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Jul 11, 2010 07:46 AM

Review: ANIMAL

A long time coming, I finally made it to ANIMAL tonight. Based on chowhound reviews, media coverage, overall hype, I have to say this was a restaurant that met expectations -- did not exceed, nor did it disappoint, by any means. The dishes were exactly how I envisioned and expected them to be....for the most part...

Food: B+ (dinner mates would rate it higher)
Value: B+
Service: B (a bit disinterested and overwhelmed)
Would I go back?: Sure
Atmo: B+ (bit loud, but considering the size of place, I did not feel tables were right on top of each other)
Full Menu:

Wine: Syrah Copain 2007 $45 B+ very nice bottle

We had around 10 dishes between the four of us:

Chicken Liver Toast $3 C-
I actually found this unedible, though my tablemates loved the chicken liver...the problem I had was the chicken liver was simply overpowering. Digging for a compliment, twice I said the one I made recently was better, but was received with silence from friends. I did like the carmelized onions on top.

Marrow bone, chimichurri, carmelized onions $9 C+
I am a big Marrow bone fan, but the chimuchurri sauce was just too tart. I think I like the bone cut vertical, but I haven't it enough this way to make a final decision.

Pig Ear, chili, lime, fried egg $11 C+
I was really looking forward to trying this after having Lazy Ox's amazing fried pig ears ( Unfortunately, this version lacked the succulence and crispness of Lazy Ox's pig ears. These felt smaller, and the lime / chili which it was already bathed in made it slightly soggy - made even more soggy by the fried egg with yolk oozing out. Once again, my friends - who also dined at Lazy Ox with me -- strong disagreed.

BBQ Pork Belly Sawndwich, slaw 2 for $12 B+
The sandwiches on a mini brioche were very good with the pork staying nice and crisp under the bbq sauce and cole thing Animal gets very right is their bread (though none was on table at beginning) - all perfectly toasted with correct chew.

Lamb meatballs, gold rice, green garbanzos, creme fraiche $12 B+
Solid moist meatball full of gamy lamb flavor

open faced soft shll crab sandwich, rooster aioli $14 A
One of my favorites of the night -- the creamy slaw on the BBQ pork sandwich makes a return. The bread (like a sourdough, but it had a hint of sweetness), that sat below the crab and slaw, was again perfectly toasted and not soggy given the top coat. Crab was very good.

quail fry, grits, chard, slab bacon, maple jus $15 B+
nicely crisped quail bathing in nice maple sauce...small portion

foie gras, biscuit, maple suasage gravy, $22 A-
This dish truly represented, my overall feelings on Animal -- if anyone who has read chow reviews or press coverage on the place -- knows that one of their specialities is this dish. And quite simply, if you can visual foods taste like I like to do -- this dish is EXACTLY what one would expect (though not necessarily exceed)...each component was very strong: foie gras good quaility, Biscuit perfect, and maple sausage gravy sweet and savory. Price point was a bit high for one biscuit, foie and gravy.

crispy rabbit legs, peas, purslance, benton's bacon, meye lemon aioli $26 B+
nice dish -- but you can't help having that visual of a rabbit in your 5th grade class. I don't care how many times I eat rabbit -- it always lingers...and don't deny it yourself.

pound cake, macerated strawberries cream $7 B+

bacon chocolate crunch bar $7 B+

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  1. Very nice review. I think there is nothing harder to do than have a restaurant that has been raved about by so many posters here (and outside reviewers too) live up to ones expectations. So that just means one thing to me - Animal continues to operate at the very highest levels of delicious and creative dining.

    My only quibble (two very, very small ones) would be to elevate the grade for the pork belly slyders to an A- or even an A and to lower the bacon chocolate crunch bar to a C+ at best. Otherwise your findings mirror mine.

    Sorry to hear that the service was a bit on the disinterested side. Ours has always been top notch, (from hostess to bus people right on through to the wait staff).

