Red Ginger has been open a little more than a week, and it's time to make your way to the South of Fifth eatery that has decor simulating a Cambodian temple. After all, it is helmed by a Top Chef Masters star.
New Times was invited for a taste of the omakase-style menu brought to life by executive chef and Top Chef Masters competitor Herbert Wilson and sous-chef and former Makoto protégé Jesse Erwell. Menin Hospitality's newest concept is as well curated as its other nearby establishments, Radio Bar and Bodega Taqueria y Tequila.
The night began with a sampling of Red Ginger's signature cocktails — all three of them. The Bijinshu mixes Tozai plum sake, John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum, and citric acid. Or have a Twisted Dark Fantasy, comprising Rittenhouse Rye, Ancho Reyes, Luxardo Maraschino, orange flower water, and absinthe. Particularly intriguing is the Prenup, with Nolet's gin, Dolin Dry, blueberries, lemon, Greek yogurt, and honey, though there were a few inconsistencies in its preparation.
Red Ginger also boasts an impressive Japanese whiskey selection, with high-end and rare cask options from the early '90s, aged vintages, and even a discontinued whiskey that's a decade old. Keep calm and drink Japanese whiskey.
The best dish of the evening and ultimate must-have item at Red Ginger is the Thai coconut soup ($10). Tiger prawns and PEI mussels swim in an impeccably balanced and piquant broth spiked with serrano chili and with a surprise at the bottom in the form of tapioca pearls.
Miso eggplant ($9) flash-fries Japanese eggplant in sesame and sake.
Shishito peppers with Szechuan sauce, crisp garlic, and bonito flakes need no further explanation.
Rock shrimp tempura ($12) with momiji, black truffle, and pea shoots would have benefited from a bit less oil.
Another favorite, king crab ($25) from the robata grill, comes dressed with lemon butter and Thai basil.
Other robata items include short rib, chicken meatballs, cauliflower, lamb, and corn on the cob with togarashi and Parmigiano-Reggiano ($8).
Sashimi runs the gamut from oh toro (fatty tuna) and chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) to golden-eye snapper, sea urchin, and live scallops. You can also indulge in the chef's omakase selection for $30, $60, or $90. We sampled a bit of king salmon, Japanese omelet, cured mackerel, and medium fatty tuna.
Another chef's selection, this beautiful presentation didn't last long on the table.
For nonsashimi eaters who prefer to roll with rice, there's maki in the form of shrimp tempura, salmon, negitoro, and spicy tuna. The last one rolls tamago, spicy mayo, tobiko, and scallion into one ($11). Pro tip: Stick with the sashimi.
Mains include a flawlessly cooked miso sea bass with saikeyo miso, spinach, coconut foam, and garlic confit.
Seafood curry ($42) packs tiger prawns, PEI mussels, langoustines, and Peruvian potato in pool of curry. It's served with rice and feeds up to four people.
Forget the fact that you have only chopsticks and are wondering how you'll cut through the sliced filet. A bite of the ultra-tender, perfectly cooked meat will make you forget about cutlery. Besides, you can use your chopsticks to bathe it in the accompanying foie gras sake sauce, as well as pick up some Japanese mushrooms along the way.
Only one dessert choice — mochi — makes it easy to decide.
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