Thursday, December 15, 2011

ANIMAL- Los Angeles

As one of the "IT" restaurants of the moment, ANIMAL has been on my list for a while, and with a group of foodies we made our way Sunday night for a spectacular and long awaited extravaganza!

 This place is all about Animal parts officially known as "Offal".

 But don't let that scare you. Crispy pig ears with lime & fried egg, crispy veal sweetbreads and perfectly seared Foie Gras with a warm soft biscuit, maple syrup & sausage gravy are just a few of the standout dishes you'll find here.
The combinations may seem strange to some, but they are not extremely inventive.  Spain has been consuming pig ears for centuries as well as other countries.  Foie Gras with Maple Syrup is not that out of the ordinary, the paring of Foie with a sweet element is a classic, so lets be honest, they are not re-inventing the wheel here, but the dishes are amazingly tasty, very focused, perfectly seasoned and well thought out. They leave you wanting more... and that's always a good sign. You will not be disappointed by coming here, with that said, one flaw I found, they were not very well coordinated with the kitchen, as least Sunday night when we were there.  Some people had not received any dishes, some just one, while I was finishing my first, with another waiting... and here comes the waitress with my Foie Gras... OH NO!
She kindly took it back as I made her aware of the mishap. Don't let this deter you from trying ANIMAL, the service was still very attentive and the food amazing!

Pig Ear, Chili, Lime, Fried Egg 12
The only other time I tried pig ears was at INK Restaurant in L.A. and loved it, but you never know with a name like "pig ears" what you're in for... This was spectacular... The pig ears were like the upscale version of mediocre bacon... with a nice heat from the chili, a little acidity from the lime to cut through the heaviness of the dish, and the oh-so-good fried egg with a runny yolk... mmmm... it was superb!

hamachi tostada, herbs, fish sauce vinaigrette, peanut 15
Next was the Hamachi tostada, which was recommended by a fellow member of our table... and although skeptical, i gave it a shot.  Really, its hard to have a dish come out so light yet satisfying in flavors... but this did just that... I loved the combination of the fish sauce vinaigrette, the crunchy onions and the peanuts along with the freshness from the herbs... the peanuts really did make the dish stand out to the next level for me as it added a nice depth of flavor.
barbecue pork belly sandwiches, slaw 13

A table mate ordered this, and i was so lucky to try them... they don't look like anything special on the menu... how many times have you seem sliders on restaurant menu's... But the bread was very soft and fresh, with lovely buttery notes on top with a perfectly cooked BBQ pork (you know, the one that falls off the bone tender-except no bone here of course) and a very nice fresh (not soggy) slaw.
foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy 24
This was the dish I was waiting for and it was everything I thought it would be and more.  Perfectly cooked Foie with those buttery notes and nice sear on top with a tender fluffy biscuit, savory and flavorful sausage gravy and topped off with enough maple syrup to give the dish another dimension.  Beautiful!
Veal Sweetbreads, Finger Lime Aioli, Cumin, Shallot 14

Sweetbreads is one of my favorite things to eat... and these definitely lived up to my expectations.  Much more mild than your average sweetbreads, the veal variety were soft and silky inside, with a perfect crust outside paired with a nice lemon Aioli, tiny bit of cumin for some smokiness and freshness from the shallots.

sticky toffee pudding, mascarpone, orange 7
Loved the subtle orange tangy-ness along with the rich and dense pudding.  I really could taste the toffee which added a nice caramel-smoky note.

bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p ice cream 7
I didn't think I would taste the bacon, as i've had chocolate+bacon before, and the chocolate really takes over the whole dish.  But they must have used a much savory (saltier) bacon because I did taste it, and it was lovely! The ice cream sounds weird, right? salt & pepper? but it was just a hint of pepper, which really went well.
tres leches, dulce de leche 7
The tres leches cake was simple yet very well done.  I thought it was not too sweet which I appreciated. Very moist,with the frosting adding a touch of creamyness but again, not too sweet.

Over all, I really felt that they truly knew what they were doing.  That they really thought through each dish as they came up with them. I most definitly need to go back, especially before Foie becomes illigal in Caifornia next year!
Animal on Urbanspoon

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