    It's a fun place and we are still trying to get back for a 4th visit. Hopefully, sooner rather than later.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Servorg

      The pork belly was a B+ because I felt that while the BBQ sauce, bun, and outside of pork belly were all very good -- once you bit into the pork belly - the temp didn't quite when you bit in (kind of lukewarm fatty) so I couldn't give in the As

      Bacon choclate crunch bar was given a B+, because after eating the fad of choclate related bacon products as of late, I felt this exceeded recent choco-baco combos.

      I do have to say -- so thanks for reminding me - the hostess was very nice, we were sat immediately, and the reservation hostess was cool as well. Just the waitress seemed busy / something on her mind.

    2. I was there a couple of weeks ago. Common dishes were the marrow, pig ear, pork belly, meatballs, and desserts. (I didn't try the foie gras; I kinda overloaded on foie a few months back at Bistro LQ, plus I don't think most of my friends eat it.)

      The marrow was tough for me to rate; there were things I really liked about it, but there were things about Mozza's preparation I prefer as well. I can see how the chimichurri could be considered too tart, but I didn't mind so much - it really cut through the fattiness/oiliness.

      I didn't find the pig ear soggy at all, and I liked that dish a lot. In fact, I thought it was one of the best dishes I had. I more or less agree with you on the other two savory dishes, or perhaps I'd knock the meatballs down to a B - the rice didn't add much, and the lamb could have been gamier. The pork belly sandwiches were really good, but they don't compare to the grilled chashu at Horon.

      I loved the pound cake - the strawberries were incredible - except that it got kinda soggy very quickly from the strawberry liquid. The bacon chocolate crunch bar didn't impress, but I blame that more on me thinking the bacon/chocolate combo in general does not deserve the hype it gets (same for Nickel Diner's bacon maple donut, BTW). I'd probably give it a C or C+.

      My favorite dishes that night were probably the hamachi tostada and petit Basque; least favorite were the rabbit loin (rabbit had little flavor, and was overwhelmed by the ham) and, as mentioned in another thread, the poutine (gravy somewhat lacking in flavor, aside from salt). But I didn't think anything I had was bad, and service was excellent all around. I would gladly go there again.

      Photos, if anyone is interested:

      11 Replies
      1. re: mrhooks

        The soft shell crab sandwich would be elevated if they had more kick in the Rooster aioli which uses Siracha. I was looking for some more heat in the dish but the crab was expertly fried. Just fantastic.

        The hamachi tostada is not to be missed while it's on the menu.

        I am also a huge advocate of any pasta or pasta related dishes at Animal. Two of my favorite dishes here are the gnocchi bolognese and the cavatelli pomodoro with ricotta which is on the menu as of last Friday when I went. The cavatelli is a perfect bite of pasta - a little al dente with some chewiness. The pomodoro sauce is very thick with some big chunks of tomato. The two ways to attack the dish are to take a piece of cold ricotta and portion if off on every bite. My favorite way to attack the dish is to mush the cheese with the tomato and create a vodka type of colored thick sauce. It's a very fresh well rounded dish. I could eat either of these pasta dishes every day of my life.

        1. re: js76wisco

          I have read all of the reviews of Animal. Really!
          I appreciate the enthusiasm generated by those who post..Having read all of those reviews talking to friends, I have to say that the food which is described, post after post, is a serious turn-off. Fois gras and maple syrup? Pigs ears with lime? Hell no! Just saying..not for me. OTOH, I am also one who eschews restaurants which use cilantro with a heavy hand.
          We're all different and that is the beauty of this forum

          1. re: maudies5

            It's more than a little ironic that you replied as you did to a post which raved about dining at Animal, and which featured NOT even ONE of the dishes that make you say "Hell no!" ;-D>

            1. re: Servorg

              Sorry, replied to wrong post. Meant to reply to Radman123.

              1. re: maudies5

                I was simply pointing out that you could try Animal and yet avoid all of the dishes you seem to have a preconceived aversion to. Just look at the things js76 ate. I haven't had one of them in 3 visits. I could see trying all of them on our 4th visit. Did your son and his wife say what they disliked (did they happen to post about it?) specifically? I'd be interested in a little more detail to get some idea of their tastes. If you are a dedicated health food eater I imagine that Animal could be a very difficult place to come away feeling good about your choices (as a for instance).

