Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I had a great experience at the brand new Animal on Fairfax the other night. It is not called Animal for nothing - the menu is filled with pork belly, sweetbreads, quail, rabbit, chorizo, steak - and don't forget the chocolate crunch bar with bacon bits. It is noted on the menu that "changes and modifications are politely declined," followed by a contradictory "please notify us of any food allergies." Allergic to meat? Skip this and read my last three posts.

Chef-owners Vinny Dotolo and John Shook, along with sommelier Eric are in their twenties - still young enough to read the tiny font on the wine list without extra light and magnification. Now all you Boomers out there know what to bring.

The decor is bare bones modern. Stark while walls with bare light bulbs as sconces, and a small bar in the back. Check out the ladies restroom. It has tile walls, lots of mirrors, and is scented with flowers - totally out of line with the rest of the place. It is comfortable, but gets very loud when it fills up. Service was polite and attentive. They were there when you needed them, and not when you didn't. Everyone seemed pretty relaxed and cool, especially for such a new restaurant.

Of the eight appetizers, we chose the "burrata, beet and green olive caponata" ($10). Just about anything with burrata is terrific, and this was no exception.

The "country pork ribs, balsamic, giarderneria" ($15) was nice too. I liked the fatty, sweet-salty ribs, but not the pickled vegetables "giarderneria," which apparently is the same stuff you see arrainged in those giant decorative glass jars. I always thought those looked disgusting, but luckily these vegetables tasted better than they look.

The highlight of our appetizers was the "melted petite basque, garlic bread, fra 'mani chorizo" ($9). A bubbly queso fundido, of leeks, chorizo and cheese, this was devowered right away.

I had the best entree at our table. "Flat iron steak, bordelaise, potato, fava, sweetbreads ($23)" I only ordered it for the sweetbreads, which were a disappointingly small amout - 3 nuggets. But, once I started on the corn (didn't see any fava beans) and potatoes smothered in a rich bordelaise sauce, I forgot about my ever present desire for sweetbreads.

My friends dishes looked almost identical. Frank had the "quail fry, anson mills grits, long cooked chard, slab bacon ($23)" while Heather had the appetizer of "soft shell crab, pork belly chili soy ($18)." Both were a pile of deep fried, extra crispy meat on pork. I liked them, but my friends were a tad underwhelmed. They thought both dishes were undersalted and oversauced. I did request salt for my steak, then I gladly ate every single bit on my plate.

All the wines on the list are available by the glass, carafe, or bottle (except for the wines on the reserve list, which is yours for the asking), and they have a good "animal house wine" at only $20 a bottle. A casual, lively atmosphere, ambitious and creative menu, very reasonably priced meals and wines, Animal is worth checking out. Don't bring you vegetarian friends, or even the picky ones.

You cannot leave without (what I am sure will become) their signature dessert. "bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p anglaise ($8)." It was three slices of what seemed to be (at this point, the place was so loud, and I had had a couple glasses of wine, I couldn't hear what Eric was telling me about the dessert) a gianduja chocolate terrine, with real bacon bits. I have always enjoyed savory-sweet combos: fries and ice cream, membrillo and blue cheese, etc. This is the ultimate.

435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036


mattatouille said...

nice review, I wanted to go here last sunday but my friends opted to go somewhere else. looks like a place I must try in the near future, thanks.

Pace Webb said...

Hey Bree! So glad you came last night. Looks like we have a lot of interests in common. I've worked with the Animal guys- good food. And I also lived in Rome for about a year going to John Cabot. Thanks again for coming and I'll look forward to our next culinary adventure!