From Tail to Snout, Animal in LA to The Pig in DC

I’m glad I’m not a vegan … and that I’ll eat anything (although I prefer not to eat egg yolk or eggplant, of course). Not that I really ate anything *that* adventurous at Animal, although we had to ask what several items were exactly ….

A word about Animal: the place is tiny and popular. It seats 45, and that’s packed to the gills. And it’s loud. We found ourselves shouting across the table at each other and swiveling from left to right to speak directly to our dinner companions. After a few courses – and maybe a few glasses of wine – we all adjusted to the volume and happily matched it.

I called almost almost exactly a month in advance to get the reservation and ended up speaking to the staff at Animal five or six times before actually arriving – confirming and reconfirming. I guess the place is just that popular. And it’s kinda LA that way.

Our server recommended two dishes per person. And here’s where we made our mistake: we ordered two different things per person, for a total of 12 different dishes, but we ordered multiples of several, so in reality, we ordered more like 15 or 16 items. Without seeing the portion sizes, we ordered 3 of the chicken liver toast – delicious, thin layer of richly flavored liver spread on toast. Each dish with two generous slices. Of course, we would have been quite satisfied with one-third of a large piece of toast each. Who knew?

While I thought about ordering brain – why not? – there were other items that I really wanted to taste. Like the ribs, which were to die for and the marrow bone, which continues to be a favorite of mine. In the end, everything we had was delicious. I’m sorry that we didn’t have room for the bacon-flavored ice cream. Maybe next time.

And I’m sorry I didn’t take photos. But here were some of my favorites:

  • Marrow bone, always yummy … three of our dinner companions had dogs and I encouraged them to take the bone home, but no one did. Alas, my boys would have feasted on the bones …
  • Melted petit basque with grilled bread – cheese, sausage, bread. Enough said.
  • Pork belly sliders – we didn’t need two full orders, but these were terrific. I can’t think of any time I’ve had pork belly and just didn’t find it amazing … oh yes, there was the time I scorched ours in our oven … (!)
  • Chicken-fried sweetbreads – probably richer food than I really needed, but delicious nonetheless, and for me, not a sweetbread purist, a great way to enjoy this item

Some others I enjoyed, but felt they hadn’t popped quite as much, or maybe I just didn’t appreciate the fusion of tastes as much:

  • Tandoori octopus – this I liked, although I have had octopus before and I love tandoori anything, so the novelty wasn’t there
  • Hamachi tostada – I also liked this, although when it first came out, I was a bit confused by the preparation: it looked like an open faced taco with cole slaw on top. That said, the citrusy flavors really came through and it was interesting. Given my druthers, though, I’d prefer hamachi crudo or sashimi.
  • Pig ear – this one was tough for me because it was topped with a fried egg, so I only took a bit of the crispy concoction and was more focused on not getting egg yolk on my fork. What I had was well-textured and good, though.

Having feasted, we all left over-full, a great meal with fun, food-loving company: our brothers in law, new to LA from food-focused SF, my Washington-born and raised cousin who loves adventurous eating (or eating of any kind) and my college housemate, who can still put down as much food as a grown man, but has managed to stay waifishly slender (yes, that’s jealousy). Good thing a group of us were meeting at Runyan Canyon at 7 am the next morning to run and hike with the dogs.

The Pig in Logan Circle was the DC-cool version of Animal. Also small, but less fussy and more casual. Here, we sat in a booth for four, and the tables were decently spaced out. While the place took its last reservation at 6:30 and reminded me when I called that the entire party had to be there before we were seated and they would only hold the reservation for 15 minutes, it was much more relaxed. And in fact, they sat us as we arrived, so no issues on this particular Thursday in August.

Here, we enjoyed classics like spoonbread and mac and cheese, only dressed with pig or a pig friend. In this case, the spoonbread was dressed with boar and the mac and cheese with tiny bits of truffled ham.

Boar spoonbread and boar ragu

The wild boar ragu was a bit too salty, but on the whole, the food was well-balanced with flavors and not overly rich.

The drink menu was excellent – I started with a muddle strawberry, mint and honey with vodka cocktail and then transitioned to a Pennsylvania microbrew. What was really nice, though, was the tasting of bourbon we selected in place of dessert.

Full disclosure: I’m not a bourbon afficianado. Far from it. One, the Four Roses, tasted like scotch to me, while another tasted like cognac. Only the Makers and the Wolford tasted like bourbon to me. I know, call me a cad.

Overall, I enjoyed The Pig and need to find a time to try out brunch there. Animal? It was enjoyable and very hipster LA – worth checking out if you haven’t been and worth being on the return list, if you live in LA. For me, I’m not sure it will make the list for my annual-ish trip out West, but I’m glad we feasted there.

Call me a fan of tail to snout dining.

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