Hoa's birthday at Animal, Los Angeles- 5/17/2014


This year Hoa wanted to celebrate his birthday with Kevin so we flew down to Orange Country for the occasion.   I called one month ahead to make reservation at Animal, a very popular restaurant located in Los Angeles.  Animal has been on my "to-eat list" for quite some time so I am really glad we were able to dine there.

According to Tony Bourdain, Animal is a carnivore-centric restaurant specializing in all those good bits.  Chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are the owners of animal, Son of a Gun and Trois Mec. They have been credited with innovating and changing the dining scene in Los Angeles through their critically acclaimed restaurants. Their initial catering company, Carmelized Productions was a huge success and it paved the way for their own TV show, 2 Dudes catering, on The Food Network.  I happened to see an episode and thought they were creative, young, energetic, and so much fun to watch.   You can see a short video of Jon and Vinny talking about their techniques by clicking on this LINK (wait a few seconds for the video to start).

Animal has no exterior signage, with the chefs preferring to spend the $5000 or so it would take to get a suitable sign on food-related wares.  Valet parking is available and you should use it as it is nearly-impossible-to-find street parking after 6:00p.

This what you see as soon as you walk in the restaurant.

The restaurant is pretty bare to the bone, very minimalist, stark off-white walls, simple beech tables and black simply chair. 

Me with Kristy and Kevin.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is warm, friendly, and casual.

Hoa, Me, Kristie and Kevin

Father and son....

The tables are unadorned: no tablecloths, bread baskets, or bouquets, just knives and forks and paper menus.

The Menu is full of dishes with exotic ingredients and unique combinations.

Hoa talked to our waiter and he recommended a pretty good red.

Each dish is meant to be shared family style so our waiter recommended we order around 6 to 8 dishes among the four of us.

We are ready to eat....

Hamachi tostada, herbs, fish sauce vinaigrette, peanut [$15.00]

This dish is an interesting twist with 3 different origins: 1- Tostada = Mexican, 2- Hamachi= Japanese, Herbs with fish sauce vinaigrette=Vietnamese.

I was so surprised to find out that the shredded cabbage, fried shallots, and toasted peanut they used to top the tostada is the traditional Vietnamese Goi and they also use fish sauce.  It is an odd combination but surprisingly it works well together!  The Hamachi was fresh, the tostada was crispy but the real surprise was that the fish sauce really enhanced the flavor of the dish.

chicken liver toast [$3.00]
This is first thing you see on the menu and it is also the least expensive.   Chicken livers, cooked with butter and thyme, blended and pushed through a fine sieve so they're silky, then smeared on toast. The flavor or the chicken liver is pungent but I like it and best of all, the dish only costs $3.


Veal brain, Vandouvant, apricot puree, carrot [$13.00]

Vandouvan is a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a derivative of Indian curry blend with a French influence (masala with added spices such as shallots and garlic).

Here the brain is lightly coated in flour, fried and drizzled with Vandovan. When you bite into it you get the crispy outer layer, next the brain is silky and smooth almost like cheese and then there is a hint of spice from the Vandouvan that make you wonder... what it is?

  I thought the dish is interesting but  Hoa did not care for the sweetness of the apricot puree.


Barbeque pork belly sandwiches, slaw [$14.00]

Two small sliders that contain the most tender pork belly which literally melt in your mouth. Placed atop the pork belly is a delightful slaw.

The combination is simply sinfully good!  The pork belly was exactly what I expected: having the perfect ration of fat and lean meat that simply melt in my mouth!


Marrow bone, Chimichurri, caramelized onions [$13.00]

Kevin love Bone marrow so we ordered 2 orders just to make sure there is enough marrow to go around for the four of us.

The bone marrow is topped with caramelized onions, an amazing chimichurri (green sauce used for grilled meat from Argentina made with finely-chopped parsley), minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar).  The chimichurri has some acidity and was perfect to counter balance the fat from the bone marrow.

Once you spread the creaminess of the marrow with the vibrant and acidic chimichurri on the garlic butter bread it is simply a party in your mouth.


Poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar [$15.00]

First of all I never heard of Poutine so Kevin told me that when he was in Canada Poutine is a common and very popular Canadian dish, made with French fries, topped with a light brown gravy and cheese curd.   What attract me to this dish is the braised oxtail.


First impression: not very appetizing! It looks like a blob of brown sauce on a plate.  After tasting it I really enjoy it.  The French Fries were crispy, the oxtail fell off the bone and was delicious including the sauce... If you don't at mind the presentation this is actually a comfort dish that is really satisfying specially on a cold day.


Grilled quail, plum char-siu, pear, yogurt, apple [$19.00]

What a pretty presentation..

The quail was grilled to perfection and definitely has an Asian influenced taste.  The vegetables was okay but not memorable but they are sure pretty to look at.


Crispy duck leg, leche de tigre, brown butter, sweet potato [$24.00]



Leche de tigre, or tiger's milk, is the Peruvian term for the citrus-based marinade that cures the seafood in a ceviche. Also known as leche de pantera, this leftover fish runoff usually contains lime juice, sliced onion, chiles, salt, and pepper — along with a bit of fish juice.

This is an excellent dish, the duck leg was crispy, the leche de tigre has nice acidy taste with a hint of fish sauce. 


18 oz rib-eye steak, bone marrow butter, aligot potato, wild ramps [$68.00]

The steak came out with the bone marrow butter on top that is melting nicely over the steak.

Our server recommended that to pour the wild ramps sauce on top of the bone marrow butter.

Ramps is an early spring vegetable, a perennial wild onion with a strong garlic-like odor


Looks good right?

We were so disappointed when we cut the steak only to find out it was over cooked!  We ordered rare and the inside was not even pink.  No problem they replaced it but the 2nd steak was just a bit better and was definitely not rare as we specified.

Aligot potato

Aligot is a dish made from melted cheese blended into mashed potatoes (often with some garlic) that is made in the region of Massif Central of France.  Needless to say the potato was sinfully good, creamy and smooth.

They did not cook our steak properly even the 2nd time so it is definitely not worth the $68.


Tres leches, dulce de leche [$8.00]
Tres leches ("three milk") is a sponge cake that's saturated with three kinds of milk (evaporated milk, condensed milk, and milk). This cake is moist, rich, light, tasty and it was simply the perfect dish to end a meal.


I always end my meal with a hot cup of coffee


On our way out... just waiting for our car.
The chefs here at Animal are very creative, they fused global cuisine to create unique dishes and the restaurant’s staples are outrageous concoctions.  On the menu there are a lot of offal (brain, pig's ear, sweet bread, pig's head, etc..) that might put off some squeamish customers but if you are brave enough you should give it a try.  Animal met my expectation and over all we had a very good dining experience and I felt that the chef did a very good job of creating unique dishes.
435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048

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