13 08 2009

When I was researching restaurants to go to in Los Angeles I was getting completely overwhelmed, so I turned to my virtual friend, Weezermonkey, for advice. (She exists, we just haven’t met in real life yet.) Weezer suggested Animal and after finishing that meal, I wondered how she could know Matt and my tastes so well through the internets. This meal was fresh, carnal, old-fashioned, spicy, sweet, and inventive. Matt and I ordered four small plates (which were not that small) and were so disappointed at how full we were because we wanted to try more (like the pork belly sandwiches, foie gras, and ribs).

There is so much on this menu. Our waiter took pity on us and gave some suggestions: “Anything with pork,” was his fail safe plan. I hadn’t looked on Weezermonkey’s blog recently, so I had forgotten what she ordered that was so good. In any case, we made our careful selections, and waited.

First to arrive was our bottle of wine (separate review will come later):

Our first course was raw amberjack with nectarines and orange citrus finished off with a yuzu sauce, mint, cilantro, and chili. I think that this dish was made for the term melt in your mouth. The fish was succulent and sweet while the citrus and chili components had a nice bite to them.

We ordered pig ear. My experiences eating cartilage have all been negative–it’s a delicacy in Japan and is often grilled for yakitori–up until now. The pig ear had been slow cooked for hours, banishing any chewy or cartilagy-texture from them. Lightly breaded, tender, a little salty–let me hear you say mmmm.

The fried egg and green onion took this dish to a whole other level.  Hidden around the sides was some red chili sauce that stuck to the roof and back of your mouth and built up until at the end of the dish, you really think you can breath fire.  It wasn’t that eye-watering, nose-running kind of spicy. The spice didn’t escape anywhere–it was there to stay. I loved it. Matt would have loved this dish more without the spice, but it was soon forgotten and by the time we were driving away, he was reminiscing about those tender little ears.

Now, the poutine with oxtail gravy. Matt and I knew all along that this dish was mainly for him, and that’s OK because he had dealt with the cilantro and the spice in the previous dishes.  The traditional cheese curds were replaced with cheddar and the gravy had oxtail that had been slowly braised and resembled pulled pork, only so much better.  I only had a few bites, but I knew that this food was special.  It was so rich and flavorful that Matt couldn’t finish it.

Our final selection was the pork belly with kimchi. This was my favorite dish and it seemed to combine all of the best aspects of the prior dishes we had already eaten. Fresh, crunchy, slightly spicy kimchi; sweet peanuts; tart sauce; and tender but crisp pork belly.  These were not small plates as I know them. These could have been full meals (the size that full meals should be, not what is often expected).

As we lingered over the last of our wine (no dessert; we had a date with Pinkberry), we looked around the restaurant that had become our home for two hours.  A home that cooked hearty and memorable meals.  I hope we can return to this home some day. Thanks, Animal.




4 responses

13 08 2009

Why didn’t you just check her blog on your iPhone, silly?

13 08 2009

I’m so glad you enjoyed Animal! You picked your dishes quite well! The pork belly with kimchi is my fave, too.

And your pic of the amberjack and nectarines? Gorgeous!

17 08 2009

I want to go to there!!

16 01 2010
Leaps and Bounds « Explore and Eat

[…] and breakfast sandwiches and in August our trip to Los Angeles provided a plethora of material and one of the best meals we have ever had. Then it happened: I burnt out. At the end of August I made myself take a break due to extra work […]

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