I had wanted to eat at Medicine Eat Station ever since I first learned about it. From the description on its site:
"The Zen monks of Japan say that food should be taken simply as medicine for the health of the body. Over half a millennium, they have created a seasonal cuisine called shojin to express this ideal. At MEDICINE, we call our cooking new-shojin because we have given it a unique edge, and incorporated modern nutritional ideas. We serve this food at our eat-station a quick, everyday place-to-eat, joyfully liberated from the formality of traditional restaurants."
I had a chance to eat there during my week at the St. Francis. The restaurant is on the second floor of Crocker Galleria, decor minimalist and simple. The place seemed pretty popular--I was expecting a good meal. . . (I should have noticed the disgruntled guy in red poking at his food)
I decided to go for one of the foundation sets on the menu. The soba set, at $8.95, sounded pretty good. It would include (quoted from the menu):
hearty bowl of buckwheat noodles and vegetable toppings in housemade shojin broth
This was not hearty at all. The noodles were nothing special and the "shojin broth" tasted more like very watered down soy sauce. There was absolutely no flavor to this. I understand the whole concept of the restaurant is simple, healthy, but it doesn't mean bland and tasteless! I've tasted vegetable broths a thousand times better.
fresh organic, artisan tofu with ginger and nori
I was expecting silken tofu, but this was more like a thick custard. It was slightly crumbly and hard to cut into. Again, nothing special.
housemade fresh pickled vegetables
I can't believe they even listed this part of the set--they give you this for free at most Japanese restaurants! These pickled vegetables were not very tasty either.
Ruth decided to go for the clarity set at $9.95. This was perhaps the biggest ripoff I have ever seen at a restaurant! I was almost laughing when her order arrived--it was that ridiculous.
It would include:
a sophisticated plate of simmered vegetables with housemade sesame sauce
"Sophisticated?" Five boiled pieces of veggies with some sesame sauce that, coincidentally, also had no flavor. The vegetables were so overcooked that each piece was tasteless. If they wanted to win customers over with food styling, they also failed in that respect.
cold clear soup with cucumber and sour plum
I got a taste of this as well. Since most of their food had no seasoning or flavors, I was expecting a tasteless soup, but this was very salty. It was basically a bowl of vegetables in some cold salt water. Tasted as bad as it sounds.
The set also included the tofu and the pickled vegetables.
The best thing i could say about the meal was that it was a palate cleanser for my French Laundry debauchery that followed that night. I respect Medicine's concept, except aren't they somehow supposed to make this healing food...edible? Patrons go to Chez Panisse for a concept too, but at least their food is good!
The owners of this place are geniuses. Capitalizing on the great Financial District location, the clientele of affluent business diners, they can draw (and win over) so many souls with their shojin concept. If you don't like the food, it's not their fault--it's yours for not getting it. Oh yeah, they also tack on a 17% service charge for some very shoddy service. Seriously, they're geniuses.
If you are on a detox diet or just feeling very masochistic, go to Medicine. But even then you might be disappointed.
(glowing) Jai Yun report coming soon!