Animal – Los Angeles (Fairfax Area)

Paul and I recently took a little mini-vacation to Los Angeles.  It was a great time to see the Getty museums, The Walt Disney Concert Hall and Griffin Observatory.  Chef Brian Redzikowski from Kettner Exchange suggested that we have dinner at Animal, one of the restaurants owned by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo.  Some of Shook and Dotolo’s other LA properties include Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny’s and the highly acclaimed Petit Trois.  Some may recognize them from the short-lived Food Network reality show Two Dudes Catering (2007).  This duo started making a name for themselves as caterers to the entertainment industry and culture elite of Los Angeles.

Animal is located at 435 North Fairfax Avenue in an old historically Jewish neighborhood just a few doors down from the LA institution, Canter’s Deli, and the infamous Kibitz Room.  There is no signage in front of Animal to let you know you are there.  It’s that kind of place.  The interior is spartan — bare wood tables, unadorned walls and a tiny open kitchen.

The food here has been described as high-end whole-animal cookery.   The Animal team bring you amazing meat-centric dishes that often include some of the less appreciated or desirable parts of animals (offal).  This is not a place to bring your vegan friends!  The format is small plates that are intended to be shared.  However, I wouldn’t exactly call their portions small by any measure.  Most of the dishes we tried were generous enough for 4 people to get their fair share of deliciousness!

We tried the hamachi tostada (with fish sauce vinaigrette, peanut and avacado).  This was a beautifully balanced dish packed with flavors and wonderfully textured.  The greens and vinaigrette alone would have made a very satisfying salad.  Paul tried the chicken liver toast and enjoyed the creamy paté.  Perhaps my favorite of the night was the melted p’tit basque and chorizo served with grilled bread.  The cheese/sausage combination was spectacular and the caramelized cheese at the edges of the plate was a delicacy I did not want to share!

We also tried two sandwich dishes that were marvelous!  The first was the barbeque (their spelling) pork belly sandwiches served with slaw.  The meat was “melt in your mouth” delicate, the BBQ had a wonderful punch and the slaw balanced the dish out with a coolness and crunch.  This dish is becoming pretty common on restaurant menus and often it is good but not great (it is difficult to ruin pork belly, BBQ sauce and bread), but I really thought this was a stand-out for Animal.

The second sandwich we tried is Animal’s infamous Boner Burger!  This has been described as a “secret menu item” by some writers, but when you have a burger this good, it is hard to keep it a secret.  If you come to Animal and can only order one thing — this is it!  This burger is ground chuck, short ribs and bone marrow served on delicious marble rye bread with jack cheese, caramelized onions, poblano chili and a special condiment they have aptly named “420 Sauce” (perhaps they are competing with Momofuku’s “Crack Pie” for the best addictive food name).  All I can say is that this is one of the best burgers I have eaten (rivaling Kettner Exchange’s DoubleDouble).  It is a perfect drippy mess and you will want to lick the plate when you are done.

I should mention that Animal’s wine list is pretty special too. Sommelier Helen Johannesen has put together an intriguing list of old world wines from mostly small producers.  I enjoyed the Côtes de Provence rosé from Domaine Sainte Lucie. It was a great complement to the hamachi. I loved the earthy funk of the Côtes du Jura from Jean Bourdy à Arlay.  I wish more local restaurants would feature wines from Jura.

I love Animal’s brashness! The menu unapologetically declares, “changes and modifications politely declined”. It is a place that knows exactly what it is — a place that isn’t trying to please everyone.  If you love interesting meats and crave bold aggressive flavors this could become a new favorite restaurant.  I can’t wait to go back!

Animal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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