Sunday, July 25, 2010

Animal: Would you like some meat with your meat?

Back in April, the New Yorker published a piece about two longtime friends ("the Bill and Ted of the Los Angeles culinary scene") and their restaurant, Animal.

By the time I'd finished the article (" ... maple-sausage gravy and foie gras ..." "... lamb-tongue ravioli ..." "... experimenting with veal testicles ...") I knew: I wanted to go to there.

So when we were planning our California trip, much like with San Francisco and
Chez Panisse, reserving a table at Animal was the next step after booking the hotel.

This is one of those times when I'll just let the food do the talking.

Here's the room: sparse, clean, well-lit.

(The guy in the white jacket standing at the bar is
Daily Show correspondent Josh Gadd, who had recently filed a rather relevant story. He was the 0.5 of our 1.5 celeb sightings in LA.)

To begin, a plate of head cheese, mixed with vinegary ramps and topped with three nuggets of sweet cornbread:

And rich, deep chicken liver pâté on toast.

Next, pig's ear, sliced thin, fried crispy with chiles, finished with lime, topped with a fried egg.

This was perfectly balanced: just as the heat threatened to become overwhelming, the citrus kicked in and took over. And mixed with warm egg yolk? Crispy heaven.

We'd only ordered one more dish — the oxtail poutine — but figured we could always get something else.

And then it came.

Big soft fries, soaking up rich, complex gravy and tender meat, with cheddar cheese pulling the whole thing together. It was awesome, over the top, decadent, potentially fatal.

So rather than ordering more meat, we skipped to dessert. Something nice and light. Pound cake with strawberries? Dulce de leche, perhaps, or panna cotta with nectarines?


Bacon-chocolate crunch bar. Dark and sweet, salty and smoky. Sweeter than the Vosges bar, and better balanced, perhaps because there were other flavors to even out the contrast (nuts, plus a salt-and-pepper crème anglaise).

In the same way dinner at
Au Pied de Cochon is a necessary part of our trips to Montreal, I suspect all future visits to Los Angeles will automatically include a meal at Animal.

Sooo ... when can we go back??

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