Being obsessed with kale and tofu and whatever the hell veganism is, Los Angeles seems like an unlikely place for the meat mecca that is Animal restaurant, but people are glad it exists. The inventive, bold, always-flavorful menu earned Animal a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence.
Opened by chefs-and-restaurateurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Animal is another in their long line of gastronomical successes, including Son of a Gun, Jon & Vinny’s, and Trois Familia just to name a few. The two men met in culinary school in Florida and eventually found themselves on the West Coast, feeding the grateful carnivorous Angeleno population. Animal is small, seating for only about 40 guests at a time, and is in keeping with their minimalist design scheme, which keeps your attention fully on the meal. Not that you could really be distracted from it.
The cuts offered at Animal aren’t your regular fare, so this is a place for only gluttonous adventurers. Take their “Mongolian” sweetbreads, served with Shiitake mushrooms, scallions and Kochukaru, a hot Korean spice. Sweetbreads, if you’re not familiar, are somewhat sweet but are assuredly not bread. It’s the thymus gland and pancreas of, traditionally, lamb or veal. Speaking of veal, they offer veal tongue served with salmon roe and black mustard. Not exciting enough for you? Go for the Veal Brains, served with Indian spices and apricot puree. There’s even a pig’s head– yes, you read that correctly: they serve their twist on the classic British dish, Pig’s Head Terrine. They have a pig’s ear if you’re not ready for the whole hog (head). Their roasted bone marrow is served with healthy dollops of chimichurri sauce, which really livens it up. Other animals that make an appearance on the dinner menu include rabbit, Albacore Tuna, pork ribs, a richly smoked turkey leg, and a bone-in Ribeye, swimming in bone marrow butter. You really haven’t had butter until you’ve had bone marrow butter.
The meat heaven also offers brunch, and it’s no doubt the most exciting brunch menu you’ll come across. Still featuring heavily on meat, Animal offers interesting twists on classics. Their Pastrami Reuben Benedict makes for a very happy mid-morning meal. If you’re looking for less breakfast and more lunch, go for their Barbeque Pork Belly sandwiches.
Let’s not forget the supporting dishes because Animal certainly hasn’t. Make sure to order the Poutine, which is made with oxtail gravy and topped with cheddar. And if you’ve still got room after your meal, order the Tres Leches cake, which is so light and creamy and simple, it’ll blow your mind.