downtown los angeles, historic core
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Downtown LA’s New Redbird: Food as Delicious as the Ambiance

Redbird is housed inside the cathedral's former rectory

Redbird is housed inside the St Vibiana Cathedral’s former rectory

When it was announced in 2010 that Neal and Amy Fraser’s venerable Fairfax district restaurant Grace was moving into the rectory of St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, the anticipation was palpable. Following the then recent debut of Bottega Louie, a re-launch of Grace seemed like the next feather in downtown’s dining cap. Suddenly, all went silent. After 5 years, unforeseen delays and a slight concept change, Chef Fraser’s latest dining experience, RedBird arrived in mid-December 2014. I’m happy to report that it was worth the wait.

Lawrence Aldava for BrighamYen.com

Built in 1875, the Cathedral of St. Vibiana is a historic gem and one of downtown’s few standing 19th century structures. Saved from demolition after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the space has served as a successful event venue for several years. Although a later addition, the rectory’s Spanish influenced interior has been artfully transformed by Amy Fraser and team into an intimate indoor/outdoor dining space. On sunny days, the gabled roof retracts, creating an outdoor living room that is both elegant and comfortable. Punctuating the beauty of the space is a solid new American menu

Prior to starting their meal, diners are treated to a light aperitif courtesy of the chef and a selection of tasty breads served in a cloth pouch. On a recent visit I began my dinner with the tempura smelt and head cheese. Served in a citrus aioli, the smelt was crispy and nicely seasoned. I love head cheese and the Redbird version didn’t disappoint. Served with fig motarda and a rye crisp, the dish was rich and delicious with almost too little crisp to go around. Eager to try the larger entrees, I moved onto the Thai style Dungeness crab soup, Santa Barbara sea urchin, and foie gras.

The crab soup is beautifully presented in a tangy Thai curry style broth. Fresh crab meat grouped into the center of the bowl is the perfect complement the rich soup base, producing a dish that is surprisingly filling. Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara sea urchin is served on top of ridge back shrimp with nori and is dusted with a wasabi snow. The sea urchin was very fresh and had a perfect, silky texture while the wasabi snow was a really creative addition. The foie gras was addictive and tasty as I expected though I was unable to finish it so that I could save room for two larger entrees that included the Maine lobster and duck breast.

The Maine lobster is served with an al dente gnocchi sardi in a flavorful sauce containing  nettles and black trumpets. Overall, it was a tasty dish and the pasta was perfectly cooked. My favorite entree of the evening however was the duck breast. Served on Redbird’s version of hopping john, a traditional southern rice and vegetable dish, the duck breast and leg meat are incredibly tender and the entire dis has a wonderful spice to. Duck can be a difficult meat to get right as it tends to be a bit greasy by nature. Chef Fraser’s preparation however was spot on.

Although stuffed, I had to sample dessert. The crème catalan, the Spanish equivalent of a French crème brulee, had the perfect level of sweetness, while the blood orange sorbet that accompanies it had a nice tang, serving as a great counterbalance to the custard. Meanwhile, the chocolate caramel bar tastes just as it sounds. Consisting of bourbon chocolate served with smoked pecans and bananas foster ice cream, this is an incredibly rich dessert. The ice cream in particular was standout for me. Unfortunately, after a large meal, this dish was just a bit too heavy for me to get into. I will have to return and try again along with some of the other desserts on the menu.

Redbird offers a wonderful menu and dining experience. Its reactivation of St. Vibiana’s rectory space completes the Vibiana complex, which plays a critical role in downtown’s development helping to glue together three distinct districts. With the recent opening of AVA Little Tokyo and the coming completion of block 8 just east, the Historic Core, Civic Center and Little Tokyo districts have now been bridged in an accessible, pedestrian-friendly way for the first time in decades. This is no small achievement considering that Downtown L.A. has, on a macro level, represented the disjointed, auto-oriented planning that has long defined our city and region. In all, the opening of Redbird is a victory on multiple levels.

RedBird is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday nights at the corner of 2nd and Main Street.

All photos courtesy of Redbird

Duck Breast

Duck Breast

Santa Barbara Sea Urchin & Prawns

Santa Barbara Sea Urchin & Prawns

Cocktails

Delectable cocktails

Redbird dining room

Redbird dining room

Redbird lounge

Redbird lounge

21 Comments

  1. Caryn Hofberg says

    I will NEVER eat at this restaurant and will ask others to do the same because they serve foie gras. This is a goose’s liver in which the goose is force fed thru a tube in its throat to fatten it’s liver. Extremely painful to the goose and inhumane. I am contacting PETA in hopes that they will organize a protest of this restaurant, as they have others, in which I would gladly participate. There is also a California law against this. Shame on Redbird and any other restaurant that serves this. There are just too many other options for food to not have to serve this.

