Andy and I went double dating recently with a pair of our favorite foodists (I hate the word "foodie"), Wes and Chuck of Gumbo Pages fame.
We hit Animal, a happenin', fairly new meat-loving establishment in Hollywood. Among us we ordered and shared six starters, four entrees, three desserts and two bottles of wine (and a partridge in a pear tree...). It's a great way to sample a range flavors. We each got about two bites of every starter, so we were satisfied with our sampling and had a great meal without feeling too stuffed.
As the name of the restaurant suggests, this is NO place for vegetarians.
My favorite dish was the pork belly with kimchi. It's such a logical choice, pairing the tartness of the kimchi with the full-on richness of the pork belly, that I wonder why we haven't been eating it that way all along, that is, when you can actually find pork belly. After all, this IS image-conscious L.A. (Unfortunately, there's no photo of the pork belly. We tried to shoot as much as possible with existing light--and iPod-generated light--and those pix just didn't turn out!)
Animal certainly doesn't shy away from those dishes you seldom find on American tables:
Andy's entree: Foie gras, fried quail egg and spam (!) on a bed of gold rice--how's THIS for running the gamut in one dish, from low-rent to the la-di-da?! It was a surprisingly appealing combination.
My entree: Whole branzino, fennel, olives, tomato and ceci beans with green garlic. Whole fish! Dinner with eyes! C'mon, who doesn't want to have their dinner looking at them while they eat it? This meal comes with a convenient comb--you just have to eat your way to it. Okay, so I'm being a smart ass--the fish was lovely, as were its accompaniments. I especially appreciate the addition of fennel to the plate--I don't see it nearly often enough, unless I'm using it at home.
For dessert: a trio of Joe's doughnuts with caramel: These offered a great combo of soft and crunchy. Really good stuff, but I craved a glass of milk to go with.
Also for dessert: Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar. While it was good, frankly, I prefer my own bacon walnut fudge. Perhaps it's all a matter of using the best, smokiest bacon you can find. Also, with something this rich, you don't want a serving this large. A bite every so often is much more manageable--a serving this large at the end of a rich meal is not. Still, I wouldn't turn it down...
By the time you go to Animal, chances are none of these items will be on the menu, for they specialize in not specializing (except for the animal part). The menu changes weekly, with a few holdovers. Regardless of what's on the menu, whatever you have will be good.
This isn't stuff you'd eat every day, as my pal Lisa reminds me. It's pretty decadent stuff. But for an occasional fun time when you want to do some sinning with your clothes on, this is a great way to do it.