Friday, July 20, 2012

Animal Restaurant @ N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles


Veal Tongue + Pastrami Spices


Too excited for words, we got a table at Animal Restaurant, home of Bacon Chocolate and just before the Foie Gras ban in California, no less.  It was at the top of our list, as well as Son of a Gun, their sister restaurant that focuses on Seafood as its theme.

Right along Fairfax Ave, aptly adjacent to Canter's Delicatessen, Animal features Meats and Poultry by chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo who have become established recognizable names in the culinary industry.

The facade has no signs or any indication of restaurant's nomenclature, one has to guess or remember the building number, (oh boy, this is gonna be fun fun fun!) I can smell the architectural discomfort I'm about to experience...is there a stretching rack prepared upon arrival, or do I get a seat......


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Value Engineering is the bane of creativity

As was my dreaded fear, you walk inside into an asylum box; you can tell that this place had adopted the zeitgeist of minimalist /prison interiors: grey blanched color walls, hard surfaces that bounces noises like the inside of a cavern.... It's somehow become the norm to shout to your dinner companions all through dinner, I should have kept smoking, at least I would get to take a break from all noise....(just kidding-but I am gonna consider taking a noise break if this keeps up).

I hope at least the food is colorful...


Menu Rundown:
Hamachi Tostada+Herbs+Fish Sauce Vinaigrette+Peanut
Tandoori Octopus+Tamarind+Kumquat+Raita
Veal Tongue+Smoked Foie Gras+Pastrami Spices+Crab Apple
Foie Gras Biscuit+Maple Sausage Gravy
Barbecue Pork Belly Sandwiches+Slaw
Foie Gras Loco Moco+Quail Egg+Spam+Hamburger

Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar + Salt + Pepper Ice Cream


Hamachi Tostada+Herbs+Fish Sauce Vinaigrette+Peanut

Our Server was very amicable, we rattled off our desired order and he arranged the order in which they would arrive at the table, starting from the light to the more complex.

Our first dish; the Hamachi Tostada- a ceviche of yellowtail with Herb Salad and crunchy Tostada strips.  The dish was light and good to open our palate, the Fish Sauce Vinaigrette provided a light acidity which complimented the Herbs, the hamachi, however wasn't my favorite component, it didn't taste as fresh as I would have liked and the Olive Oil didn't work to the Hamachi's advantage.  A new textural experience was the introduction of the Tostada, It was a new flavor profile to me and I thought the combination worked with the fish.


Tandoori Octopus + Tamarind + Kumquat + Raita
The next dish on this culinary itinerary:  The Tandoori octopus with Tamarind, Kumquat and Raita. YUM!!!! The Octopus was cooked tender, preserving its chewy yet soft texture; a deconstructed take on an Indian dish, it had subtle flavors that you could relate to but never overpowered the focus on the protein. The complexity often found when eating Indian dishes were purified and clean; the Kumquat embodies sweet, Tamarind - savory, Raita - tart and the drizzle of oil completes the Tandoori. 




Veal Tongue + Smoked Foie Gras + Pastrami Spices + Crab Apple
This dish thus began our foray into the soon-to-be extinct Foie Gras, slices of Veal Tongue coated with Pastrami spices melted in your mouth with Crab Apple Gelee and these thin wafers of Pumpernickel; it redefined a Deli classic! And then you have the Foie Gras Mousse Quenelle on the side representing the Chicken Liver but so much more sophisticated. It was a really good introduction into the meat/ protein dishes to come.

Foie Gras BIscuit + Maple Sausage Gravy

And now we're knee deep in it...A beautiful, sautéed piece of Foie Gras on top of a Lard Biscuit centered on a pool of luscious Maple and Sausage Cream Gravy.  It was a rich and decadent-all that you would expect from this type of dish.  In fact, it's a country dish reinterpreted with Foie Gras.  It was delicious, all that I would say is that it didn't have a contrasting texture or flavor to balance out the fatty creamy consistency of every component in this dish; it needed the inspiration that the other dishes were able to accomplish in redefining the classics.

Barbecue Pork Belly Sandwiches + Slaw
This was the most impressive dish of the night; the Pork Belly met, exceeded and elevated my expectations, blowing all other Pork Belly dishes I've eaten away and leaving them in the dust... This was the ultimate -a gorgeous thick slice of Pork Belly, layers of fat and meat proportioned so well on a buttery toasted Brioche Bun topped with a Cabbage and Carrot Slaw.  It was the addition of this slaw that was a breakthrough flavor profile, it harmonized the meat and bread together, as well the Carrots in the slaw worked flawlessly for the Pork...loved this dish


Foie Gras Loco Moco + Quail Egg + Hamburger

At the last minute in an act of spontaneity, we decided that we would go for one last Foie Gras hurrah, (it was gonna be banned, never to be consumed again....in Cali).  A take on a Hawaiian classic, it's a layered dish of Rice with Spam, Foie Gras and Hamburger with a Fired Quail Egg on top with a  twist on Ketchup and Scallions....I almost wish we  hadn't ordered this, it was sort of a mess. I like the classic version for what it is, a mish mash of flavors and proteins that are humble and filling. But in trying to elevate it with the Foie Gras, it became oddly disjointed, like the bottom half and the top half tasted great separately but was a bomb when you attempted to take a bite with all the components...

Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar + Salt and Pepper Ice Cream

Wanting to end the evening on a high note, we had to get the Dessert that these guys perfected: Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar with Salt and Pepper Ice Cream.  Wow, it's like being in the movie 'Inception', I don't know which reality I'm in; there's a rich sweet chocolate reality, then I'm whipped into a savory Bacon world, crunchy with hints of grease, then I'm shot into a Salt and Pepper awakening, which is not as jarring as it sounds.  Then you end in a Hazelnut haze, and ask yourself, 'what the f*ck just happened?' and you go for another bite....marvelous!!



Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Animal on UrbanspoonFood:          3.5
Ambience   2 
Service:      3.25