Hear ye hear ye! The guys behind LA’s beloved Animal restaurant have opened up a new place!
First of all, if you haven’t been to Animal, you’re missing out. Think of it as an ode to bacon, the restaurant equivalent to a meatlover’s pizza, a shrine to swine… Wow, that last one was bad, even for me. So when I heard they were opening up a restaurant for seafood-lovers, I was all, “Sign me up!”
After a two-week wait for our reservation for four, we (the husband, comic book artist extraordinaire Mike Choi and his wife Michelle) arrived on a Sunday night to a slammed hostess stand, packed tables, and a cacophony of happy hungry chatter. The motif is sea-inspired, anchors and sailboats and old photos of even older movie stars holding up their catch for the camera. There’s even one of Humphrey Bogart SMILING, which I didn’t think he knew how to do! The menu has a few things you would expect– a lobster roll, oysters on the half shell, peel and eat shrimp– and a few you wouldn’t, like alligator schnitzel. Yum?
We decided to put our wonderful, friendly and knowledgeable server (love it when that happens) to the task of deciding for us while we sipped our cocktails: a really great sauvignon blanc for me, champagne for Matt, and a pina colada for Choi (go ahead and judge him here).
Our first course was a couple of orders of the lobster rolls and two of the shrimp toast sandwiches. I started with the sandwich: succulent shrimp topped with a handful of fresh herbs between two little slices of brown bread oozing with siracha mayo. Tangy, zesty, slightly spicy, and ohmygod glorious. I could have eaten three more to myself, but that would have been embarrassing. The lobster roll was also fabulous, cooked to perfection in the softest little brioche bun with lotsa lemon aioli and some celery for crunch. Good start much?
Next up was a plate of smoked steelhead roe, served in tiny piles atop a maple cream sauce with a pumpernickel crouton on the top. I know it sounds crazy, but the smokiness offset by the sweetness of the maple just worked. The next dish was the seafood brandade, a sort of fish and mashed potato concoction (just try it) that’s as creamy and salty as it sounds, topped with a soft-boiled egg and served with a little toast for scooping.
Alligator schnitzel time! We were a little hesitant, but honestly, what isn’t good breaded and deep fried? These were like little fried chicken cutlets, only with way more flavor. The craziest part was the slaw that came with it, tangy and cloying with an almost vanilla-like hint to it that made the whole deal that much sweeter. Michelle, who had never eaten a gator in her life, proclaimed it her favorite dish of the night. So there.
The next dish was the albacore tataki, tender and lovely tuna seared and sliced in a citrus soy sauce. This was outstanding: fresh, sweet, salty, almost a palate cleanser, it was so delicate. Our next course was another light and delicate dish, a poached piece of cod in an asian-style broth with just a hint of jalapeno. It was a little too light for my taste and was missing something rich my taste buds were starting to expect. But then again, I’m such a sucker for anything rich.
But then came the steak: a gorgeous piece of Niman Ranch hangar grilled to medium-rare and topped with a perfectly fried succulent oyster and a dollop of bearnaise. The side of fries we could have done without, which is a sacrilegious thing to say, I know, but they were way way way over salted. The final dish of the night was one mother of a chicken sandwich, breaded and fried to crispy southern deliciousness with a pile of pickle slaw and a smothering of aioli, all packed into a huge kaiser roll. Delish! We opted for something refreshing for dessert, a nice lime frozen yogurt with some graham cracker crumbs and a smear of toasted marshmellow on the side.
No doubt this place is going to be a hit, if it isn’t already. So the sooner you get on the phone and book a table, the sooner you can have one of those lobster rolls down your gullet. It’s go time!