435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 7/7/13
Even though it’s been open for just over five years now, Animal still seems to be one of the more talked-about and popular restaurants in the city. It’s amazing that it’s evolved to stay current throughout this time, when it seems like dining trends change so quickly. Part of this popularity is what’s kept me from returning as often as I’d like. I feel as if getting a reservation is still not very easy (unless you’re willing to eat early or late), as a result it’s been some time since I dined at the restaurant. My last experience was at the Christopher Kostow (Meadowood) collaborative dinner at Animal in January; the Dotolo & Shook pair really impressed me with their level of refined cooking, trading punches with the 3-star chef. A return to the ‘regular’ restaurant was long overdue – an early birthday dinner was the impetus for the return (stay tuned for subsequent birthday dinners: Hinoki & The Bird, Wolvesmouth, Baco Mercat).
spicy beef tendon chip, charred onion pho dip
The meal started with these crispy chips. I’m not sure how a cow’s tendon puffs up like this, but it reminded me of Asian shrimp chips I ate growing up. These crunchy chips, well-seasoned, were fun and tasty on their own. However, the charred onion dip was a difference-maker, adding a ton of flavor that really exuded the traditional noodle dish.
pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg
This has to be one of the more notable Animal dishes, being a mainstay on the menu for as long as I remember. The slightly crispy, slightly chewy fried ear was complemented by the lime’s fresh acidity and a bit of heat. The richness of the runny egg yolk helped to really bring it all together.
shrimp & rabbit sausage spring roll, mizuna, green curry
These rolls were expectantly crispy on the outside, with a primarily shrimp flavor on the inside. A mild curry sauce was a nice accompaniment, as was the bitter bite of the mizuna greens.
poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar
Another of the restaurant’s “legendary” dishes, the poutine was as good as I remembered it. Crispy fries were smothered in the rich, almost sticky, gravy with tender chunks of oxtail throughout. The restaurant does a good job of getting these french fries really crispy, so that they really hold up to the gravy. Melted cheese added to the unctuousness. Really, you can’t go wrong with this mixture of ingredients.
sweetbread “karaage,” smoky eggplant, miso, green plum, cucumber
This colorful dish was inspired by Japanese fried chicken; though instead of chicken, we had sweetbreads. The sweetbreads were fried to a crisp, while still tender and moist. Cool crisp cucumbers and plums provided additional texture and sweetness to pair with the fried glands.
balsamic pork ribs, grilled heirloom squash, yuzu, green chili
The last savory dish we ordered featured tender pork ribs in a sweet glaze. I really enjoyed the crisp edges…I think these were finished in the deep fryer to give it that texture. Cold slices of squash were a true summertime accompaniment.
blueberry, frozen brown butter crumble, yogurt, bay leaf ice cream
Slightly tart, slightly sweet flavors came through in this lone dessert. The frozen brown butter crumble was my favorite part, as was the slightly herbaceous flavor of the ice cream.
Animal was as good as expected, showing off many of the bold flavors it’s become known for; however, the cooking still shows a lot of restraint and balance. I’m not sure if it was just due to what we ordered, but the meal demonstrated a wide variety of Asian influences, done well. I thoroughly enjoyed just about every dish in this meal, but highlights would have to be the fried beef tendon chips, pig ear, and spring rolls. Having said that, I think one would have a hard time going wrong ordering anything here.