Seems like somebody has finally gotten the hint about sending me photos of his vacation! Today I’d like to share some pictures The Boy took of a really fantastic meal we had during his stay. The restaurant is called Animal, and boy… does it live up to its name! Here’s what we ate:
Course 1: Pig ear with chili, lime, and a fried egg. Kind of hard to see the pig ear under that beautifully cooked egg, but it actually looked like…. well, like those pig ear treats that you give your dog. And it was darn delicious. Crispy, chewy, and covered in creamy yellow yolk with just the right amount of acid and heat.
Course 2: Chicken fried sweetbreads, crawfish, grilled romaine and a light creme fraiche sauce. So many things to love here: first of all, grilled lettuce is awesome. And I actually don’t like lettuce, never really seen much of a point to it. But grilled lettuce, it’s crunchy, it’s light and refreshing, it’s caramelized and charred. So much more flavor; I couldn’t get enough. I also LOVE crawfish, which is kind of hard to find outside of the South. There was this wonderful Bayou themed bar near Sarah Lawrence and you could order a giant three pound bucket of whole crawdaddies or mudbugs. I got to be kind of a champion at removing the tail (there’s a technique, it’s all in the twist). But I haven’t been able to find any since graduation, and oh man, have I craved them. AND FINALLY, this was my first time trying sweetbreads. And honestly, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. SURE, it’s pancreas. We get it, eeeeewwwww. But it just. tastes. so. good. Rich, and buttery, and sinful. The more organ meat I try, the more I think us Americans are just a bunch of little prisses.
Course 3: Bone Marrow with chimmichurri and caramelized onions, brioche toast. Bone marrow has actually been on my list for a long time. It did not disappoint. You know how sometimes when you’re eating steak and you bite into a piece of fat, and it’s not the hard chewy kind of fat, but a little pocket of that melty, soft, delicious fat and you think, “I know you’re not really supposed to eat this, and I guess I should probably spit it out, but it just taaaaasstesss sooooo yummmmyyyy.” Well bone marrow is exactly like that, but meltier. Yeah. Meltier.
Course 4: “Buffalo style” pig tails with celery and ranch. This was actually part of the reason why I wanted to go to Animal on the first place. I saw this on their menu online, and I was sold. Ironically, it was the most disappointing dish. I think the buffalo sauce overwhelmed the pigtails a bit, and I kind of felt like I might as well be eating chicken wings.
Course 5: Eep! Getting a little dark out. Foie gras atop a biscuit and slathered with maple sausage gravy. This was maybe the most decadent thing I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. In my opinion, foie gras needs to be very high quality, and done just exactly right, otherwise you’re like, “Urgh, why am I eating goose liver??” This foie gras was silky, melt in your mouth, fatty deliciousness. Add to that the salty-sweet creaminess of maple sausage gravy and… let’s just say I think I was making some very inappropriate noises at our table.
Course 6: Poutine. Extra crispy french fries topped with braised oxtail gravy and cheese curds. At this point I think The Boy started making some very inappropriate sounds along with me. The tenderest most delectable oxtail braise ever. At first I thought the fries were way too hard, but as I ate I realized that the extra crispiness meant the fries could hold up to all the moisture of the gravy and the cheese. Regular fries would have become a sodden mess, but these fries had a real backbone.
So that’s it! I tried to order dessert, but for some reason I let The Boy talk me out of it. I GUESS, all things considered, we probably ate more than enough.
If I have one quibble with Animal it has nothing to do with the food, per se, but with the way that the restaurant tries to present itself. It wants to come across as super chic, high end, and honestly… it wasn’t that successful. The decor felt like a halfhearted attempt at trendiness. The music was way too loud. It got turned off at one point, and I’m pretty sure both The Boy and I sighed with relief. But then it came back on. Plus, as delicious as it is, the food is really not all that refined. The presentation was a little… relaxed? Which is fine with me! But I think the restaurant would be doing itself a favor if it marketed itself as kind of a higher end, quirky, offbeat gastropub. And finally: not having a sign outside your establishment does not make you cool, it just makes you hard to find. With all that said, it was still a wonderful meal.
All photos courtesy of Xander Keeping.