    • Beshanja says

      So excited for foie gras)))) Did not know that they serve it, but since you’ve mentioned it, I can’t wait! Thanks!

    • Caryn,

      Before pasting uninformed comments here, I’d suggest you do a little research first. The law has been determined to be unconstitutional and has been repealed – while Foie Gras production is still banned in California, it’s sale is not. Additionally, the vast majority of Foie Gras produced and consumed in the United States comes from ducks, not geese. And finally, these ducks are treated far better than any of the animals that are grown on big factory farms. If PETA had any backbone, they would go after factory meat producers rather than small family run operations that treat their animals significantly better. The only reason PETA went after producers like Sonoma Foie Gras is that they don’t have the deep pockets that Tyson, Swift, etc have to fund drawn out legal battles. It’s very hypocritical move.

  2. David S. says

    As was mentioned about, the CA law outlawing foie gras was overturned by the courts a few weeks ago. Probably need to check your facts before protesting and losing credibility.

  3. Caryn Hofberg says

    This doesn’t change the fact that foie gras is animal cruelty. I’m sad if anyone thinks this is something to joke about. Maybe you’d like to go to the web site of PETA.org and see for yourself the horrific atrocities committed upon geese and other animals on this planet by inhumane beings such as yourselves? That’s credibility at its finest.

  4. karin says

    I’m with Caryn in that it’s a disgusting and supremely cruel food. It is legal again, sadly, but that doesn’t mitigate our collective responsibility to show some kindness towards animals. I know many, many omnivores who will not eat veal or foie gras because they can see the clearly heightened level of cruelty that goes into the production of this meat. Each to his own, I guess, but I do think less of a restaurant that serves foie gras.

  5. I’ll give this place a try. I generally don’t like most restaurants where the food is “Precious” and the prices are high — the kind of place that leaves you feeling you need to run and get a burger at In-n-out afterwards to feel satisfied.

    The one restaurant in LA that really does it well is Hatfields. I rarely have had any experiences in LA that equal that. Great food, even better service and portioning that leaves you feeling you got your money’s worth.

  6. 2 reasons why I won’t eat there. Now that I know the serve Fois Gras, though it’s legal it is unethical. There are a lot of things legal that aren’t ethical. The other reason is that the sizes are laughable.

    • Caryn Hofberg says

      Love your comment “there are a lot of things legal that aren’t ethical”. Nice to see like minded people in regards to animals. I personally am Vegan and my life is dedicated to animal rights.

  7. Pete McAndrews says

    Caryn, go elsewhere with your sanctimonious lecturing. I’m just back from vacation in Napa/Sonoma and Carmel. Every good restaurant has fois gras on the menu now and I made a point of ordering it.

  8. Darlene Coll says

    The restaurant looks lovely. I hope the parking situation around there doesn’t dissuade various people from taking advantage of dining at Redbird.

    Oh, by the way, many people are not aware of this, but Germany’s Der Fuehrer (the diabolical, ruthless European leader of the 1930s and 1940s with the little mustache) was a big pet lover and his government enacted policies that mandated the humane treatment of animals I think of him and his creepy inconsistency when dealing with people in today’s times who are just a bit too neurotic, insistent and persistent about animal rights.

  9. SGVflip says

    We should ban ALL RESTAURANTS and GROCERY STORES that serve or sell chicken, beef, pork, and seafood—for inhumane treatment, drugging, depleting resources, and adverse affects on our bodies. Come to think of it, unless you grow your own vegetables from seed that you procure from your own plant stock, vegans should refrain from eating vegetables—GMO’s, pesticides, and even the fossil fuel used for transporting produce from South America to your local vegan shi-shi restaurant.

    So, don’t eat or buy any food. Good luck!

    Make your choices. Make them educated choices. Stop the “holier than thou” preaching unless you’re prepared to define and draw the line. Where’s your line?

    Can’t wait to eat Chef Fraser’s food again! I’ve been a big fan for a long time.

  10. Goose eater says

    I wonder if caryn would force feed herself and serve up her liver if it meant saving all the poor, poor geese out there….oh the humanity!

  11. jonjones says

    Caryn is just another misguided ubber lib. Take your nonsense elsewhere please.

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