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Lots of Animal - Little Vegetable & No Mineral

Servorg Feb 23, 2009 03:45 AM

Finally made it to Animal on Fairfax (3 doors north of Canter's Deli) last night for dinner. This dinner was a hit from start to finish and, as long as my statin drug is able to continue to do it's job, I would gladly dine here on a regular basis (or until my bypass surgeon spoke to me gravely about my dining choices).

Playful menu selection with a serious execution of the food by a kitchen that knows how to put together great, bold flavors in a palate pleasing way. Service was excellent, from the friendly greeting by the hostess to the bus boy who was on top of anything we needed to a knowledgeable and humorous server with an easy going but professional demeanor who was very helpful in winnowing down our choices.

Began with a bottle of Italian sparkling wine (Prosecco) which at $33 seemed very fairly priced. They have a small but serviceable beer and wine list. Beer would also be a good choice for the food at Animal and they have some interesting choices (see the wine and beer list on their website). I do note that they seem to encourage their guests to buy either a bottle or carafe, rather than a glass of wine, by their pricing strategy.

My wife started with the maple glazed pork ribs appetizer with a ramakin of mac & cheese. Nice pull to the meat without being at all tough and the mac & cheese was also rich, creamy and addictive with a browned top of bread crumbs. Our 20 year old son who came with us wanted to split the chili cheese fries with me (poutine, ox-tail gravy, Vermont cheddar cheese over fries). This was also delicious if a little bit salty (in a good way for the most part) and we practically mopped up the last bits of gravy with our forks to get every last, bit of the ox-tail gravy left on the plate.

Wife had the flat iron steak with bearnaise sauce, sunchokes, caramelized onion and artichoke sauce. Our son chose the pork chop with grainy mustard, apple, farro and cipollini onions. Finally I had their take on fried chicken made with quail. It was a very large portion of quail which had been coated with batter laced with crack (it must of been because it was so damn addictive) and had a maple jus (not so much to be a distraction but just added a hint of sweetness to the dish that really worked) and was sitting on top of grits that reminded me of a cross between grits and risotto - it was so creamy along with some very tender long cooked chard and slab bacon.

The evening ended with an order of the hot cinnamon coated donuts with caramel sauce for my wife and son and I went with the bacon chocolate crunch bar with sauce anglaise. The donuts were wonderful and, while I liked the crunch bar I think I would go for the tres leches, dulce de leche dessert the next time.

With 3 coffee's the tab with tax, came to $181 + tip.

Wonderful food and service. This delivered on all counts.

-----
Animal
435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

  1. wutzizname Jul 21, 2009 02:18 PM

    I've got a very specific question...wondering if anyone has some first hand knowledge...

    I've got a gluten-free friend that I'd like to take to Animal, but not sure how much of their daily-changing "no modifications" menu will be open to them. I know on the surface one might suspect that this meat-centric spot would be a good choice, but the truth is that menu descriptions often don't tell the whole story...as even meat dishes are regularly drenched in flour before cooking, etc.

    I know I can call and ask, but thought I'd see if any gluten-free Chowhounds have been there and what that experience was like? Any sense that they might make very minor modifications (like, hold the croutons) for strict dietary needs? And, assuming not, how much of the menu was cleared for gluten-free takeoff, etc?

    Thanks.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wutzizname
      cinzia Jul 21, 2009 06:03 PM

      I'm not sure about the gluten-free-ness of the menu and while I'm sure they would be happy to tell you those dishes which are gluten-free, given the size of the kitchen, etc., I wouldn't be put off if they adhere to their stated policy.

    2. Servorg Jul 13, 2009 10:43 AM

      We went to Animal again this past Saturday night. Tried a few different things, some of which I got to taste off of my wife's plate and some I didn't off of our son's plate (this was in celebration of his making it all the way to 21 and making us feel really, really old).

      First of all the service was still outstanding. The waiter was great. There whenever we needed him and not at all when we didn't. His interactions with us were funny and sardonic and intelligent (none of it mean spirited) without the smallest whiff of anything off-putting. Just the way I like my waiter/waitress. Water glasses were refilled consistently and plates put to the side were removed promptly.

      For appetizers my son went with the poutine again, (ox-tail gravy, Vermont cheddar cheese over excellent french fries) but this time without it being "shared" with his father. This is a very large portion for one and this time there was more discernible cheddar in the dish - unlike the first time.

      I had the pork belly, kimchi, scallions and chili sauce appetizer. It was excellent with both a nice spicy and acidic note to it. It was also a very large appetizer.

