Medicine is for the "hip, younger crowd" kind of place. A huge plasma screen was brandished on the farthest wall, and it played calming images of a sunny beachfront view like a relaxing screensaver. The images reminded me that cooking should not be stressful, but a fun time to experiment and learn from others.
For me, cooking can be overwhelming at times, especially when I am trying to create innovative dishes or when I am entertaining a group of 3+ guests. That's when I turn into a perfectionist, and the result is disasterous.
Given my "stress-case" propensities, I paid particular attention to the simple, no-frills dishes that were still daring and adventureous.
My first course consisted of a chilled cube of silken tofu, topped with a light sprinkling of crispy (and perfectly symettrical) seaweed flakes and a tiny dollop of microplane grated ginger. Eating plain tofu is not something I generally enjoy, but the lightness and simplicity of dish helped me to appreciate the distinct contributions of each of the ingredients. The tofu helped to detoxify and cleanse my palate, and the small portions of the ginger and seaweed gave me a heightened awareness of the subtle flavors of each component of the dish.
This dish inspired me to serve something similar when entertaining, as a hor d' oeuvre, but served in a shot glass, with a light drizzling of soy sauce.
Also with our first course, was a small dish of pickled daikon and lettuce. I don't really like the bitter aftertones of certain Japanese pickles, but I love using the colorful radishes and artistically sliced daikon as garnishes for my party platters.
My main dish was udon in curry. Atop the fresh pile of noodles was a crispy-fried nest of shredded and tempura-battered sweet potatoes. The crispy fritter was the prize of the dish. The crunchy golden exterior was immensely satisfying--much more so than any meat (Medicine is a vegetarian restaurant). I also enjoyed the thick, chewy udon noodles coated in smooth curry sauce.
I learned several things from the udon dish: 1) do not serve curry in udon to guests, because the curry vigorously splatters everywhere when one slurps up the wriggling noodles, but 2) sweet potatoes and curry make a fantastic coupling. I would definitely serve sweet potato fritters with a curry dipping sauce as an appetizer for guests.
Most memorable was their signature sushi, which was stuffed with verdant green sprouts, pickled carrots, leaves of fresh shiso, and sliced avocado. The sushi was made with a colorful 9-grain rice and boasted a decorative sprinkling of flax seeds.
The vibrant colors of the sushi was awe-inspiring. Generally, when I make sushi, I use the "plain vanilla" ingredients, but after my Medicine experience, I will definitely try using other types of rice, especially when entertaining. I may have to master my "sushi rolling" skills first, since it is difficult to make wild rice or brown rice "sticky" enough to be rolled as sushi. It definitely makes for a majestic looking dish though.
New flavor combinations from Medicine seared their way into my memory and helped me gain a better understanding of how to make enjoyable non-meat meals when entertaining vegetarian friends.