9.0
LA

Animal

Perfect For: Adventurous Eating Impressing Out of Towners Special Occasions
PHOTOS: Jakob Layman

Cricket is fairly unintelligible to anyone who didn’t grow up in a country where trash is called rubbish and the best pies are savory. And while we don’t need to get into the particulars of a game that lasts for five days and involves breaks for tea, we will give you at least one cricket term you can use: the all-rounder. It’s a player who’s equally good at batting and bowling, and is therefore useful throughout the entire game. Every cricket team wants an all-rounder, but it’s the rare team that actually has one.

Animal is one of LA’s greatest all-rounders. Although it didn’t used to be that way.

When it opened 10 years ago, this place was more of a left-handed wrist spinner. That’s cricket for a player with a very specific skill. Between all the offal on the menu, the undecorated room, the loud rap, and the impossibility of getting a reservation, this wasn’t exactly your everyday spot.

But things have changed. Now, you can almost always get a table here, even on short notice. Animal is a fantastic date spot, but works just as well for dinner with your parents, enjoyable business meals, or a solo dinner at the bar. And while you can still order veal brain and pig ear, they’ve scaled back a bit on the more obscure animal parts, and gradually added more approachable dishes over the years. Even if those pig ears aren’t for everyone, the hamachi tostada and burger are.

Jakob Layman

Having said that, eating dinner here does feel less revolutionary than it did 10 or even five years ago, now that half the city’s restaurants are blasting rap, cooking with ingredients you probably wouldn’t be able to find on your own, and insisting you share everything. But that doesn’t make the enormous turkey leg any less impressive, or the beef tendon chips with pho dip any less special, or the Boner Burger a thing we’re any less likely to order. The food here continues to be exceptional, and the fact that we can eat food this good without having to plan months in advance makes this place even more useful.

Animal gets everything else right, too. Service is as helpful as you need it to be - they’ll advise you on what to order if you want, but also leave you alone if that’s more your style - and the wine list is one of the best in the city. Whether you’re here for a celebration or you’re here because it’s Tuesday, this place always manages to hit a six. Yes, that’s another cricket reference. We’ll let you figure it out yourself.

Food Rundown

Chicken Liver Toast

If you come to Animal and don’t start with the chicken liver toast, we’re going to have to ask you to leave. This thick slice of bread with paté and caramelized onion on top is perfect.

Holly Liss
Spicy Beef Tendon Chip, Charred Onion Pho Dip

We don’t know how they make the dip taste exactly like a bowl of pho, but we’d be happy to drink the whole thing to find out. You also need to start your meal with this.

Jakob Layman
Sirloin Carpaccio, Savoy Cabbage, Sesame, Kochukaru

This is one of our favorite dishes at Animal right now. Super-thin raw beef, some cabbage on top, and an excellent spicy, sesame-y dressing.

Jakob Layman
Pig Ear, Red Chili, Lime, Market Egg

An Animal original and one that’s as good as ever. Don’t let the word “ear” intimidate you - if you like bacon, ham, or really any pork product, you’ll like these. They’re chewy, crispy, spicy, and with the egg on top, sort of like the fanciest breakfast-for-dinner you can eat.

Jakob Layman
Barbecue Pork Belly Sandwiches, Slaw

Sliders that involve a thick slab of pork belly, coleslaw, and lots of barbecue sauce. You should get these at least once, but we wouldn’t call them essential.

Holly Liss
Hamachi Tostada

If you need a break between all the red meat, order this. If you want a dish that involves a lot of salad, order this. If you want to eat one of the best things here, order this.

Jakob Layman
Melted P’tit Basque, Chorizo, Grilled Bread

P’tit Basque is a cheese, which makes this basically a bubbling dish of melted cheese. So yes, you should get it.

Spaghetti Dan Dan, Lamb, Peanut, Bok Choy

We like the idea of this, but it doesn’t quite have as much flavor as it could. Feel free to skip it.

Jakob Layman
Smoked Turkey Leg, Celery Root, Apple, White Barbecue

If your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey then, a) that’s weird, and b) you should order this. If turkey isn’t ever something you actively think about, you probably don’t need this.

Boner Burger

This is always on the brunch menu, and usually available as a special at dinner. And it is spectacular. It involves rye bread, a patty that contains bone marrow, a lot of melted cheese, and a very rich sauce, and is a burger you need to get at least once. And then every other time you eat here.

Jakob Layman
Tres Leches Cake

If you do Animal right, you won’t have any room left for dessert. You will also order this cake anyway.

Jakob Layman
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