      My wife had the clear winner of the night as far as an appetizer is concerned. She went with the pork belly "slyders" on these unbelievably wonderful brioche buns. These things are killer and the next time we go back I pray that they are still on the menu (and if they are I'm going to get two orders and go right to Cedar's for my quintuple bypass afterward).

      My wife had the the flat iron steak again but this time it was done a little differently. I didn't even get a taste but she seemed to like it (just not as well as the pork belly slyders).

      Our son got the turbot and he inhaled it like his intake was turbo charged. Didn't get even the tiniest bite of this dish and he polished the plate so clean it looked like it had been through a commercial dishwasher - so my thinking is "he liked it" and he said it was good.

      I had the foie gras loco moco with spam, a huge hunk of foie gras and a beautifully cooked (medium rare) burger made with some top flight ground beef and a perfectly cooked sunny side up quail egg perched on top over a plate of maybe faro with a chili sauce on one side. Also addictive and delicious.

      Dessert was one strawberry shortcake biscuit for wife and son and one dulce de leche tres leches cake for me. The strawberry dessert was wonderful, just not very creative/inventive. Very moist biscuit and a nice slew of ripe berries with a dense whipped cream that bordered on the "mitt schlag" type of whipped cream that the Austrian's produce. My cake was so sweet (and I like sweet desserts) that it was a little disconcerting. I think maybe that they put so much of themselves into the savory dishes at Animal that they don't have much left over for the sweet end of things. Just my theory.

      With two soft drinks, one beer and two coffee's the final tab came to $185 - plus tip.

      All in all another excellent, creative and delicious dinner at one of the jewels of the Los Angeles dining scene. If you haven't gone yet I highly recommend you rectify that omission as soon as possible.

      1. aching Jun 12, 2009 04:44 PM

        I'm going on Sunday - I cannot wait!!!

        1. mpken Jun 11, 2009 12:50 AM

          Tonight we ventured back to Animal for meal #2. Arrived around 8 pm and sat at the bar since we came in sans reservation. Started with a tasting of a few reds before settling on a 2007 Chinon (#34 on the menu). On to the food...

          > Asparagus, poached farm egg, grana, pancetta - better than the baby broccoli we had the last time. nice to have one more asparagus at the end of the season.
          > Amberjack, nectarine, jalapeno, citrus, mint - best appetizer of the night. perfect balance of fish, fruit, and dressing. great mouth feel.
          > Poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar - much better than the first time. Better salt control this time around and the cheddar had more presence.
          > foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy - WOW. wonderful contrast of maple vs the savory sausage gravy, the relatively dry biscuit vs the creamy richichness of the foie, best foie gras dish I've had in a long time. only up unitil we had tne next dish.
          > foie gras loco moco, quail egg, spam, hamburger - this was mind blowing if you've had loco moco before. who would have thought about morphing a loco moco with foie gras and slip a slice of spam in there at the same time. The use of broken rice was an interesting touch. The gravy was perfectly sweet and savory. I only wished there were 2 or 3 fried quail eggs on there. Biggest piece of liver I've ever been served. A definite must try. Sold out by the time we left.

          Looking forward to our next meal at Animal. Might finally try the pork belly with kimchi and maybe the pork ears.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mpken
            Servorg Jun 11, 2009 05:13 AM

            Thanks for returning with your second write up, Ken. We are probably going again soon and I'll post if that happens. I know that I'd be crazy to pass up the loco moco (g). Did you enjoy sitting at the bar for your meal?

            1. re: Servorg
              mpken Jun 11, 2009 09:02 AM

              we sat at the far left side of the bar and really enjoyed our meal. soloman, the bar tender, took good care of us with some wine samplings which you would not easily get if seated at a table(!!HUGE PLUS!!). I would definitely recommend a couple without a reservation to take advantage of seating availability at the bar. It was nice looking through the pass through to the kitchen to watch them plating.

              I heartily recommend foie gras biscuit and loco moco. my chest is hurting thinking about these two dishes.

          2. Rodeline May 3, 2009 09:00 AM

            After reading about the food at Animal. I too finally got to taste it all last night. There were five of us and we ordered 8 appetizers and 2 entrees, 3 desserts and shared. The best dish for us was the barbecue pork belly sandwich. And tied for second, were the pork belly with kimchi, and oxtail gravy fries. The best dessert was the dulce de leche tres leches cake...very moist...probably the best I've had.
            I loved Animal and will definitely come back next time to try the quail fry and ribs.

