There's been much anticipation leading up to the opening of Redbird. Why? It starts with the chef, Neal Fraser. Angelenos were very sad when Fraser's Grace closed back in 2010. It was supposed to move downtown, but Neal and his wife ended up moving a catering operation into Vibiana where they proceeded to cook for special events with every intent to open a restaurant in the space. Intents can take time, but good things are worth waiting for, and we finally got the Frasers' latest creation with the opening of Redbird.
Redbird is a nod to the Cardinal, the religious one, not the flying one, who once lived on site at the Vibiana compound where the cathedral stood, as well as a rectory. I went to one of the pig free-for-all's, Cochon 555, in the old cathedral where they were doing animal breakdown on the former altar - a little dicey to say the least, but Redbird has taken over the rectory space for its restaurant, so I don't have to have flashbacks.
The main dining room is nearly a religious experience with its retractable roof that opens to the skies with green feathery trees dotted throughout. The lines are simple, clean and welcoming. There's also a separate lounge area with hand painted baroque beams stretch across the ceiling. I also have to add that the noise level is lovely. No ear plugs are needed and you have a really good chance of hearing your dining companions speak, if you want to. How novel.
Then there's the service. Our waiter "explained" the menu to us, which I find fairly comical now that menus are no longer self-explanatory. There are four sections appetizers, mains, desserts and "kickshaws," and yes I did need some explaining on that one. These are smaller bites - the appetizer to the appetizer with things like shisito peppers, tempura smelt and head cheese.
When we inquired about the wine list, we received a really well thought-out, interesting round-up of great wines from around the world. I'm always partial to a nice French listing, which I got, but Spain and Italy were also well-represented. In addition to the wine menu, we received the seemingly young, intelligent sommelier who put it together. We asked about a section on the menu called Orange wine, never having seen that. Not only did she explain it in great depth, she also brought us each glasses to try. Great service and for the record, try the orange wine. You've never had anything like it.
Continuing on the never having experienced a taste before, I received an art-like appetizer to start the meal. Dollops of Santa Barbara uni were dotted on the plate under tiny Santa Barbara ridgeback prawns and covered in a wasabi snow with a dusting of nori seaweed. The salty and savory played well with the cool and the crunchy. It was a fun plate that definitely left me wanting more.
The cappelletti contained feather light pasta purses in a butternut squash broth with hints of sage. It was all so light and airy, but almost too much so where we were missing the point, and the flavor. Oddly there was a piece of Pecorino melted on top of the whole creation, which just seemed strange, like something I might have done in college at 2 in the morning.
The flavor was delivered with our main courses. They had me at Rabbichetta. Ground rabbit leg was wrapped in rabbit loin and then nestled into a creamy batch of warm polenta. I think I'm going to jockey for this to be the new dish of Thanksgiving - rich, decadent, flavorful.
Then there was the duck, not one, but two ways. Seared duck sat on a kickin' sauce that was flavored with a spicy duck chorizo and a well spiced red beans and rice. The intensity and heat in the dish were fabulous. Both dishes were big, bold and wonderful.
We ended with a candy bar that might make Snickers and Milky Way want to rethink their strategy. There was layer upon layer of complex chocolate and caramel. Gold wrapped candy graced the plate, only the gold dissolved in your mouth and hands, making it a surprisingly delight right down to the last spoonful.
Neal Fraser has a big hit on his hands. It may have taken a little while to pull together, but now people will be waiting to line the tables of his fabulous new upscale dining restaurant, Redbird.
114 E 2nd St.
Downtown Los Angeles