LA devotees of chef Neal Fraser were left waiting almost five years for his promised follow-up from the now-closed Grace; a restaurant tucked within Vibiana, Downtown LA’s deconsecrated cathedral and current event space. And when Redbird, found in the cathedral’s 1930s rectory, finally took flight, it more than made up for lost time, soaring straight into the hearts and stomachs of the city’s tastemakers and giving the downtown area a gastronomic boost.
Proving yet again that his culinary range is a thing to be envied, standouts of Chef Fraser’s New American menu at Redbird span from the Barbecue Smoked Tofu and the delicately flakey Chicken Pot Pies, which are given extra earthy-oomph from the slices of heart hidden within the thyme-scented sauce, to a veal dish so special, he’s literally put his name on it. Veal Fraser starts as a 24-ounce slab of free-range Wisconsin veal chop that’s grilled, sliced and served with a rich, slow-cooked veal cheek and red wine ragu that’s peppered with Burgundy snails.
The cocktail list, meanwhile, has a pleasing retro-ness it. Grounded in recipes from classic cocktail manuals, the drinks play with familiar and eccentric flavours to create new versions of old-school classics. The Redbird Tonic, made using the drinker’s spirit of choice and Redbird’s earthy, aromatic house-made tonic, is a good place to start. Or try the Cardinal Punch (a concoction of bourbon, brandy and roasted orange) in a nod to the restaurant’s heritage. And the extensive wine list, with help from Sommelier Ben Teig, will yield up some surprising, palate-pleasing vintages.
The restaurant’s name is a reference to the cardinals who once called the space home, and the Robert Weimer-designed interiors incorporate the building’s sacred heritage into the elegant decor (keep an eye out for the grand door bestowed on the former-cathedral by the Pope). The airy lounge here is an atmospheric spot, but to get the most out of your meal at Redbird, request a table in the main dining room; the patio area underneath the retractable ceiling that offers views of the cathedral spire.