            1. h
              hboy May 1, 2009 09:55 PM

              Finally made it here after wanting to try for the longest time...had the poutine, which was pretty amazing as everyone here attests to - BUT that foie gras biscuits and gravy was out of this world amazing, just a salty, sweet, rich bite of awesomeness that I will certainly go back to have again (or maybe just go back for the foie gras mono loco entree)

              wife had the flatiron steak and i had a rabbit entree that was on special, with chanterelles and fava beans...both were really outstanding, and what i think sets this place apart is the sauces they're making there - rich, salty, delicious juiciness that you want to sop up and not leave any on your plate

              can't wait to go back and have the quail too...maybe the wine list is a little pricey but overall i felt like i got what i paid for for sure, highly recommended!!

              1. p
                pudd Mar 2, 2009 12:30 PM

                Went last night for a friends birthday and was really looking forward to it. There were 3 of us and we ordered the crispy hominy, kimchi pork belly, grilled baby broccoli. and the melted petite basque for apps. I found the kimchi and broccoli a little bland, more vinegar than actual flavor. The petite basque and hominy were pretty addictive. For our entrees we had the flat iron steak with king crab, quail, and a half a rack of the ribs. They all tasted good but I was expecting something a little more memorable. It was good when I was eating it, but I don't think I would go back for anything more than the apps and the desert. The Tres Leche cake was the best I've ever had and has probably ruined me for all others. We spent $170 + $30 for a tip, and only had 3 beers and a Coke. With those kind of prices I guess I wanted something I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about.

                1. rednyellow Feb 23, 2009 08:52 PM

                  Nice. I love Animal. It's a dangerously short walk from home too.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: rednyellow
                    mpken Feb 27, 2009 10:57 PM

                    That's better so you can drink more wine and not get a DUI. So lucky.

                    1. re: mpken
                      p
                      pudd Mar 1, 2009 03:44 PM

                      I'm going tonight I can't wait. Is there a dress code? Can I get away with jeans and a t-shirt?

                      1. re: pudd
                        Servorg Mar 1, 2009 04:16 PM

                        No dress code. Wear whatever your comfortable in. Jeans and a black tee shirt will fit right in as far as looking like a neighborhood uniform.

                  2. Foodandwine Feb 23, 2009 04:31 PM

                    Servog.. Nice write up. I have never thought about this place until you just reminded me.. This is soo much better than C and P ( you know what I mean!!) Glad that you had enjoyed your meal.. Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar.. sounds over the top..

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Foodandwine
                      t
                      Tony Feb 23, 2009 08:11 PM

                      My wife and I went to Animal for the first time a few weeks ago and had a fantastic meal there.

                      We had the pork belly with kimchi which was great. Also had the foie gras, biscuit with maple gravy laced with a bit of crack as well. So good!!! Also had the flat iron steak with foie gras sauce, mashed potato, and roasted cipollini onions. Perfectly cooked steak. Finished the meal with the tres leches which was good but not fantastic.

                      All in all a great meal. These guys aren't messing around at Animal. Seriously good food that is bold and full of flavor. Not a delicate type of meal.

                      Here is our blog on it if you would like to take a look at some of the pictures.

                      http://www.tnt-adventures.blogspot.com/

                      1. re: Tony
                        mpken Feb 25, 2009 11:39 PM

                        The pork belly and foie biscuit are definite "go to" items the next time we go. Looking forward to the "crack laced" gravy.

                    2. mollyomormon Feb 23, 2009 04:14 PM

                      I'm also glad you liked it. That quail is amazing. Definitely try the pork belly when you head back...

                      1. Ciao Bob Feb 23, 2009 12:46 PM

                        Great write-up!
                        I LOVE ANIMAL.
                        The quail fry is so yummy and that Poutine. I must say the last time there, I had the pork chop for the first time and I found it to be smallish and dried-out ,but that is a major aberation from my usual experience there.

                        1. e
                          exilekiss Feb 23, 2009 07:04 AM

                          Thanks for the review Servorg. :) I can't wait to go. My friend is going to freak out when they hear about the Poutine with Ox-Tail Gravy. :)

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: exilekiss
                            Servorg Feb 23, 2009 07:14 AM

                            They have a lot of very interesting appetizers. Because my son wanted to share the poutine I didn't end up ordering the foie gras appetizer which sounded wonderful (or for that matter the pork belly appetizer which also caught my eye) and which the waiter said was a huge piece of foie gras. Next time!

                            I, of course, look forward to reading your report and seeing your photos. I did notice one Asian couple taking snaps of all their food with their camera phones but I didn't have a chance to ask them if they were going to be blogging about their meal (or if they happened to be hounds).

                            1. re: Servorg
                              mpken Feb 23, 2009 08:18 PM

                              Nice write up Servorg.

