Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jeremy Fox Dinner @ Animal - May 18th, 2010

Last night I ate dinner at Animal Restaurant, where for one week chefs Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook are collaborating with guest chef Jeremy Fox, the former chef of Ubuntu in Napa, on a series of vegetarian dinners.

Each dinner is a tasting menu ($70) and has the option of adding one of two wine pairings ($35 or $65). Last night's meal consisted of eight courses, with the first two served together. The concept of a vegetarian meal in a restaurant named Animal and devoted to rich meaty cuisine is ironic and they have fun with it.

Marcona Almonds with lavender sugar, sea salt, olive oil & Crunchy 'French Breakfast' Radishes with whipped chevre with nori, black salt

The almonds were served spilling out of their container in a generous presentation. One of my tablemates said that they tasted like the children's cereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and we all agreed. The breakfast radishes were served with nori (seaweed) infused creamy goat cheese and black salt. The salt flavor was intense if you got too much of it in one bite. The radishes were presented simply in a signal of what was to come with the rest of the vegetable focused meal.

Spring Peas with white chocolate, 'chocolate' mint, macadamia

The peas were presented as three quenelles on a plate with the mint on top and small bits of white chocolate and nuts scattered on the plate. There were both mashed and whole peas and the dish was both beautiful and delicious. One of my favorites of the evening. The white chocolate was in very small doses and the dish played off of the mint chip flavor of ice cream.

'Pee Wee' Potato Salad - 3-hour favas, anchovy 'flavor', parmesan

This dish was the least successful of the evening. It was served cold, as most potato salads are, and the flavors just didn't come together cohesively. We did not taste anything resembling anchovy flavor. Parmesan shreds were on the bottom of the plate and were light as clouds.

Heirloom Carrots, Rescoldo Style, in Root Embers with parsnip, vadouvan, cocount, citrus

The carrots were of several different colors and the stalks were still on. The stalks had been roasted or crisped so that they were crunchy while the body of the carrots were soft; a nice textural contrast.

Triple Corn Anson Mills Grits - smoked cast-iron corn, agretti

This dish was nice and smoky. The grits were very smooth and the agretti stuck up out of the bowl like the tentacles of a sea creature. It was a deceptively simple dish and one of the favorites of the evening at my table.

Slow Roasted Beets: ruta-kraut, 'calaloo' amaranth, horseradish

The beets was a flavorful dish with the "saurkraut" on top and the horseradish flavor, a typical pairing. Often in LA you only see beets in salads, so it was a pleasant change to see them be the star of this dish. This dish was also paired with both a rose wine and a Bok beer.

Chocolate Puffed with Wild Rice Pudding: strawberry gel, rose geranium, green strawberry

This was the other dish that didn't work for our table of four. The presentation is dramatic with the layers in the jar, capped with the green strawberry with its stem still on and sticking out of the jar. There were various textures with the crunchy rice and gooey pudding but it all just seemed like a mess and was unpleasant. I had never seen a green strawberry served in a restaurant before.

Summary: Overall all four of us really enjoyed the meal. The food was beautifully presented and mostly delicious. It was vegetarian food but did not go for the mock-meat thing and there was no tofu or seitan used. The vegetables themselves were allowed to shine and the flavors were good and you we did not feel at all deprived of meat. The service was also first rate, especially Helen Johannesen, the manager and wine director. We felt that the value was good and that the $70 was well worth it. The wine pairings were mostly good (one Barolo was not pleasant) and if anything, too generous. The champagne from Marc Hebrart and the Silvaner Halbtrocken by Gysler were especially good.

I was fortunate to have eaten a meal at Ubuntu while Jeremy was cooking there and it was spectacular. Go and sit at the bar if you can't get off the wait list, but this is something special and if you enjoy food, go!


  1. The carrots and GRITS were my favorites!

    Great write-up. Hope to see you soon!

  2. Interesting to see how our two meals differed! Would have liked to have tried the grits and the carrots with the tops still on.