemon, Mascarpone):
Delicious! Perfectly cooked Risotto, a beautiful balance of flavors between the North Sea Shrimp, fresh English Peas with its beautiful sweetness, and the touch of citrus and the Mascarpone!
It was also far better than the disaster at Rossoblu.
Sitka Halibut (Morels, Ramps, English Peas):
The outer edge was overcooked, but most of the Halibut was moist and tender. It was generally a “safe” dish, nothing amazing, but not bad either. Loved the Morels and English Peas paired with it.
Broccolini (Chili, Breadcrumbs):
Ample amounts of nicely cooked Broccolini that wasn’t burnt to a crisp! (unlike Rossoblu.) Tender, nice balance of heat with crunchy Toasted Bread Crumbs and a satisfying vegetal taste.
Porterhouse (32 oz Colorado Beef, King Oyster Mushrooms, Aceto Balsamico):
This was OK. It arrived partially medium (about 40% of it) with the rest being medium-rare, even though we asked for it to be medium-rare. This would be a sufficient / fine Steak if you were in the mood for it and at Redbird.
But after having CUT by Wolfgang Puck recently, there’s no comparison. CUT is just so vastly superior it wasn’t even close.
Service was good throughout the evening. It was also a pleasant, semi-quiet dining room, with Redbird’s unique and gorgeous open roof, to dine under the stars. We didn’t have to shout to hear each other talk.
Redbird is still one of the prettiest dining rooms in L.A., especially with the retractable roof and a chance to dine with a pleasant evening breeze, under the moon and stars (literally). Chef Neal Fraser’s flagship continues to have some great dishes and some so-so dishes, but knowing what to order will result in a very enjoyable dinner, with things like the Chicken Pot Pie, Shishito Peppers, their various Salads (generally always interesting, fresh and delicious), their Cottage Pie, Octopus, and Rack of Lamb.
114 East Second Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 788 1191