                              Ha ha! That was me and my wife snapping pictures with our phones last night. Hope it didn't disturb you, or the others, since I thought it was kind of annoying seeing my phone flash during the meal. We forgot to bring our regular camera, so we had to make do with our crappy phone images. We have small a collection of bad pictures of some our nicest meals(alinea). We don't blog about our meals and there are so many wonderful bloggers out there that do such a bang up job. We just use the images to share with friends and commemorate special occasion meals. Since you brought it up, here's what we had and yes we ordered way too much food...

                              crispy hominy lime (pictured)
                              melted petite basque, chorizo, toasted bread
                              grilled baby broccoli & chicory, poached egg, grana, pancetta vinaigrette
                              poutine, ox-tail gravy, vermont cheddar (pictured)
                              balsamic pork ribs, baked beans and elbows (pictured)
                              flat iron, béarnaise, sunchoke, caramelized onion, artichoke (pictured)
                              bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p anglaise
                              blueberry brown butter tart, yuzu whipped cream

                              The crispy hominy was lightly battered and deep fried with lime wedges on the side. Nice texture with the crispy outer and soft inner. Some were fried to a crisp, but tasty nonetheless. The one was kind of on the salty side. Can't say they under season here.

                              I really enjoyed the melted petite basque and would easily order that again. Cheese melted over slices of chrizo and caramelized onions, served with sides of grilled/toasted bread. I'm a sucker for good cured meats, cheese, and bread.

                              Grilled broccolli was a pretty healthy helping peppered with bits of bacon, grana pandana, and a poached egg that was a bit overcooked. This would make a great side dish to go along with all the meat.

                              I was really looking forward to the poutine for my main dish, but was getting quite full on the apps. Nice shreds of slow cooked ox-tail in a light sauce over frites/fries. Didn't pick up much on the cheese as it was all melted and collected on the bottom of the plate. I agree that the dish was salty, almost to a fault. We told our waitress this after the meal and she said that it happens sometimes and would relay that to the kitchen. Can't wait to eat the leftovers of this dish tonight.

                              Ribs were fall of the bone tender, but didn't have that smokey punch expect from a 10 hour smoked piece of meat. the glaze was subtle and nicely complemented the meat without being overpowering. This was tasty meat candy all the way.

                              Flatiron steak was spot on medium rare and the entire dish was well prepared. Loved the fingerling potatoes that came with.

                              No way did we finish all our dishes and even though we were too full for dessert, we opted for the bacon chocolate crunch bar and blueberry brown butter tart anyways. Maybe we needed to save room for desert as we felt the desserts were meh. We felt the blueberry brown butter tart with yuzu whipped cream was much better than the bacon choco crunch bar.

                              The $7 glass of house red was easy drinking and good to the last sip. $113 + tip was not bad considering how many dishes we had. The help was friendly and attentive. Our water glasses were never empty, which I consider a huge plus and a good indicator of the effort the staff makes to please the clientele. We can't wait to drag our hound friends back to Animal. Ordering starters only would make a wonderful communal meal. Animal is choice spot for a good casual meal.

                              ok, back to my lurking ways

                               
                              1. re: mpken
                                Servorg Feb 24, 2009 03:51 AM

                                Hi Ken. Pretty funny. Only once did the flash draw my attention, when your SO was standing up I think. Otherwise it was hardly noticeable. Your comment about the poutine and the cheese melting down was a point I wanted to make and completely forgot about - so thanks for making up for my spotty memory. I also was going to talk about the water glass refill being spot on. I noticed you brown leftovers bag on the table. How did the leftovers taste the next day?

                                It's always nice to read another posters take on the same place on the same night - so I am glad you "uncloaked" long enough to post.

                                1. re: Servorg
                                  mpken Feb 25, 2009 11:36 PM

                                  Left overs report:

                                  Poutine the next day - pretty good and not as salty tasting. Maybe it was the smaller portion that did it. Cheese was still melted on the bottom of the plate, but was easily picked up with each bite. While the fries weren't crisp, they did hold up very well considering. Ironically, I had In-N-Out animal style fries before coming home from work.

                                  Ribs - super rich when cold. Sort of like eating chinese cha-siu, but with a marbled, non gristly, tender cut of pork. Only got a couple of bites before the SO finished that one off.

                                  All that is left is some crispy hominy that I'm sure will be gone tomorrow.

                                  OT - Received my package prosciutto, lardo, and pancetta from La Quercia today and can't wait to break out the slicer to sample tomorrow night. It's been a pretty good week so far.

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