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Chef Neal Fraser creates inventive dishes in a beautiful, historically rich Downtown space, perfect for a post-work cocktail or a decadent dinner.
Not since République opened has there been so much fawning over a restaurant’s space. Yet Redbird—which comes to us from chef Neal Fraser, his wife and business partner Amy Knoll, and restaurateur Bill Chait—deserves every bit of oohing and ahhing. The stunning restaurant resides in the old rectory of Vibiana, a Roman Catholic cathedral turned events space, and emits an old-school formality—not just in the details of the beautiful space, but the service, too. Immediately after being seated, diners are presented with an amuse-bouche: a small glass of port, vermouth and lemon juice called the Devil’s Cocktail. A mix of Brazilian-style Parmesan bread and traditional dinner rolls follow, held in a small drawstring sack. Questions are met with patient and informed answers, and despite the slammed dining room, the service is professional and efficient. Redbird doesn’t have white tablecloths covering its tables, but it could certainly get away with it.
Fraser’s menu moves from small plates to group portions (the Porterhouse steak, a 32-ounce slab, is $111 and most definitely meant to be shared). He was one of the first chefs in LA to put foie back on the menu once it was legalized, but if that’s not your jam, the Florida rock shrimp is a must. Breaded and fried and spread across a yuzu kosho aioli, it’s a dish you could find at any izakaya—but who cares? It’s packed with flavor, as is the plate of burrata salad lined with rows of crisp pear wedges. A forkful of the cheese and fruit, along with hidden bits of pistachio and duck prosciutto, was enough to make me happily sigh and look around, chewing contently on ingredients so astoundingly fresh that I may as well have plucked them from a bin at the farmers’ market.
There is incredible technique used in some of the meatier dishes. The rabbitchetta features rabbit saddle wrapped in bacon, stuffed with rabbit sausage and cut into medallions that put each layer on display. A creamy polenta pools beneath the meat, mixing with thyme sauce and pea tendrils. It’s one of my favorite dishes here, not just for the intricate presentation but for the richness each component brings to the dish. Fraser has created a unique tofu dish as well; firm and sliced into large rectangular slabs, the tofu is smoked and grilled then served on a bed of lentils and chard, a spatter of edible flowers ringing the plate. While I appreciated the smokiness of the tofu, though, my dish also seemed burnt, and the lentils were undercooked. Still, vegetarians would find this a welcome option.
“Get the Persian mulberry crepes,” said our waiter when we asked about dessert, and so we did. It was one of our best decisions of the evening. While this particular crepe may not be available on your visit—Persian mulberries have a very short season—make sure to order this if it does make an appearance. A more savory berry, the mulberries were a heavenly match for the sweet crepe and scoop of ice cream that enveloped the fruit. Proof: we scraped the plate clean.
What to Eat: The Florida rock shrimp ($14). The burrata salad ($17). The rabbitchetta ($28). The crepes ($12).
What to Drink: Redbird’s cocktail list is a lush historian’s dream. Each drink lists the book (and year) where it was first mentioned, so that you know just how O.G. your drink really is. But the Julian Cox-designed bar program isn’t all about brains—there’s muscle behind these cocktails, too. When asked to recommend a cocktail, our waiter blurted out “The KCB” ($12) before we could even finish our sentence. The drink is weird but fantastic: gin, apricot and cumin-spiced kümmel result in a savory flavor profile that meanders between sweet and spicy. For a more traditional gin drink, the Monterey Sour ($12) is a comforting cocktail that dates back to 1862. Also on hand: plenty of wine to choose from, which Redbird’s sommelier Diane Pandolfini will gladly walk you through.
Where to Sit: The beauty of Redbird’s space is that there’s a perfect spot for whatever experience you choose to have. Sit at the bar or in the lounge for an intimate drink, or at one of the tables in the lounge for a dimly lit meal. The patio, which serves as the main dining room, is the most stunning, with a retractable roof and a view of the building’s gorgeous details.
114 E 2nd St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu 5-10pm; Fri 11:30am-2pm; 5-11pm; Sat 10am-2pm, 5-11pm; Sun 10am-2pm, 5-10pm|
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