As there were six of us for dinner, I made the reservation a month out (per the website guidelines) and had been drooling over the menu in anticipation. Upon arriving, the hostess let us know that we would have a two hour limit for our table. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this policy, especially in small restaurants with limited seats, but I like to be told this when I make a reservation and in this case, I was not. Either way, the menu at Animal is full of too many amazing-sounding things so we had to get down to business.
My mom and I had made the reservation for our LA pals Kimba, her niece and nephew (Harper and Mike), and our friend Christopher. Shortly after sitting down it dawned on us, “Oh my God, what if they’re vegetarians?” Thankfully, we were dining with an adventurous crew who knew exactly what they were getting into.
The menu at Animal consists solely of small plates meant for sharing, with a little dessert section towards the bottom. As you would expect, the majority of the dishes are made from something that at one point had a heartbeat, but there are some standout vegetable dishes as well.
We started with the Kampachi Tostada, served with herbs, peanuts, and a fish sauce vinaigrette. It was relatively light, considering what we ate later on in the night, and a nice way to kick off the meal. Joining the tostada was the Shrimp and Rabbit Sausage Spring Roll with Mizuna and Green Curry. Why don’t all spring rolls include rabbit sausage? We ordered another plate of these.
In attempts to balance things out, we ordered the Lettuce, Beets, Avocado, Pita, and Feta with Creamy Sumac. This dish didn’t vanish in the same way that the others did, but served as a sort of ‘water break’ from our marathon of meat and fish, taking a bite of beet for every three bites of bone marrow. I’m a big fan of cauliflower so I really loved their version, the Fried Cauliflower with Tahini, White Anchovy, Wild Rice, and Lemon. It was bright and furthered my suspicion that anchovies make everything taste better.
I will admit that my pictures for this post are nowhere near my best work. This was a product of a) the rosé that kept magically appearing in my wine glass and b) the vulture-like nature with which we descended on each dish. No time for redos! Exhibit A: the Crispy Pig Ears with Chili, Lime, and Fried Egg. You can’t even see under the blanket of egg, but these little guys are a snack of which I cannot get enough. I first experienced these at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami and all I can say is, don’t knock ’em ’til you try ’em. They melt in your mouth and the fried egg took all of it to another level. Apparently it felt appropriate for my mom, Mike, and I to become deeply engrossed in a discussion about eating animals while we demolished this plate. I think I’m getting into a bad habit of eating my feelings.
Seeing as this post could easily turn into a novel (too late?), I will briefly highlight our other favorites. First and foremost, the Marrow Bone with Chimichurri and Caramelized Onions. As to be expected, it was incredible. Mind-blowing, even. We ordered another one because this disappeared pretty quickly on the buttery toasts. We also loved the Barbecue Pork Belly Sandwiches with Slaw (not pictured) as they completely melted in your mouth. (We had to restrain ourselves from taking the leftovers off of our neighbors’ plates. People, this is not the place to come if you’re on a diet.) Lastly, I really enjoyed the tender Charred Octopus with Rancho Gordo Beans, Pistou, and Dandelion.
Also great were the Poutine with Oxtail Gravy and Cheddar (fries definitely held up to the heavy gravy), the Blue Prawns with Wild Ramp and Plantain Leaves, and the Duck Breast with Charred Cabbage, Liptauer (a spicy cheese spread), and Mustard. There truly was not a mediocre dish, it was just a matter of which ones we loved the most.
Prior to finishing our savory small dishes, our server let us know that the clock was ticking on our table, setting off an almost-schizophrenic ordering spree. We were informed that he would let us know as soon as the next party was arriving to maximize our time, but oddly enough they never showed and the restaurant started clearing out, making us think there really was no need for a time limit in the first place.
Lastly, we split three desserts: The Tres Leche (three-milk) cake which was great, but cake really isn’t my jam. I was more interested in the Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar with Salt and (White) Pepper Ice Cream. Shocker, I know. The third dessert had us all laughing pretty hard as we were trying to identify the greenish-blue mixture. It’s not pictured, but it was a Page Mandarin Sherbet with Cheesecake, Sour Grass, and Meringue. Who knew we’d like sour grass so much? Unexpected and refreshing.
In closing, the carnivore’s dilemma was that there were so many dishes to choose from and only so much real estate in our stomachs. I would definitely go back to finish sampling the menu and to eat at least two more orders of bone marrow. Aside from the awkwardly rushed service, the company was fantastic and the food was just as special.
Animal, 435 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, (323) 782.9225, http://www.animalrestaurant.com, Open Daily for Dinner (Check Website for Hours), Reservations Recommended