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8th August
written by spd

The minimalist dining room at Animal (img: Food + Wine)

In a town obsessed with light fare, David and I indulged in a caloric feast that made me scratch my head and wonder ‘how are we not in New York?’  Animal, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s Fairfax forty-five seater, has managed to create quite a stir in its first thirteen months.  Certainly, critics of its carne-centric cuisine have surfaced,  but most deem their efforts extraordinary.  Among their fans: Food +Wine, which included the tattooed duo on 2009’s short list of Best New Chefs.  Their first restaurant venture, Animal is the sole Los Angeles representative, and deservedly so.  Gail Simmons of F+W was sitting with her girlfriends two tables over, so you know their recommendation is a sincere one!

We decided to go tapas-style, as their list of small plates is irresistible.  We began with one of the few vegetarian options, a beautiful Heirloom Tomato Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette and a medley of herbs, including mint and Italian parsley.  This was a lovely prelude to our carnivorous feast.  What followed was a Braised, Deep Fried Pig Ear with Siracha Chili, Lime and a Fried Egg.  As heavy as it sounds, it managed to feel quite light, with a hefty amount of acidity to brighten the dish.   It was, perhaps, the most memorable plate of the evening. Then came the easiest sell of all: lightly fried Sweetbreads over Creamed Spinach with Capers and Hen of the Woods.  I love sweetbreads; spinach is my favorite superfood; salty capers are a go-to place for me in the kitchen; and –  as I’ve mentioned here before – hen of the woods mushrooms top my fungi list!  I loved the dish.  At first bite, I found the capers to be overwhelming, but when paired with a larger scoop of the creamed spinach, the dish was actually quite balanced.

Foie Gras Loco Moco (img: Tasting Table)

Foie Gras Loco Moco (img: Tasting Table)

When it came time to choose an entrée, we agreed to split one of the most ludicrous dishes ever conceived: Foie Gras Loco Moco with a Niman Ranch Burger, Spam, Fried Quail Egg over Anson Mills Gold Rice.  To know that someone had committed the culinary sin of placing a perfectly seared piece of foie gras atop a fried sliver of SPAM… I had to experience it first hand!  I’m happy to report that it’s a well-conceived riff on a Hawaiian classic.  Let’s not pretend for a moment that it hasn’t wreaked havoc on my arteries, but the dish has merit besides the sheer novelty of it.  Finally, we did ourselves in with their infamous dessert, a house-made Chocolate Crunch Bar rolled in finely chopped Crispy Bacon and Salt and Pepper Anglaise.  David thought they could have challenged our palates with more bacon, but I loved that it nudged the tongue ever so slightly at the end of each bite.

I found Shook and Dotolo’s menu to be adventurous, unpretentious, and a great value.  Our five plates, and a carafe of Tempranillo brought the tab to just under $100… I would go again in an instant!

Animal, 435 N. Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, California.  ph. 323-782-9225

1 Comment

  1. John

    Gail Simmons…not a fan