Saturday, November 30, 2013

An Animal in Los Angeles

No Name but it is Animal
I have been looking for a reason to go to LA for the last year to go to either Animal or Son of a Gun we ended up at Animal which turned out to be a great decision.  Both restaurants are the brainchild of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, these guys have multitudes of awards and 3 James Beard Nominations.  Animal is on Fairfax Ave. an area where there are several Jewish Delis and Bakeries and Skateboard stores, kind of an eclectic area.  Be sure to have your navigation system on because there is no sign just a black painted facia with a set back entrance.
Shrimp and Rabbit Spring Roll
The restaurant is not large or fancy I would compare it to the new design look of American craft purveyor which is rustic and simple.   I had just been to Publican the week before so I thought I was in for a similar treat but this was going to prove to be better.  Our server James immediately welcomed us and walked us through the one special of the evening (Steak No Thanks) and then helped us through our order.  This is a very good menu that changes frequently, the night we went it was most everything Pork but since the menu changes frequently Animal remains relevant.  We live in San Diego and several restaurants with a similar theme have opened over the last few years, the big difference is that they do not change their menu and thus stifle any creativity.  Enough of my editorial lets get to the meal. 
Shishito with Katsuobushi
Pork Head
Animal is a family style restaurant which makes the evening oh so much more special because you can share several plates instead of just getting your entree.  JoAnn and I ordered 5 plates and each one was just as wonderful than the previous.  Our first plate was Shrimp and Rabbit Sausage Spring Rolls with wild herbs and Green Curry.  The Spring Roll had substance, it was savory and with the combination of the bite of the herbs and the heat of the Green Curry it was a great way to start the meal.  We love Shishito peppers and when on the menu we always order them because they are always fresh and offer a heat found nowhere else in the meal. This case the star of the meal was not the Pepper but the Katsuobushi which is shaved Tuna Jerky and as you can see they did not spare any.  The taste of the meal was spicy hot, savory/umami, salty and lemon, I can still imagine the taste.  Next we had the Crispy Pig Head it really is only the meat of the pig cheek sitting on a short grain rice stack with a Soy Egg and Bull Dog Sauce which I can only describe as creamy tart hot sauce that tinges the palette.  All I can say about this dish is no one component can stand on it's own but together it is wonderful.  There is the crunch of the Pork, the bite of the Soy Egg, the rice as a serving platform and the sauce that provides some heat, sweet and tart. 
Pig Ear with Fried Egg
Phew even as I type this I remember the taste of this meal so vividly.  Next was the Ricotta Gnocchi with a 6 hour Bolognese, the Ricotta Gnocchi was light and creamy not your typical heavy potato Gnocchi.  It was perfectly matched with a Bolognese sauce made with Beef, Pork and Veal which was sweet with a touch of acid from the tomato another great dish.  Last in the line up was the Pig Ear with Chili, lime topped with a Fried Egg.  The Pig Ear is boiled then sliced into strips and then deep fried so they are crunchy as you can see it is topped with a Fried Egg visually very cool the egg yolk was almost orange.  This dish was rich and the lime added a great bite along with the chili. 

Salt and Pepper Ice Cream
Even though most people would give up after all those great flavors there was one more item I had to have the Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar with Salt and Pepper Ice Cream.  The Ice Cream is the star here and perhaps it is punctuated by the Bacon Crunch Bar but again many great flavors combined in a way to make it delicious.
This restaurant is a must go to in LA, the food the service and the memory on my palette justify all the awards.  Shout out to James our server, he knows his food and provided me with some other great restaurants in Chicago for when I go next.