Animal Restaurant, Los Angeles

animal restaurant
poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar 15

Our first encounter with chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo was at Taste of the Nation Los Angeles 2009. They were clearly the renegade table with no decorations or fanfare. It was just two dudes, a table, a cooler, and some fresh ingredients and one fabulous seafood crudo. We had heard about their stint on the Food Network, Two Dudes Catering, but little did we realized that they were also winners of Food and Wines Best New Chef’s 2009.

So along with some friends, we decided to see what these dudes where cooking up at Animal. It’s a small restaurant so reservations are highly recommended. The atmosphere is clean and contemporary and the staff is sharply dressed, but if you happen to see the chefs in the dining room, they’ll likely have an apron over baggy shorts, well aged ripped t-shirt and some converse all-stars.

animal restaurant
pork belly, kimchi, peanuts, chili soy, scallion 12

The stars of the even was the pork belly with kimichi, peanuts, chili soy and scallions and poutine with oxtail gravy and chedder. The pork belly was seared nicely but at the same time braised fork tender. The kimchi is a great contrast to cut the fattiness of the pork.

It was first time eating poutine for most of us and we left no doubt how much we enjoyed it. The 6 of us, wiped every last bit of oxtail gravy and chedder and had to order bread to keep us from licking the plate. Great dish to share with a small group, but may be too heavy just for two.


animal restaurant
amberjack 15, grilled squid 10

Our third favorite dish of the night was the amberjack crudo with nectorine, citrus and mint. Really light and refreshing and contrasted nicely with the richer menu offerings. The grilled squid with chorizo and chimicurri sauce is a nice blend of mediterranean and Latin flavors.

animal restaurant
Veal Sweetbreads 12 and lamb chops 12

The sweetbreads with creamed spinach, capers and grapefruit were nice, but not spectacular. We like our sweetbreads a bit crispier then the version at Animal. Similarly the lamb chops with carrots, beets and yogurt were also good and well cooked , but not spectacular.

animal restaurant
turbot with king crab, balsamic glazed pork ribs 

The balsamic rack of pork ribs was impressive and great to share and also came with side of corn. It was tender fall off the bone and the balsamic glaze was sweet and savory. The turbot, while well cooked just didn’t do it for us. There wasn’t single flavor in the dish that stood out.

animal restaurant
tres leches cake 7, bacon chocolate bar 7

The tres leches was the favorite dessert of the evening. It was rich, sweet, and moist–but not too heavy–a perfect end to the evening. The salty and sweet bacon chocolate crunch bar, while whimsical and tasty was good for a few bites, followed quickly with the tres leches cake…

Chefs Dotolo and Shook have some outstanding and memorable dishes with a scattering of good but not great dishes in between–and overall, very good. The menu changes frequently, but we would recommend that you order a bunch of appetizers to share as the portions are fairly generous. There’s no house bread so be prepared to order some if you want to wipe up the delicious oxtail gravy…

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