            2. re: maudies5

              Definitely different strokes. I picked up food this weekend from the Larder at Tavern, which I know you love, and sadly, none of it was tasty. For $15, I got an incredibly tiny portion of three of the prepared salads, each of which was so oily that I took one bite of each and they're still sitting in my fridge. The blueberry boule, however, was great. I so want to like it there, but I just find it so overpriced and unsatisfying. Contrast that with Animal, where I've never had a disappointing dish. I really do suggest trying Animal before you pan it. There's a reason it gets almost overwhelmingly positive reviews.

              1. re: mollyomormon

                MollyO, we have to talk. I love the restaurant, Tavern. I love certain sandwiches in the Larder. I do not like the prepared salads; never buy them. They keep presenting the same salads over and over. I would like to see more variety. On the days that they have the special tuna salad or egg salad, those are really good.I completely agree that those prepared salads are not worth buying. Also, get there before 2:30 and sandwiches will be made to order, and they are much better than the ones prepared and sitting in the fridge.
                My recent great discovery at Tavern/Larder is that they have a BREAD SLICER. Yes, MollyO, you can have that divine blueberry boule sliced to perfection. I have been chowing down on the olive bread for the last few days. Have to say that part of my reticence re: Animal is that my son and DIL recently went there and hated it and we tend to be on the same page; they are foodies and love Lazy Ox. Damn, I wish I could figure out how to do e-mail here.:(

                1. re: maudies5

                  I just added my email address to my profile if you want to email me privately. That's actually great to know about the prepared salads vs. sandwiches at the Larder. I'll go back and try one the next time I go back for that blueberry bread, which is really amazing with some ham, mustard and avocado. For prepared salads, I'm sticking with Clementine and Huckleberry, with an edge to Huckleberry!

                  1. re: mollyomormon

                    The only places I buy prepared salads are Huckleberry and Clementine.
                    Agree that Huckleberry has the edge.
                    Will definitely e-mail you privately later today.

              2. re: maudies5

                It's foie gras with maple sausage gravy, not maple syrup. I didn't have it, but I'm guessing either maple syrup is just one small flavor component of the sausage, or the sausage was smoked with maple wood chips, and there is no syrup in the dish...?

                Is your dislike for pig ear with lime because you've had a similar dish before, or is it just a preconception, like the way some people automatically react to organ meats?

                1. re: mrhooks

                  I dream about their Pig's Ear dish...

          2. Right on about those rabbit images in 5th grade.:)

            1. I wasn't brave enough to start my own topic so I'm happy to chime in here. We went 3 weeks ago for our anniversary. I'm not a big fan of offal but there were plenty of things that appealed to me. This is the first restaurant that I've been to in a while that I find myself daydreaming about. I give the them an A+ for value. For a hip place, the service was warm and friendly-Actually, even for a not hip place. I got a kick out of the different servers reactions to what we ordered. The people who work there actually love the food and it is not for show. I won't go into agonizing detail but we had the BBQ pork belly sandwiches, foie gras with biscuit & maple sausage gravy, carrot salad-actually I ordered all 3 of these items for me and my husband ordered the flat iron steak, asparagus hash, truffle parmesan fondue dinner entree. Needless to say, Hubby partook of all that I ordered so I was obliged to eat some of his. OMG! Everything was delicious. Oh yes, we did share the bacon chocolate crunch bar. I want to go back. I could eat the exact same thing again although I know I should try atleast 1 new item. Also, this is one of the first places I have ever been (as a life long Angelino) where the water tastes GOOD. I asked about it. They triple filter-whatever that means.

              1. The Rabbit legs were one of my all time favorite dishes. I think the preparation was slightly different, with something like a radish creme fraiche pared with the crispy rabbit legs. I am amoral about cute animals. I for one would love to see more rabbit as well as pigeon on menu's (not just baby squab).

                Also worth mentioning is the Hamachi Tostada which is incredible and really flavorful and has great texture.

                1 Reply
                1. re: AAQjr

                  That hamachi tostada was probably my favorite dish of the night during my last visit. such a fantastic dish.