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Animal

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435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 782-9225

Why bury the lead? I had the second best meal of my life at Animal.

There wasn’t a single misstep or a dish that I didn’t love without reservation. The service was prompt, friendly, and not overbearing. The plating was uniformly beautiful. The food was absolutely delicious. Best of all, our table of three shared a completely satisfying amount of food and left for under $30 per person, tip included. I’ve paid much more for much less, and that’s earned Animal a spot on my must-visit list for every future LA trip.

And that’s good, because a few years ago, I made a very serious Animal-related mistake. Look, the backlot tour was long, I planned food poorly, and having not seen a JB’s Big Boy sign in a while, I got excited. A burger and hot fudge cake later, my room to enjoy Animal ended up consisting of one dish and dessert. I regretted it ever since, so having this meal go as well as it did felt like a win.

We ate:

chicken liver toast
pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg
tandoori octopus, tamarind, mango, raita
shrimp & rabbit sausage spring roll, eggplant, sprouts, green curry
chicken fried sweetbreads, finger lime aioli, cumin
flat iron, sunchoke hash, truffle parmesan fondue
bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p ice cream

The chicken liver toast was so tasty that I’d have been up for another order if we didn’t have all the rest of the food already on its way. The bread was hearty, crisp, and delivered the unctuous, meaty payload nicely.

My favorite dish of the night was the tandoori octopus. In fact, it single-handedly changed my opinion of octopus. I’ve enjoyed it prepared many ways in the past, and they all shared one thing, extreme to mild chewiness. I had pretty much assumed that, regardless of the preparation, that was what you got with octopus. I was wrong. The tandoori octopus was so tender that, even once the Indian spices registered, I had a hard time believing it was octopus.

The was my first taste of pig ear, aside from the bit that was likely in a porchetta di testa at Incanto a few years ago. Certainly my first taste of it as the main ingredient, front and center. There was just enough texture in this version to register it as the cartilaginous member that it is, nothing overpowering. Tons of pork flavor with the heat of the chili and acid of the lime playing beautifully together. I enjoyed it so much that when I visited UMAMIcatessan the next day and saw pig ear on the menu, I jumped at the chance.

It’s rare that I order a steak at a nice restaurant. I tend to think of it as a last resort when nothing on the menu appeals. I see it that way because I’ve been to more places that screw steak up than I have ones that do it right, and even when it’s done right, it is only so good. Wrong again. The flatiron steak was beautifully cooked and very tasty on its own, but the addition of that truffle parmesan fondue sent it into the flavor heavens.

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