Animal Vegetarian Dinner with Jeremy Fox - Very Brief Review with Menu
I just returned from the first night of the Animal vegetarian dining menu with Jeremy Fox, formerly chef at Ubuntu in Napa. For those who are not aware, Jeremy Fox is cooking vegetarian all week at Animal. There are vegan options for those who are vegan. It is $70 prix fixe.
I am sorry I cannot give you detailed tasting notes, but let's just put it this way - I opted for the $70 wine pairing and the wine pours were extremely generous, precluding the taking of copious notes!
I adored the food. My two dining companions were less enamored. I suspect the difference is (1) how much of a carnivore you are (I am neither a vegetarian or a vegan, but, on the other hand, I do not crave animal flesh); and (2) how much you adore kaiseki cuisine (I love kaiseki and the dinner was very much in the spirit of kaiseki cuisine).
I have reproduced the menu below, although I am not sure if they are changing the menu nightly. Some of the courses were a bit slow in coming out, which made my dining companions impatient. I was so enamored with the flavors, I didn't care.
There are two wine tasting offerings (you can also order off the regular wine list). The first wine listed below is the one you get if you choose the $70 flight. The second offering is if you choose the $35 flight.
I loved the whole menu, but if I had to pick two standouts, I would say it was the beets and the carrot dish with coconut (and I usually hate coconut). Sadly, the whole dinner just made me realize how awful vegetarian restaurants like Real Food Daily are. The difference between glop and haute cuisine.
lavender sugar, sea salt, olive oil
crunchy 'french breakfast' radishes
soft chevre with nori, black lava salt
2006 Cava Brut Nature, Recaredo, Penedes
NV Brut Champagne, Premier Cru, Marc Hebrart
2X-SHUCKED PEAS IN A CONSOMME OF THE SHELLS
white chocolate, `chocolate' mint, macadamia
2007 Picot Gris, Domain Ostertag, Vin d'Alsace
2008 Silver Halbtrocken, Gysler
'FORONO' BEET BAKED IN A ROSE GERANIUM SALT CRUST
tuerte' avocado, pickled green strawberry, pistachio
2008 Morgon, 'Cote du Py; Jean Foillard
2007Bandol Rose, Chateau Pradeaux, Provence
YOUNG FAVAS, ROASTED WHOLE, THEN SHUCKED
salsa maro of the pods, anchovy "flavor", parmesan
2007 Chablis, Rosette', Alice A Olivier De Moor
- 2008 Macon Fuisse, Domaine G'heveau
HEIRLOOM CARROTS RESCOLDO SYLE, IN ROOT EMBERS
vadouvan spices, coconut labneh, parsnip
2005 Rosso de Veo, Paolo Bea, Umbria
2008 Campagnes, Corbieres
ROAST CELTUCE STALK & FRESH LIPTAUER CHEESE
ruta-kraut, pumpernickel, horseradish mustard
2007Savennieres, `Croix Picot', Chateau deL'Bperonniere
Shoenramer Saphir Bok
SWEET FENNEL & PUFFED WILD RICE KRISPIE
fennel bulb, 'page' mandarin, bronze fennel
Kopke White Port
TOASTED BRIOCHE & SHERRY "CREME BRULEE"
fried cornbread, chocolate ganache, stake
1998 RivesaItes Ainbre, Domaine shitake
1998 RivesaItes Ainbre, Domaine Fontanel, Roussillon
We went this evening. Overall, I thought everything was really tasty and well executed, and they were pretty cheerful about doing vegan modifications, though my stomach says they might not have been completely diligent in this regard. Our waiter said the menu doesn't change, and the above menu was pretty similar to this evening's menu, though there were some changes / modifications, perhaps due to changes in the availability of ingredients.
We did one each of the $35 and $70 wine pairings. I don't usually do wine pairings, but I have to admit that even the wines which I didn't prefer on their own seemed to pair pretty well with the course they went along with. There were a few wines in the more expensive set that we preferred, but overall, the $35 pairings were probably a better value. The pours were generous - I would have preferred pairings that were a little smaller and cheaper.
Overall, everything was excellent, and, in my opinion, well seasoned. There were a few dishes that were almost over the line towards too salty or sweet, but the kitchen managed to keep it right in that sweet spot. I was a big fan of the peas, which tonight seem to have been combined with the fava beans. There was a smoked corn and grits dish, which, even though I'm sad they didn't do a vegan version of the grits, was pretty tasty with just the corn, some citrus, and some herbs / green veg. The Marcona almonds were tasty - maybe a little on the sweet side, but the taste lingered in a very pleasant way.
I've never eaten at Ubuntu, but having read a couple of Jeremy Fox's recipes, and having read descriptions of his cooking, I was worried that some of the food would be overly complicated, but I was impressed at how well the flavors worked together, even in cases where you might think there would be too much going on.
Given Animal's usual stance against substitutions or changes, it was a good chance to get to check out a spot that usually has few or no vegetarian or vegan options.
"...how awful vegetarian restaurants like Real Food Daily are. The difference between glop and haute cuisine."
To be fair, I think RFD has always tried to be restaurant where the food makes you feel good (perhaps even a "healthy" restaurant) first, and a high-end restaurant second. RFD is good for what it is, but haute-cuisine is not what they're striving for (and also, in their defense, even though they're pretty expensive, you'd have a hard time spending $70/person before alcohol there). You will almost always get a better veg**n meal by going to a high-end non-veg restaurant that's willing to accomodate you. I can think of a few high-end vegetarian or mostly-vegetarian places (outside the LA area) that come close (and which are certainly way above the level of RFD), but mostly, the market isn't there on the really high-end side of things.
Real Food Daily
414 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90048
One of my real "beefs" with Real Food Daily is that 98.9 of the dishes have onions in them. This is a particular problem for me because I happen to be allergic, but basically I think it shows a lack of creativity and imagination -- i.e., they can't fathom how you could give a non-meat, non-dairy dish any flavor or taste except for adding onions. It's sloppiness - not cooking. Not a single one of Jeremy Fox's dishes had onions in them and they were all remarkably flavored.
Real Food Daily
414 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90048
I loved that pea dish when it was on the menu at Ubuntu. Your post has me seriously contemplating a visit to my daughter in LA this weekend....