ADVENTURES IN LALA LAND – ANIMAL

 

Animal is not for the faint of heart. Literally. If you are watching your cholesterol, don’t bother. But if you are in for a meat extravaganza, I would recommend you treat yourself.
Animal is the brainchild of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, of “Two Dudes Catering” and Food Network memory. Their tv success was followed by the Random House book “Two Dudes One Pan” and the opening of their first restaurant in 2008. Recently, they added “Son of a Gun” to their roster which, judging from the online menu, is their take on seafood.
The restaurant, located on Fairfax, just a stone’s throw from Canter’s, is a pleasant rectangular room with few concessions to decor, as is the style these days of post industrial architecture. The bar at the back (wine and beer only) offers dining seat as well, which might be a better option for a party of one or two as it’s quieter when the place starts bopping and because William, the bartender, is lovely and knowledgeable and full of suggestions.
Our lack of reservation early on a Monday night threw the hostess off-balance who, after much juggling of the diagram in front of her, sent us to the bar. The restaurant got indeed packed with a mostly male and trendy crowd that clearly reflected the menu (am I being sexist here?).
The portions are not on the generous size (and I say this with relief) but the choices, for meat lovers, are fantastic: pork ribs, sweetbreads, veal brains, rabbit legs, barbecue quail, chicken liver, marrow bone – nicely cut in half lengthwise and served with toast – pig tails and ears to name a few, with a couple of concessions to seafood.
I generally judge a restaurant by the care and inventiveness the chef applies to the vegetables and, at Animal,  veggies are a wonderful and light complement to the meat offerings. The bitter radicchio salad with the sweetness of the cara cara oranges, the saltness of the pistachios and the tanginess of the buttermilk dressing was an exercise in flavor balance.
As I cannot resist octopus wherever it’s served, I ordered it and I would now go back for it: tenderly grilled with chorizo and spicy mustard, it was delicious. So were the pork ribs, with a melt in your mouth consistency and glazed with a balsamic  vinegar reduction and served with delicata squash, arugula and pecans to lighten them up.
My current diet prevents me from consuming sugar hence dessert was out of the question although Animal is known for their chocolate bacon bar – but you know how I feel about bacon in sweets so it wasn’t hard to pass. Maybe next time, after the rabbit legs…

Animal

435 N. Fairfax

Tel 323 – 782 9225

www.animalrestaurant.com

 

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