Yellowtail collar with homemade kimchi at Animal (photo: Steve Dolinsky)
I had read the piece in the New Yorker a few months ago about Animal, noting how the chefs/friends love to work with offal and essentially cook the food they love to eat. ‚ So while I was in L.A. this week, I thought I would try to go check it out. The dining room is spare - hardly any art, lots of wooden chairs - and the restaurant itself is positioned on a block that once housed a major concentration of kosher butchers and bakers (the legendary Canter's Deli is just a few doors away). There is an almost frat boy attitude to the menu, chockablock with big, bold flavors and a hell of a lot of offal. Pig's ears are finely-sliced, tossed with spicy chili and topped by a single fried egg; yellowtail collar - meaty and full of flavor, thanks to the attached bone - is dressed in a salty/tart garnish of homemade kimchi and soy. Chicken liver is smooth and rich, shmeared over toast, while poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese) is somewhat elevated here by the addition of oxtail gravy and sharp cheddar. I passed on a foie gras loco moco, a Hawaiian ode with a burger patty, spam and a quail egg, but I think I'll be back again soon to eat my way through the tasty menu.
Animal is certainly part of the charcuterie/nose-to-tail ethos followed by local folks at The Bristol, Mado and The Purple Pig. But it's so startling (and fun) to see this kind of food in L.A., where there are as many picky eaters as there are skateboarders. Incidentally, I had dinner with legendary Chicago restaurateur Gordon Sinclair, who sold his restaurant to the Nahabedians about 10 years ago, and who still looks amazing into his 7th decade. He misses Chicago a little, but I can tell he doesn't really miss the winters.Crispy pig ear, chili, lime, egg (photo: Steve Dolinsky)oxtail and cheddar poutine (photo: Steve Dolinsky)BBQ pork belly with slaw on brioche (photo: Steve Dolinsky)