As the name implies, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s trendy eatery specializing in meat & offal delicacies is not for the vegetarian-inclined (or faint of palate). The popular Los Angeles-based duo play with all parts in their minimalist Fairfax location.
The modern nose-to-tail movement was pioneered by Fergus Henderson’s 2004 book, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. This updated version of his 1999 edition (originally titled Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking) includes a foreward by Anthony Bourdain and details ways in which everything can be utilized in cooking.
This “whole hog” philosophy focuses on sustainability, making carnivorous habits more green by eliminating waste. Henderson’s world-renown London-based restaurant, St. John, is a mecca for those who enjoy eating “on the wild side.” Obviously, I'm sold.
Animal pushed the burgeoning movement onto the LA main stage with its opening in 2008. Congrats go to the pair in taking home a well-deserved James Beard Award for Best Chef: West 2016 after several years of nominations.
As I am an extremely proud carnivore with a particular fondness for the unusual, my long awaited encounter with Jon & Vinny’s creations generated much excitement. I began my experience with two beautiful veal tongues dressed with homemade gherkin pickles, salmon roe, and black mustard. This introductory dish turned out to be the star of the evening. Warm, tender, and with the honeyed richness of ham, it won my vote for favorite in the end.
Veal brains followed the tongues, a unique treat and a first for me. They came lightly fried with vadouvan drizzled in carrot and apricot purée. The consistency was similar to what one might, custard-like, but the light batter made for a satisfying contrast. Then, bone marrow with chimichurri and caramelized onions.
I happen to love bone marrow and any other decadent, spreadable goodness like foie gras or pâté, but I was not won over by this version... The overpoweringly herbaceous chimichurri sauce completely masked the meaty butter flavor that makes marrow so divine. (For a better option try the marrow at Eveleigh- heaven on toast!)
I concluded with the grilled quail (plum char-siu, yogurt, pomegranate, apple) and the fried rabbit legs with Charleston gold rice, lemon pepper, and sour cream gravy. The quail was nice. The rabbit, however, left something to be desired. As a Southerner and true connoisseur of all things fried with gravy, this fell short of the comfort food mark. Still, the adventure laid with exploring unfamiliar tastes and textures, and I for one, enjoyed the journey.