Wednesday, November 14, 2012

West Hollywood: Animal

Sunday night was date night and a rather visually stunning one: Skyfall, followed by dinner at Animal.  I'd been thinking about trying Animal for over a year, since Andrew's first visit to LA, and his upcoming birthday seemed as good a time as any.  We arrived more than 15 minutes early for our 8:15pm reservation (turns out Sunday evening traffic is actually light in West Hollywood?!) and found that the restaurant was packed.  Animal doesn't have an inside area to wait, but their little heated "patio" outside the entrance is a surprisingly cozy place to peruse the evening's menu.

We were seated on time, water was poured, and our server soon came over and told us that for two people, 4-6 dishes is typical.  Here is what we ordered (names/descriptions copied directly from the menu):

Hamachi tostada with herbs, fish sauce vinaigrette, peanut:

Tandoori octopus, tamarind, mango, raita:

(Partly eaten before I remembered to take the picture)

Marrow bone, chimichurri, caramelized onions:

Grilled quail, plum char-siu, pear, apple, yogurt, pomegranate:

Our reactions to all of the dishes centered around the following three thoughts: "Wow, that's attractive," "Wow, that flavor combination is amazing," and "Wow, that portion is really small for the price."  The hamachi tostada - bracing, both refreshing and assertive - was Andrew's favorite; the tandoori octopus was velvety with some zing from the tamarind, and would be my choice out of the four.  Of course, all four dishes were beautifully presented, interesting, and delicious, and we understood why Animal is so popular.  That said, even being aware beforehand that it would be an expensive meal, we found it overpriced for the small portions, and I don't know that we'd go back even on a night when we were ok with splurging.  (After tax and a 20% tip, our bill was $73.30.)

Xavi, Elisa, and one of Xavi's coworkers had just been seated as Andrew and I headed out, which was a happy coincidence.  Nothing on the dessert menu had called to us, so instead, we went next door to Canter's Deli for some coffee and two massive hamentashen.  Less refined, yes, but it all cost less than almost any one dish at Animal, and in its own way, was no less satisfying.