Animal | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Animal

photo by Anne Fishbein

If you were to trace our city’s current boom of exciting, highly regarded restaurants garnering national attention, almost all roads would lead back to Animal, the O.G. of cheffy, meaty, creative New American cooking in L.A. In fact, it’s hard to believe the restaurant is 7 years old, as it seems completely of-the-moment in 2015, despite barely having changed since opening. Other things that haven’t changed: There’s still no sign, it’s still hard to get a reservation, and it still has the best playlist in town, especially if you’re looking for karaoke inspiration. The menu takes its cues from all over the map yet somehow seems utterly cohesive: Spicy larb is made with jackrabbit and Thai chilies; a tostada comes showered with herbs and peanuts and hides silky slices of hamachi under its leafy topping; a smoked turkey leg with “white barbeque” shows off the subtle Southern roots of the whole endeavor. The menu is full of combinations that sound discordant (veal tongue with salmon roe and black mustard?) but you basically can’t go wrong ordering, which is astounding given the range and breadth of the thing. There are only a handful of restaurants that consistently carry the mantle of our dining reputation, and Animal is still at the top of that list.— Besha Rodell